Art and Architecture in Paris

Institut Catholique de Paris

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Art and Architecture in Paris

  • Host University

    Institut Catholique de Paris

  • Location

    Paris, France

  • Area of Study

    Art History

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    We will study art history's defining movements and innovations within social-historic context,

    with particular focus on the spectacular affaire de Coeur between Paris, France, and art and architecture.

    Our classroom is the "City of Light", which is itself an artwork, a real and imagined topography of aesthetics and existential liberté that inspired French and global artists, writers, musicians, and philosophers throughout history. In the French traditions of engaged intellectual and flâneur, we will explore the art and architecture of the city and both the famous and clandestine of its cultural histories. We will meet several times a week at pre-assigned places and begin walking tours of world-renowned monuments, awe-inspiring palaces, museums, boulevards, quartiers, churches, and parks. Every class has a theme that will enhance your ability to draw connections between and derive your own inspiration from Parisian, French, and global art and culture.

    Along the way, we will consider the following questions and issues:

    • How has art been defined in the past, by whom, and why? What has art's purpose been, and what should it be?
    • What role have art, aesthetics, and beauty played within Parisian and French culture and society throughout history?
    • How does art shape our understanding of history and its protagonists? How have French and global artists represented, "invented", and projected onto Paris, creating a city that is as much mythical space as historic geo-cultural entity?
    • Arts relation to other creative forms of expression such as writing, music, cinema, photography, graphic novel, fashion design, circus, and theater, and how this rich crosspollination developed in France
    • Haunted Paris: art, and architecture as sites of the phantasmatic, the sepulchral, the incorporeal trace, the disinterred memento, the mortuary shrine
    • The French tradition of transgressive art, which challenged status quo notions of the sacred, the beautiful, the transcendent, and the forbidden; why this tradition arose, and what political/historic/social phenomena it engaged with
    • Shifting conceptions of the museum, the collection, and the period room, in general, and within France; from private collection, to elite status symbol, curiosity cabinet, public space, secular reliquary, repository of dreams, desires, fears, and hopes

    Class sessions will consist of brief lectures, student discussion, presentations, and writings, and the opportunity for students to engage with the fascinating layers of Parisian and world art and cultural history. No prior experience is necessary; only a desire to study, walk through, think and write about, and discuss the wonders of this extraordinary city!

    Readings and different web-links will be sent to you by e-mail.

    Each day wear comfortable shoes, bring to class a notebook and a pen for jotting down notes as well as perceptions and ideas for further inquiry in your projects. Bring as well a bottle of water, metro tickets and an umbrella.


    1. Quizzes: each week you will receive reading assignments. Please do all readings before class. On selected days, we will have a quick quiz on the previous class's material and readings.

    2. On-Site Work: As we move through the sites and museums, combining lecture and discussion, we will build a growing vocabulary of terms and concepts in art history and related interpretive approaches to studying art within social-cultural and historic context.

    You will occasionally work with other students to prepare brief presentations and discussion points.

    3. Oral Presentation: you will deliver an oral presentation (5 minutes, supported by a written summary) on a work of your choice found in Paris. This is your opportunity to pick a work that speaks to you. It may be a painting, drawing, sculpture, building, or monument that inspires you and makes you want to know more. In our class, you will have acquired the ability to interpret and engage with art works, and now you will be able to apply what you've learned to a piece that is "your own." Further instructions on the project will be provided in class.

    3. Final Written Project: This is a 3-4 page typewritten paper that may include material from your Oral Presentation, expanding on aspects of the particular artwork, architecture, or aesthetic culture that you found intriguing and chose for your final project. The paper should encompass your own original, intellectual analysis of the art work.


    Students are expected to act responsibly in this class, which means coming to class on time, fully prepared to participate, as well as completing assigned work on time and according to instructions. Since we have group admissions, students MUST ARRIVE ON TIME or the whole group will suffer. Contributing to the success of our group activities is very important. Because all assignments are site-specific, students must attend each class to receive credit for it. We will have fifteen classes, of approximately 3 hours each (3 hours academic credit).

    *Points will be taken off for each class missed; 3 absences, unless an illness or other emergency has occurred, constitutes a failing grade.


    Attendance and Participation: 50%

    Brief quizzes: 25%

    Final Project, Oral and Written: 25%


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