Who Is That Person?
Contributed by Pamela Awana Lee
Course Name/Level: UH 280 is an Honors College course. Students enroll for humanities credit. Typically, students are freshman or sophomore, but can enroll as upper division students.
This in-class activity is an example of one that reflects the principles in the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. You can view a list of other assignments, activities, and program-wide approaches.
Brief Course Description for Assignment/Activity
This art history course explores portraiture across history, time and culture. As we study artists and images, we questions whether there are constants in human character even as societal morés and pictorial conventions change.
Writing processes. With Part I of the Who is that Person? assignment, students select one of eight entirely unlabeled images, and write speculatively about the character of the portrait subject, based on careful observation of the image and on the student’s imaginative assumptions.
Part II involves research into the historical identity of the same portrait.
Critical thinking. After the part one essays are submitted, the image labeling is supplied, with the artist’s name and the work title. Students attend a library class with the art reference librarian. They spent two weeks researching and were asked to write on the identity of the portrait, once again answering the question Who is that Person? They compose a well-revised narrative account of the portrait subject incorporating the information they acquired through research. The also come to terms with the two approaches, reconciling the purely speculative interpretation with the factual understanding of the same subject.
An annotated bibliography provides a record of the path that the student’s research took.
This two part assignment provides an introductory practice to the larger semester research project. Students practice both subjective interpretation, based on careful observation, and the essential research component of art historical study.
The two-part Who is that Person? assignment is the first writing assignments of the semester. The assignment involved inquiry, both speculative and through library research.