Joseph Koerner heard a familiar sound while on a trip to Washington, D.C., in May: the hum of billions of cicadas emerging after 17 years of dormancy.
The Victor S. Thomas Professor of the History of Art and Architecture felt unsettled by the eerie whine. But the cacophony also ignited a deep memory of cicada seasons past and lessons about the interplay between life and art, ideas he brings to his own teaching, particularly when working with students just learning how to make a personal connection to a work — something he will be doing in the fall.
Koerner challenges his students to ask similar questions about ownership and storytelling when studying any work of art or architecture. It’s a fundamental part of the fall course “Humanities 20: A Colloquium in the Visual Arts,” team-taught by five faculty as a wide-ranging introduction to the discipline.
Students in the course, which launched last fall, study diverse images and material objects, including the Parthenon, the illustrated Bhagavata Purana Hindu religious text, and Max Beckmann’s 1927 painting “Self-Portrait in Tuxedo,” in the classroom and in interactive “looking labs.” This fall, faculty and teaching fellows plan to conduct the looking labs in the Teaching Gallery at the Harvard Art Museums.
Photo credit: Rose Lincoln, Harvard Staff Photographer