BLS 342: Painting on the Page

An opportunity to consider in depth some of the outstanding masterpieces in Western art while reading narratives, essays, poems, and plays inspired by them. You may already be familiar with some of the painters: Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Jan Vermeer, Diego de Velazquez, Francisco de Goya. By the end of this course you will be talking knowledgeably about these and other painters and writers, the historical and cultural contexts in which they worked, the relationship between visual images and literary imagery, notions of truth and beauty, and the principles of aesthetics. No particular background in art and literature is expected or required, but curiosity and a willingness to look, to think, to analyze, and to appreciate are essential.

The course emphasizes online class discussion, critical reading of original literature (rather than textbooks), and practice in writing and argument. Students must interact with each other as well as with the instructor. Lecture material will appear in text and image; additional activities will include exploration of links, puzzles, self-tests, and written responses. Through a series of assignments, students will create online journals and then critique them, challenging and encouraging each other on the discussion board. Three tests and a final exam will evaluate student progress through the topical units.


  • Brown, Dan. The DaVinci Code: Illustrated Edition. Doubleday, 2004. ISBN 0385513755
  • Chevalier, Tracy. Girl with a Pearl Earring. Plume, 2001. ISBN 0452282152
  • Levey, Michael. From Giotto to Cézanne. Thames & Hudson, 1985. ISBN-13 9780500200247
  • Martin, Steve. Picasso at the Lapin Agile and other plays. Grove, 1996. ISBN 0802135234