Ryerson School of Interior Design
IRH 110 Essay assignment: Literature review

• Students will learn what constitutes reasonable and informed differentinterpretations of facts.
• They will know more about the reasons art was made in specific historical contexts.
• They will know more about why and how meaning and value are assigned to a work of art by posterity.
• Students will develop research and writing skills.
• Their critical reading and writing will improve.

From the list below, choose a work to analyze and research, answering the following questions:
What does the work mean? Is there any controversy among scholars on this issue, and why? (Please note that you are in no position to decide if one writer is right and one is wrong, besides, usually no one is wrong. Most scholarship is simply trying to redress an imbalance in agenerally accepted interpretation; often revisions in interpretations are simply saying that the work is more complex than previously imagined. Of course, some scholars violently disagree, and some interpretations are mutually exclusive, but please do not assume this is to be the case.)
The question, “what does this work mean?” covers anything that art can be doing. For your textbook it usually means something to do with how it fits into period style, period subject matter, technique, etc.; essentially Stokstad (and I) are telling the story of art, and we explain how the work of art fits into that big, broad story. More specialized writers are telling different stories, so you have to figure out what those stories are and what role the work of art plays in that story.

You will need to look carefully at the painting and consult a minimum of 3 references.
Your textbook is your first source, which will define the basic issues. You must read the entire chapter of your textbook to understand these basic issues. If you don’t do this, it will be obvious to the person grading your paper. You may, of course, go to other general sources, but you will probably find a lot of repetition, so it would be something of a waste of time.

Next, you must consult at least 2 peer-reviewed published essays or books. You will not necessarily receive a highergrade for more references: the point is that you find at least 2 that are interesting in their significant differences, and you are able to explain clearly what these are.(Too bad! In order to find 2 good ones, you’ll need to consult many more to find the 2 best. But take heart. Our markers are great and recognize a good comparison when they see it, and they also reward it. If 3 turn out to be great, then that’s great.)

Do this other research after your have familiarized yourself with the basic issues. The most important thing to know is that scholarly publications and printed books do not merely repeat what has been written before: they are trying to say something new. Their information and arguments are credible, whereas lots of things on the internet are repetitious and/or insane.

To clarify:
1) Choose your work of art and read about it in you textbook. Note specific words used, and use the thesaurus function in Word to make sure you know synonyms. Pay close attention tothe author’s discussion of your object as it relates to the broad issues outlined in the introduction and conclusion to the chapter. Also consider the textbook’s treatment of works you think have some relationship to your painting. Understand what your textbook says about other portraits or landscapes, for example.
2) Summarize what you have learned, paying very close attention to the questions above.
3) Go to books and journals published since 1985and figure out how 2 of them relate to one another – Complementary? Contradictory? — and how they relate to issues raised in the textbook. (Something all students need to understand: The textbook is actually, one way or the other, written by about at least 100 people who are specialists in different areas of art. These people have indeed read everything about an object to help write a paragraph-long treatment of it for first-year university students. In other words, they know lots and lots and have to choose. You have to consider why they go down one road and not another, and this mostly has to do with the themes they are developing throughout the textbook in general and in the chapter in particular. Your marker is going to know if you figured this out, i.e. if you actually read the chapter.)
4) Start working on the absolutely fundamental skill an educated person needs to have, which is the ability to edit information down to its essentials. Waste no words, do not use filler, summarize rather than quote, edit everything you write, revise your ideas as you become more familiar with the subject, simplify every time you can, and please consider the wellbeing of your reader. Your reader deserves to find out something interesting for putting out the effort of doing the reading. Your primary concern ought to be interesting your reader.

In order to find the interesting controversies or issues the work of art has created, you need to learn university-level research skills. Googling works to some degree, but it is not efficient (too much junk and repetition) and the “search everything” function at the Ryerson Library website is simply nuts. Wikipedia is good for facts, but does not explain issues of interpretation. What you need to do is read scholarly works, so what you need to do is use “Jstor”. Go to “Jstor” through the “research databases” tab at library.ryerson.ca, and then click on “Browse A-Z Databases List”, and then go to “jstor”. When you get to jstor, they will ask you if you want to use the beta version of their search engine, and you say “Yes! Yes! Yes!) Do the search and use the filters and you are, as they say, away to the races.

Use only articles listed there. This is your only search engine You may use book reviews, but several book reviews of the same book (which you must do if you are using book reviews) counts as only one source, because it is the book and not the review that is important.

Each student has been assigned a topic choice in a document posted to Blackboard. Find out what group you get to choose from.

Topic Choice 1 Topic Choice 2 Topic Choice 3
Aphrodite from Melos
Altar at Pergamon
Arch of Constantine

Book of Kells
Lorenzetti Good Government
Arnolfini Wedding

Raphael School of Athens
Caravaggio Bacchus
David oath of the Horatii

What you are doing is called a “literature review”. The best description of it that I have found is http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/literature-reviews/If they advise a course of action contrary to what is written here, you must follow this document and not them.





Ryerson School of Interior Design