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Project Requirements

This course focuses on the three interrelated aspects: women, art, and Western civilization. Specifically, this course meets two SUNY general education requirements: The Arts and Western Civilization. Following these requirements, your research project must present an in-depth investigation of the three aspects. You may begin by choosing to study one woman (or a group of women) from a particular Western culture or society; female artist(s); important female figure(s); or inspiring fictional or mythical woman/women. Once you’ve decided the female subject(s) for your research project, you should read at least a biographical or scholarly book about the woman/women. To include the aspect of the arts, you may choose to study one form of artistic expression (e.g., textile, sculpture, quilt, cake decoration, craft, performing arts) associated with the woman/women of your interest. This artistic expression can be made by or about the woman/women. It can range from a traditional fine art form to any creative form. You will need to observe in person an art/creative work and read at least a scholarly book about the art form, art/creative work, or artist. This will enable you to gain appropriate language and knowledge of the art/creative work through which you can precisely write about the art form, material, technique, elements of art, art history, and creative process in your research paper. To include the aspect of Western civilization, your research should demonstrate knowledge of the development of the distinctive features of the history, institutions, economy, society, culture, etc. of Western civilization and/or relate the development of Western civilization to that of other regions of the world. You may choose to study the development of (gender-based) economic structure, cultural movements, religion, marriage laws, art system, or political ideology in a society, culture, geopolitical region, or country. You should read at least a scholarly book focusing on the society and its feature(s) relevant to the woman/women and art that you intend to study.


Project Ideas

As you can tell, it will take some creativity and careful thinking to come up with a research idea meeting the requirements listed above. There are, however, many ways you can integrate women, art, and Western civilization into your research. To brainstorm project ideas, you may begin by looking for examples in the textbooks. Chadwick’s textbook Women, Art and Society offers numerous examples of female artists from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. In her text, you can also find rigorous analysis of women and art in the political, religious, cultural, economic, and gender contexts. Pomeroy’s textbook Goddesses, whores, wives, and slaves: Women in classical antiquity as well as the optional textbook, Women’s work: The first 20,000 years, written by Elizabeth Wayland Barber, offer examples of women’s creative work in the domestic setting. Their research demonstrates an interdisciplinary approach to understanding women’s lives and art (e.g., textile art, clothes-making) in early civilization. Pomeroy offers examples of women’s craft and creative writing about women with emphases on laws and cultural beliefs that governed or limited women’s autonomy in the early Greek and Roman worlds, while Barber offers detailed descriiption of the textile arts and creative process, rich historical information about the functions of and symbolism in the textile arts, and in-depth analysis of women’s lives in early civilization. Their research clearly presents particular artistic, cultural, political, economic, educational, and/or religious contexts that shaped women’s lives in early civilization.


Here are other research project ideas for your reference:


Research and analyze a particular type of creative work made by women and how the creative work contributes to or reflects on the development of certain features of Western society (e.g., African American quilts, the 17th century Dutch flower genre painting, all-female punk bands and feminist movement).

Examine a major movement or idea in the Western or non-Western art world (e.g., The Renaissance ideal, Orientalism, moral reform and American art, feminist art) that contributes to the development of European, Western and world attitudes about religion, women, gender, sexuality, intellectualism, etc.

Examine an art system in a given time and culture, and analyze women’s position in the system or use such a system to analyze certain economic, political, religious, or cultural developments (e.g., LGBTQ art, race and gender in globalized art market, history of Hollywood chick flick films).

Examine a major historical change (e.g., reformation, industrial revolution, abolitionism, globalization) that affects the production of women’s art or women’s position in the art world, which inevitably also effects economic structure or other features of Western society.

Research a global controversy related to women and creativity (e.g., women in sweatshops).

Research a family or community artistic tradition (e.g., basket weaving, knitting) that has been mostly taken up by women, and analyze the artistic tradition in social, cultural, historical, economic, political, religious, etc. contexts and significance of the artistic tradition in relationship to a broader Western history.

Examine women’s rights movement, feminism, girl power, postmodernism, or other women-centered cultural movement, and analyze the role of the arts in the movement as well as examples of artistic expression used to promote the movement.

Research a specific occupation often taken up by women and that requires creative skills, such as seamstresses, jewelry makers, home decorators, cake makers, etc. and relate the occupation within a broader Western history

Suggested Format for a Research Paper

Paper Title – It should reflect the content of the paper. A creative title wouldn’t hurt! Also, make sure to include your name, course name, and title of assignment.

Thesis Statement – The thesis statement usually is in the opening paragraph. It should summarize the main theme and supporting ideas for the paper into one or two sentence(s) giving the reader a clear direction of what the paper is about.

Body Paragraphs – Organize your ideas into a number of paragraphs. Each paragraph should contain one main topic, a topic sentence, and several supportive sentences. As a research paper, the discussion of research/findings (or “content”) in each paragraph should be delivered through expository writing that usually is informational, explanatory, analytical, and fact-based. Avoid simply descriiptive, self-opinionated, or experience-based writing. Use references to support your points when needed, but avoid lengthy quotes as they take away your own voice as a writer or leave insufficient room for you to demonstrate your analysis. Insert in-text citation when using a direct quote or referencing to other authors’ ideas.

Conclusion – Conclude the paper by highlighting most significant findings in your research and tying together the major points of paper.

References – In this advanced level course, you are to use quality scholarly resources. Articles from (online) academic journals, reliable/academic books, primary sources, or government reports are acceptable resources. Other online resources and articles may not be acceptable as scholarly resources, especially those written for commercial purposes or casual journalist reading, (self)published online material without professionally peer-reviewed information and process, and short-developed resources. They may be appropriate during the initial steps of your research, for finding quick historical facts and for getting visual references. But if they are not intended for academic audiences and academic research purpose, they would not be recommended as scholarly resources. For example, while a website on quilt-making can provide factual, historical, and visual information, a couple of fully researched books and academic articles can provide more complex details, analyses, and/or theories to fully analyze quilt-making. In short, you are expected to use fully developed scholarly resources as the primary references.