History of Art and Architecture


In 2011-12, the Department recast itself by adopting its Constellations model. This approach aims to foster, in the work that faculty and students produce, idea-driven research of broad significance. While HAA continues to emphasize expertise in specific historical areas and types of material objects—all our students leave the program as specialists in well-defined historical fields—it also wants the research its students produce to have more general interpretative and analytic value. As much as art history dissertations need to credential students as experts in nineteenth-century French painting or twelfth-century Japanese hand scrolls, the research our students produce also must concern larger conceptual questions, ranging from relations between pictures and theoretical knowledge, to the ways in which material objects function as agents within cultures, to the manner in which visual styles, objects, and ways of looking operate and circulate between cultures.

In order to foster this kind of research, the department modified its internal divisions and grouped the faculty under six Constellations that concern interpretative approaches and lines of inquiry (these currently are Visual Knowledge, Agency, Identity, Environment, Mobility/Exchange, and Contemporaneity). Students now assemble their dissertation committees and take their comprehensive exams in relation to these research Constellations. This new approach better positions our students for the rapidly changing environment in higher education, in the curatorial field, in academic publishing, and in the digital realm where the ability to communicate and collaborate across subfields and disciplines grows more imperative by the day.  Faculty members also benefit from this new organization, with the opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary work that it offers.

Courses in the Constellations

For information on the specific courses that we have developed as part of implementing constellations, click here.

Working Groups in the Constellations

As of Spring, 2013, individual constellations have begun meeting regularly within their own working groups. Click on each constellation description below for an account of what its associated working group has been doing. The working groups see faculty and graduate students, united by common research interests, discuss agreed upon readings, critique each other’s work, organize exhibitions, contribute to one another’s pedagogy, jointly produce scholarship, and converse with outside scholars who have contributed to the constellation in question. 

Colloquia in the Constellations

Additionally, the department colloquium, which takes place Wednesdays at noon, provides faculty and students the opportunity to showcase recent research in the constellations.  


image/text relations, representational theory, historiography, museums, media

Faculty: Drew Armstrong, Josh Ellenbogen, Alison Langmead, Tom Morton, Chris Nygren, Kirk Savage, Terry Smith

More about Visual Knowledge


ritual, cult objects, idolatry and iconoclasm, patronage, collecting, propaganda

Faculty: Gretchen Bender, Josh Ellenbogen, Karen Gerhart, Jennifer Josten, Barbara McCloskey, Chris Nygren, Erin Peters, Kirk Savage

More about Agency


monuments and memory, communities and polities, publics, gender, ethnicity, class, race

Faculty: Drew Armstrong, Gretchen Bender, Shirin Fozi, Jennifer Josten, Tom Morton, Erin Peters, Kirk Savage, Terry Smith, Alex Taylor

More about Identity


migration, pilgrimage, exploration, tourism, frontiers, contact zones, trade and consumerism

Faculty: Drew Armstrong, Gretchen Bender, Shirin Fozi, Jennifer Josten, Alison Langmead, Barbara McCloskey, Tom Morton, Chris Nygren, Erin Peters, Kirk Savage, Terry Smith, Alex Taylor

More about Mobility/Exchange


world picturing, cosmopolitanism, temporality, tradition and modernity

Faculty: Josh Ellenbogen, Shirin Fozi, Jennifer Josten, Alison Langmead, Barbara McCloskey, Gao Minglu, Kirk Savage, Terry Smith

More about Contemporaneity


landscape, urbanism, gardens, ecocriticism, historic preservation, architectural history and theory

Faculty: Drew Armstrong, Gretchen Bender, Tom Morton, Erin Peters, Mina Rajagopalan, Kirk Savage, Terry Smith, Alex Taylor

More about Environment


The Constellations program has a collaborative web space. Please click here to learn more