Research Log #2: The Syllabus

This week I focused my research on the different syllabi found in the department files in Special Collections. Like I stated in my last blog post, there is not an abundant amount of information because these files are so old. However, there are some departments that do have a good amount of files still left in them. In this post what I would like to discuss is the difference that I have found between a syllabus from the 1930s and one from present day. This is important when considering how our class will reenact a class from the past. I think it is important to first consider the fact that at this time, it seems from the files, that Mary Washington was purely a school for teachers. It was not even called Mary Washington College or anything close to that at this time. Because of the lack of equality for women and the gender stereotypes and spheres we have been discussing in class, women did not have many choices in the work place. Teaching, however, was an avenue that these young women could take, thus the school was centered on producing new teachers.

To go even more specific, I will discuss the syllabus for the art department from the early 1930s. In this syllabus, we can see how it is focused on teaching. The agenda focuses on how the class will learn to teach others coloring and drawing techniques. The assignments are very laid out, detailed descriptions of what is expected of the students. There is not solely a prompt and then a critique (which is done today) but instead instructions for exactly what the students are supposed to draw, for example the mastery of drawing a flower.

Part of the class also focuses on art history, something that is near and dear to my heart because it is my major. It is interesting how these two are combined, perhaps showing us how the arts were not as important as other disciplines that the young women would have been learning as well. From the syllabus, I learned that the classes would have used the same textbooks that the University uses today, but obviously a recent addition. This section of the class seems to be much more of a liberal arts take on the subject than teaching focus approach. It will be interesting to next see what the professor were like.

Obviously, it is important to take into consideration with these art files that times have changed and art has progressed since the 1930s. Especially because the art world changed with social and political steps as well, it will be of interest to see how the same departments from other decades were after certain movements came about. The next step in my research will to focus more on the faculty files and their importance to the decade.

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