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Gender Curricula Art History, Art Studies, Art

Course: Art
Group of courses: Esthetics

Course objectives:

Students should be familiarised with the category gender in the arts and art history. They should be introduced to the basic approaches, methods and theories that view this category as both a social and a symbolic system. In so doing, they will become aware of the pluralism represented by gender studies in the area of art history, art studies and art since its foundation in the 1970s. Students should learn to apply these paradigms critically in their approach to the arts, artistic practice, art institutions and institutions of art history.

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Teaching content/subject-specific gender studies content:

To date, gender studies in the area of art and art studies has focused on the following topics: authorship, media, ethnicity and the history of institutions. Included in this is the category of gender as difference from the traditional canon of art studies. This gender difference is treated both as a social system using examples from real relationships and as a symbolic order. The methods stem from perception analysis, linguistics, the history of medicine and psychoanalysis, ideology and institutional criticism, post-structuralist philosophy, media theory, sociology and cultural and literary studies.

Women artists:

The basic area is research into women artists. This first appeared as an area of research with the establishment of women's and gender studies in the area of art studies in 1971. The process of tracking down forgotten women artists, their works, biographies and artistic practice firmly established the paradigm of difference. The focus was on re-examining "the genius" as a male construct and questioning genre hierarchies and their gender associations. This led to all the other areas of research. The subject of women artists has itself developed into a wider question of authorship; today it also embraces the questions raised by studies of masculinity and queer studies. This involves primarily sociology and cultural and literary studies.


The questioning of categories and genres led to particular interest in media arts video, photography, film and computer art i.e. modern and post-modern branches of art and culture. Here, the actual presence of female artists is just as relevant as the symbolic location of gender-based, gender-defined creativity. Additionally, there is the area of the production and construction of the images of femininity and masculinity produced by the media. Here, attention focuses chiefly on the encoding of gender-based and ethnically conditioned power relations and their body and sexuality discourses. This area primarily involves post-structuralist issues.


Research into women in art and the attempt to write them into art history and the history of art inevitably led to a critical re-examination of "institutions". The paradigm (in both thought and meaning) of the artistic genius, and topoi such as career, success and recognition, were revealed as mystification, stabilisation and favouritism of male artists. Today they are likewise considered to be stabilising factors in art history, art studies and artistic institutions. Recent research has looked at the institutional presence and "institutionalisation" of women artists, in other words their share in the production of art, in gender-based power relations, and indeed in the above-mentioned institutions themselves. This involves shifting the real gender hierarchy into a symbolic one.

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Integration of gender studies content into the curriculum:

Gender studies has been established as a critical instance for art and art studies. Gender studies content should therefore be integrated into art and art history courses. If the infrastructure is available (i.e., appropriate lecturers), this subject area could be offered in all parts of the curriculum. However, if this integration is not possible we would recommend setting up a "gender module" covering the full range of issues in gender studies in art history, arranged according to the division into three areas outlined above. Given the particular nature of the issues, we would advise against setting up an exclusive Gender Studies course as such.

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Degree Stage:

Gender studies in art history should be included at Bachelor's level and in more detail at Master's level. This will ensure that students are familiar with the critical potential of gender studies right from the outset.