So. Many. Slides. A ludicrous amount. The stacks of notecards that we all carried around were sky-high. And no mercy, either - we had to memorize all the nit-picky information, including the present location of each painting. So if a Caravaggio is now housed in Phoenix, Arizona, we had to know that. We expressed our concerns, and she did not relent - she said it was "a pedagogical exercise." It's too bad, too, because the art of that period is so beautiful, and she really does know a lot about it. It could have been great.
This class should have been called 17th Century Italian art with a brief look at France and Spain. We spent all of september and october on Italy, turning to France mid-November. Professor McPhee knows a lot. She is certainly well-educated (she got her PhD at Columbia). Professor McPhee, however, is not Columbia quality. Indeed, her lectures did have a "read from the page" feel. They also were not all that inspiring. And, to top it off, she recapped the last lecture in the beginning of the next. So, if you missed class you didnt have to worry. Her workload expectation was a little ridiculous. She expected us to buy a whole plethora of books (none of which I actually read). For our second paper assignment, she put 5 books on reserve at Avery and asked us to write a critical analysis of one of them. Now, think about that, 5 books on reserve at Avery for a class of about 50. How much sense does that make? I couldnt tell if McPhee never thought about having a course reader or was just too opposed to getting one. All in all, this class barely registered as a blip on my radar screen, except for when it came down to the exams and papers. The exams were pretty difficult: you had to know about 150+ images (artist, title, date, location, significance). It was mildly interesting, but the relationship between workload and lectures seemed rather bi-polar to me.
Professor McPhee is herself really nice. She's extremely well-informed about her field of interest, and enjoys communicating her knowledge and enthusiasm to the class. Her lectures, although delivered in a somewhat "read directly from the page" format, are articulate and bursting with information. The class itself was a great overview of the Baroque - covering many major artists from Italy, France, and Spain. The only thing that hampered the experience was the fact that since the focus of the course was so large to begin with, we didn't get a chance to thoroughly explore individual pieces, which was pretty disappointing at times. She tended to whiz through too many slides, so that instead of really comprehending the techniques and theories that each artist employed, we ended up getting brief glimpses into their styles. This, however, rarely detracted from her eagerness and her sometimes inspiring lectures. Her passions - from Caravaggio to Bernini (especially the latter) - in art history are particularly well-documented in the lectures. She is incredibly friendly and welcoming, although a stickler for rules and guidelines, and she loves furthering discussion in office hours. For an in-depth comprehension of individual artists, I would not recommend this class. Each lecture covered a segment that could probably have taken an entire semester to properly study. On the other hand, she really is a terrific and shrewd scholar, and if you're interested in taking the time to talk to her personally about anything you want to explore, she is always encouraging.