My teaching philosophy is simple enough. In the classroom, as in my written work, I aim to convey not only an appreciation of the formal qualities of the work of art or architecture, but an understanding of its function, meaning, and resonance in the context or circumstances for which it was made. Art history is an intrinsically interdisciplinary field, and I try always to emphasize this by introducing a range of historical, social, and literary considerations into my lectures. This semester, for example, I am teaching an upper-level course on poetry and painting in 17th-century Rome, a topic of special interest to me. Whether instructing 80 beginners in the introductory survey or teaching a senior seminar for art history majors, my goal is to widen and enrich my students' perspective on the world by giving them the tools and methods they need to analyze art through the lens of history and to contemplate history through the lens of art. Ultimately, if I can help them experience the profound intellectual pleasure to be got from exploring the manifold complexities of the creative act, I consider that I have done my job well.
In all my classes, I encourage students to think critically and write well. I do my best to help them not only to develop a sophisticated visual literacy but to hone their ability to express even complicated ideas in clear, straightforward language. Working closely with them on their writing may not be the most enjoyable part of teaching but it is arguably the most important and it is something I take particularly seriously. Class discussions are also an integral part of my teaching method, and I enjoy assigning controversial and sometimes contradictory readings, the better to stimulate lively debates and to engage students more directly in the interpretive process. Finally, New York City holds unparalleled opportunities for students drawn to the study of art, and almost every course I offer has a museum component of some sort. I particularly enjoy teaching seminars on drawings and prints—small-scale, intimate works of art meant to be seen up close—and am always ready to move my classroom to the Metropolitan Museum, or the Morgan Library, or the rare book room of the NYPL when the occasion presents itself. It is no small thrill to sit around a table together, looking closely at prints by Rembrandt and Dürer or drawings by Raphael and Bernini. I will be teaching a combined undergraduate/graduate seminar on prints in the fall and have already reserved the Met’s study room for the purpose and started mapping out the topics on which we’ll be focusing.
I currently have two students writing Senior Honors Theses under my direction. One is working on hybridity and notions of the “unnatural” in the art of Salvator Rosa and the other is tracing the theme of the Rape of the Sabine Women from antiquity to Picasso, analyzing how the meaning of this episode of sexual violence has evolved and shifted over time. Topics like these, echoing contemporary inquiries into the nature of what it is to be human, identity politics, and the “me too” movement, prove that bright NYU undergraduates have no difficulty finding the relevance of Baroque art to their understanding of the critical issues of their own day.