Augustana College printing logo

A new book and a new question for winter term

The cover of Liberal Arts through the AGES: a Sesquicentennial Celebration. The oil on canvas is attributed to Louis-Eugene Boudin, The Beach at Trouville (ca. 1864).

Students will use college art collection for some of the answers


(Nov. 19, 2009) When the winter term begins Augustana College will give each first-year student a textbook that won’t be found anywhere else.

The book’s title, Liberal Arts through the AGES, is a bit of a play on words. Ages are, of course, long periods of time. AGES also stands for Augustana General Education Studies. This core sequence of classes requires all students to think about basic questions related to the mission of a liberal arts college.

For the winter term, the question is: "How does the past deepen our understanding of the human condition?"

In their search for answers, students can read what others think and have said in the book, a richly illustrated introduction to art history. But they also can examine the corresponding works from the college’s art collection and see for themselves.

“Studying original works of art, rather than merely consulting photographs or electronic images, is crucial because reproductions cannot adequately present perceptual subtleties of scale, surface, color and line quality or conceptual details,” says Dr. Catherine Carter Goebel, Paul A. Anderson Chair in the Arts, creator and editor of the book.

Augustana has developed its art collection to complement its liberal arts curriculum, she says, calling the works a “visual education.”

Liberal Arts through the AGES includes plenty of words as well. Each illustration is accompanied by an essay on the work written by a faculty member or students. The essays address not only the form and content of the art, but also its time, place and connections to other works and times, ideas and more.

Dr. Goebel calls art history a “liberal arts bridge,” meaning that different fields of study can use art as a way to look at the past.

For example:

  • English professor Karin Youngberg writes about an 1801 portrait of an actor as Hamlet.
  • College President Steve Bahls, who also is a lawyer, discusses a 1559 engraving entitled “Justice.”
  • Emil Kramer, professor of Classics, explains the form and function of Roman glasswork.
  • Adam Kaul, assistant professor of anthropology, writes about a 1922 photogravure of a Native American potter.
  • Stephen Hager, associate professor of biology, discusses an Audubon engraving of a whippoorwill.
Dr. Catherine Goebel

“Liberal arts education aims to provide students with the tools they need to critically read the texts of others as well as to thoughtfully construct their own,” Goebel says. Augustana has “centered” its art history collection in the curriculum in a unique way, she adds.

The faculty will introduce the winter term question at the annual First-year Winter Convocation at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, in Centennial Hall. Afterward, the books will be distributed free of charge through the Paul A. Anderson endowment.

Students have used Liberal Arts through the AGES for the past five years through four different editions, evolving each year to reflect curricular changes and include more faculty and student contributors. The current version is titled: Liberal Arts through the AGES: A Sesquicentennial Celebration in honor of Augustana’s 150th anniversary in 2010. It builds on the three previous textbooks. Dr. Goebel, professor and chair of Art History, is creator, editor and faculty curator of the projects.

Liberal Arts through the AGES has received national and international notice, most recently resulting in Dr. Goebel’s invitation to speak at the plenary session of the Association for General and Liberal Studies’ national conference in October to deans and faculty.

The project is supported by the Paul A. Anderson Chair in the Arts, the Augustana College Art History Department, the Augustana College Art Museum, and donors who have graciously loaned and donated original works of art for continued exhibition and publication. The free exhibition runs through the winter term and is open to the Quad Cities community as well as the campus through March 27, 2010.

Upcoming convocations

Nov. 19: Liberal Studies Dec. 10: Dr. Cyrus Zargar on Iran Dec. 17: Christmas convocation Complete schedule