• Erin Thompson writes for WGBH that the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has rehung its ancient galleries last month and something was noticeably absent:

But it seems that delicacy has once again intervened in the museum’s galleries of the arts of ancient Greece and Rome, which reopened on Dec. 18. Five of the galleries have been “freshly imagined,” and the others have seen at least a few changes. If you visit today, you will still see plenty of ancient genitals, but, in a dramatic change to what had been true before, you will see only one depiction of genitals in use. In the round space of the bottom of a wine cup painted by the artist Douris in around 480 BCE, a man penetrates a woman from behind. As she braces herself on a stool, letters spelling out “hold still!” spill out of her partner’s mouth.

One of the collection’s most famous erotic scenes is still on view: a large bowl for mixing wine with a scene of the goat-headed god Pan chasing after a young shepherd. Before 1965, strategically applied paint erased Pan’s impressive erection. The paint was removed, but the current rearrangement of the display has positioned the vase so that the other side faces visitors. To see Pan, you must squeeze around the back.

I don’t think every single erotic object Warren collected needs to be on display; some, especially those involving always acrobatic satyrs, are fairly strange. But Warren was right that visitors should see queer desire in the galleries. Yet, other than Pan, not a trace of it now remains on display, despite the museum’s rich holdings of images of queer attraction, flirtation, and consummation.

The following syllabus is intended to introduce central topics and methods from transgender studies to art history. It proposes some ways that art and art history’s key themes might be reimagined.

Art history has been slow to engage the robust and decades-old interdisciplinary field of transgender studies. In comparison to fields such as literature or film studies, there has been a dearth of engagement. At the time we submitted this syllabus (March 2021), the term “transgender” had appeared in Art Journal in only thirty-six articles or reviews (with three incidents of “nonbinary” and five of “transsexual,” in comparison to 135 of “queer”). The Art Bulletin had three occurrences of “transgender” — with a decade between each occurrence. (“Transsexual” and “nonbinary” have each appeared once in that publication.) The reluctance of art history to engage with trans and nonbinary histories and topics is not for a lack of artists. Contemporary artists have been making work that gives form to the politics and emotions of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex experience in exciting ways.They are on the forefront of trans visibility, and their work has more often been discussed in other fields such as performance studies, film studies, and Black studies.

This syllabus seeks to address this disciplinary caesura by offering a set of short, thematic bibliographies as a means to prompt new alliances between trans- gender studies and art history. The syllabus does not rehearse the foundations or historiography of transgender studies; consequently, we have forgone many important and now-classic texts that a more comprehensive introduction to the field and its ongoing development would entail. Instead, we organized the syllabus according to general themes that we thought would be useful to teachers and researchers of art and art history. It offers one possible entry into transgender studies, with a concentration on recent texts. Our idea was to take terms that circulate in conversations about art (“form,” “materiality,” and so on) and demonstrate how transgender and nonbinary positions compel us to look at those terms differently. Rather than focus on individual artists, we tried to find texts that spoke with each other about these broad themes. While there are occasional texts in the syllabus that address a single artist’s practice, we have weighted the selection in favor of the methods and concepts around which each thematic section is organized. We developed the order of the texts in each bibliography organically through our discussions and editing, and they are listed in our suggested reading sequence. (We also encourage readers to freely reorganize our lists as well as the sections themselves.)

  • Santiago Calatrava’s disastrous glass bridge in Venice will now be paved with stone, proving yet again that architects should be forced to understand the needs of a community and not simply create things for photographs or architecture magazines. Also, starchitects like Calatrava should be laughed at for providing comments like the one below. Emma Bubola of the New York Times reports:

While Venice’s plan still needs to undergo structural tests and be approved by the city’s architectural authority, city officials are determined to proceed to prevent the “almost daily” falls, Ms. Zaccariotto said.

While she appreciated Mr. Calatrava’s work, she said that aesthetic criteria should not outweigh safety principles and that because the lawsuits were addressed to the city and not to the architect, Venice was going to handle the situation.

“We can’t always do poetry,” she said. “We must give security.”

Mr. Calatrava has faced lawsuits and fines for troubles relating to the bridge, but has defended himself against detractors. “The bridge was checked with sophisticated methods,” he said in 2008, “which determined that it has a solid structure which is behaving better than expected.”

Mr. Calatrava’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the new safety plan or criticisms about the footbridge.

I have lately wondered how much my self-directed fatphobia owes to my career as an academic philosopher. More than one author has remarked that there is a dearth of fat, female bodies in academia in general and in philosophy specifically. Philosophy, with its characteristic emphasis on reason, often implicitly conceives of rationality as the jurisdiction of the lean, rich, white men who dominate my discipline.

We praise arguments for being muscular and compact and criticize prose for being flabby, flowery and, implicitly, feminine. When it comes to our metaphysics — our pictures of the world — we pride ourselves on a taste for austerity, or as W.V.O. Quine put it, “desert landscapes.” And what is the fat body in the popular imagination but excess, lavishness, redundancy?

I struggle as a philosopher to reconcile my image of my body with its task in the world of being the emissary of my mind. I think of it, tongue in cheek, as my body-mind problem. Often, I cannot bear the idea of sending out my “soft animal” of a body, in the words of the poet Mary Oliver, to fight for feminist views that are edgy and controversial and to represent a discipline that prides itself on sharpness, clarity and precision. I feel betrayed by my soft borders.

  • The NFL and nepotism? Yup, especially in coaching. Kalyn Kahler writes for Defector, and she quotes the 2020 NFL Diversity and Inclusion report (italics), which is wow:

Recent research conducted by the NFL determined that nine of the 32 current head coaches are either the son or father of a current or former NFL coach (including coordinators and position coaches). The same NFL research report also found that 63 total NFL coaches (including coordinators and position coaches) are biologically related or related through marriage—53 of the 63 related coaches are White coaches. 

The 46-page report included only five sentences on the topic of related coaches, and the researchers did not bring it up again in the 2021 edition of the report. So in March, after each staff finished its annual firing and hiring cycle, I researched every coach listed on every NFL team website’s coaching staff page, as well as anyone with the title “coaching assistant.” 

In most cases, it wasn’t hard to figure out who was related to a current or former coach because most of these official bios proudly list any and all NFL pedigrees. And if the family connection isn’t covered sufficiently in the team bio, there are plenty of feel-good local newspaper stories on how cute it is to hire your son. Seattle outlet MyNorthwest.com  wrote in 2015 about how Seahawks receivers coach Nate Carroll ended up coaching on his dad Pete’s staff: “Younger brother Nate graduated USC five years ago with a degree in Psychology after an illustrious high school career. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when his dad offered him a coaching gig in Seattle, unsolicited.

“She said her son (Dillon Helbig, 8) had written an entire book and shelved it here at the library,” Librarian Paige Beach said of the call. “Then he waited for just the right moment to announce to his family that he had written a book and it could be checked out at the library.”

The caller was looking for her son’s handwritten book, “The Adventures of Dillon’s Crismis, by Dillon His Self.” Dillon’s book is an impressive 88 pages, complete with full-color illustrations and even a homemade library spine label, which came in handy when librarians had to locate it for his mom to come “check out.”

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

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