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FFAR 250

Keywords Reading the Arts Across the Disciplines

Interdisciplinarity in Action

FFAR 250 is a required foundations course for all students entering programs of study in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

The course is interdisciplinary in terms of student body and course content, providing an unparalleled opportunity at Concordia to experience art across the disciplines. 


The FFAR 250 Experience

Credits: concept, montage and music by Stephane Calce, footage by Anna Hawkins, Luciano Giordana, Julie Johnston

Course structure

The course is composed of a lecture component and a tutorial component. Every week approximately 400 students attend the weekly lecture, and every two weeks you meet in a tutorial group. This smaller group of 21, led by tutorial instructors, allows for an improvisational approach to reading and writing, and a more in depth discussion of the material presented in the lecture. When you register for the course, you must register for the tutorial as well. Since we have a large francophone student population in fine arts, several of the tutorial sections are taught in French. Be sure to check the language of the tutorial when you register, this can be found by clicking into the section of the tutorial. Please note we do not permit section changes in this course after the registration period has ended.

Course description

In FFAR 250, all first year students entering programs of study in the Faculty of Fine Arts meet together to develop a shared critical vocabulary around ideas and aesthetics in the arts. Bridging history and theory, as well as Canadian and international movements, the course examines key concepts that shape and are shaped by artistic production and reception across the disciplines. Students receive a strong foundation to support understanding across the arts and a vocabulary for cross- and interdisciplinary collaboration. Over the year students will extend their powers of reading, writing, and critical thinking within the contexts of lecture and tutorial.

Current Goals: A focus on keywords

Inspired partly by cultural studies theorist Raymond Williams’ Keywords (Oxford University Press, 1976), the FFAR 250 course syllabus organizes itself around significant conceptual words that demonstrate multiple, contingent and competing meanings. Each course unit takes on a different keyword as a lens through which to consider various art objects and practices. Throughout the year, we ask, “How and where does art happen? How can art be valued in different ways? What does art do?” Together, we’ll map entwinements of art, culture and social history.

FFAR 250 benefits from substantial community involvement: faculty members, artists and graduate students from Concordia and beyond help shape the curriculum, providing guest lectures, critical feedback and new approaches to pedagogy. 

In tandem with the lecture, small tutorials emphasize collaborative learning and make this class a place to connect and develop new ideas. Tutorials are led by graduate teaching assistants who participate in ongoing state of the art instructional training and are committed to excellence in teaching. 

Course Requirements

FFAR 250 helps students expand their knowledge about art and refine abilities in reading, writing and speaking through the following activities:

  • Lectures that provide students with the opportunity to come together, discover new aesthetics, and connect histories and contexts to artworks and texts across the disciplines.
  • Tutorials that build on lectures in an intensive workshop setting that allows students to practice idea making in lively encounters with their peers.
  • Short assignments that encourage an exploratory approach to looking, reading, thinking, and writing about art.
  • Written essays that enable sustained consideration of the art object, the written form and cultural critique.
How to excel in FFAR 250

You can excel in FFAR 250 by attending all lectures and tutorials; by completing all assignments and reading all required texts; by asking questions about any aspect of the course material you find intriguing or challenging; and by staying open to ideas and aesthetics familiar and unfamiliar.


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