Art 16 Introduction to Islamic Art and Architectural History (formerly Art 48VR) Course Designer: Colette Apelian, Ph.D. (UCLA)


Course Description:


Art 16 (formerly Art 48VR) introduces students to the art and architecture of the Islamic world from the Mediterranean to the Indian Subcontinent. We cover examples from the seventh century to present day.  We also examine European and American opinions and positioning of Islamic arts and culture during the modern and contemporary eras (postcolonial theory and theoretical approaches).

There is a strong emphasis on visual analysis, content analysis, and contextual analysis. Introduction to Islamic Art is custom designed. It is based upon textbook and OER documents and websites (Open Educational Resources). The course is interdisciplinary and developed starting summer 2009. It is the first online (distance education, eLearning) Islamic art and architectural history survey taught at the Community College level in the United States if not globally.  

Art 16 may be transferred for University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) credit. Check with your school counselor. Also, please see relevant links at the BCC Online College Transfer Center . Reminder: Art 16 is completely online. Colette Apelian originally designed the online Art 16 version in 2008-09.

The course is organized thematically rather than chronologically. Each week students are given a study list of sites, structures, and/or  objects. Course weeks of instruction are organized around the following themes and, when possible, using the course designer's original photographs. Students are asked to learn keywords in Middle Eastern and North African languages. Themes include: 
  • Introduction to Islam, Concept(s) of “Islamic Art,” and Historical Background 
  • Religious Architecture: (a) the Dome of the Rock, (b) Mosques (hypostyle, iwan, central dome), and (c) Madrasas
  • Religious Architecture: Mosques con’t and Madrasas
  • Mausoleums and Cities for the Dead and Living
  • Gardens for the Dead and Living: Paradise and Palace Life
  • Palaces (con’t) and “Islamic Cities,” Problems and Early Case Studies
  • Communities and Commerce: Sites in Commercial and Everyday Life
  • Art of the Object: Motifs and More
  • Objects in Royal Court Life
  • Textile Arts: Cloth and Carpets
  • Arts of the Book: Calligraphy, Qur’ans (Korans),  Illuminated Manuscripts, and More
  • Manuscript Illuminations and Drawings: Commercial Production and Court Workshops
  • Western Views of Islamic Art/Architecture: Collecting and Creating 
  • Modern and Contemporary Art and Architecture 
Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)

  • Employ the vocabulary and concepts of formal analysis (visual analysis) specific to the visual arts and art history.
  • Identify and contextualize artworks according to their formal, iconographic, and social functions.

Supplemental SLOs
  • learn how material culture can be relevant to its social and historical contexts 


  • learn art and architecture history terminology pertinent to the Islamic world, including terms in the Arabic, Turkish and Persian languages


  • hone ability to critically evaluate art and art historical narratives


  • practice detailed visual observation, digesting and synthesizing what you see and read, and presenting your arguments and analysis in writing

**Thank you for your interest in Art 16, Introduction to Islamic Art History at Berkeley City College (BCC). 

**Online classes and their wait lists fill quickly. Students on waitlists have priority to receive permission to add codes. On the first day of class only, please email with the course number. 

**To communicate with your instructor, please list a current email address in Passport and Moodle.

**Only students can change their email addresses in Moodle and Passport/Prompt. Technical problems? Email

** How to begin the semester:  find instructions for the correct semester at 

**How to apply to BCC and enroll? Go to BCC's enrollment system, PASSPORT, a link to which is at BCC's Distance Education portal . No auditors, please.

**New to Berkeley City College or adding with an add slip on the first day of class? Read more information at BCC's Admission and Records or A&R website

**New to online learning? Explore the links at the Berkeley City College Distance Education / Online Courses website


Grading, Textbooks and Requirements 
Final course grade is based upon

(1)          weekly to bi-weekly quizzes and short writing assignments in discussion forums 

(2)          a midterm exam

(3)          a final exam

(4)          a 3-4 page research project due towards the end of the semester


Assignment deadlines are usually Tuesdays, 11:55 pm.  Students are generally given at least 7 days to complete weekly assignments (reading, answering a discussion question, quizzes) and at least 5 weeks to complete the research project.



Besides online reading, there are two required textbooks:


(1) Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar, Marilyn-Jenkins-Madina, Islamic Art and Architecture, 650-1250, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001, (ISBN 9780300088694) and


(2) Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, The Art and Architecture of Islam, 1250-1800, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995 (ISBN 0300064659) 

To enhance your experience in the class and to score high on exams, I recommend buying the correct edition of the textbook. You can also read excerpts online at, but I would not recommend this path as you cannot read the complete textbooks. There should be two textbooks on reserve in the BCC library. See the BCC library website for details regarding how to check out books on reserves.



To succeed in Art 16 (48VR), students are required to:


(a)          have reliable and consistent access to the Internet and an email account during the entire semester, including holidays


(b)          study more independently than in on-campus courses


(c)           read more than in on-campus courses (all instructions are written)


(d)          log into the course website a few times a week each week throughout the semester


(e)          learn new technology as necessary for the course



Students Requiring Special Accommodations (PSSD): Please email me formal notification of your needs before the semester begins so you are prepared for the Week 1 syllabus quiz.