“Philosophical Grounding”: Michael Ann Holly on creating Visual Studies

It’s like the landscape here is my unconscious, and RAP is my conscious.” 

in this episode

Caro Fowler speaks with Michael Ann Holly, the founding director of the Research and Academic Program. Michael describes what initially drew her to art history, what interested her in historiography, and the importance of critical theory to her work. Caro and Michael discuss her contributions to the founding of RAP as well as the department of visual and cultural studies at the University of Rochester, the first department of its kind in the United States. Additionally, Michael speaks to the influence and solace of the landscape of the Berkshires on her thinking and writing.


Michael Ann Holly is the Starr Director Emerita of the Research and Academic Program. She directed the Clark’s research institute and taught in the Williams College Graduate Program from 1999 to 2016. Before that she was the cofounder and chair of the Visual and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Rochester from 1988 to 1999. Author and editor of many essays and books on the critical theory and history of the history of art, Michael has also received many national and international awards and grants. Her most recent book is The Melancholy Art. 

This conversation was recorded on May 7, 2020. 

behind the scenes

Two dogs in the snow

Michael Ann Holly’s dogs—MacDuff on left, Crow on right—in Williamstown. Photo courtesy Michael Ann Holly

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