Faculty Profile

James Housefield
Associate Professor of Design

Fields of interest: History of modern & contemporary art & design. Marcel Duchamp, museums, narrative environments, and experience design. Book design after Mallarmé.


James Housefield is an associate professor of design history, theory, and criticism, whose research and teaching analyze art and design since the late eighteenth century. He is completing a monograph on the interaction of modern art, design, and science, tentatively titled, Playing with Earth and Sky: Popular Sciences of Astronomy & Geography and the Work of Marcel Duchamp.

Housefield’s research focuses on the interaction of art and design with each other and with the cultures of literature and science, particularly astronomy and geography. He is especially interested in the histories of exhibition design and modern cultures of immersive experience. He has contributed to several exhibition catalogues, and his scholarly writing on Duchamp, art and geography, and related topics has appeared in The Geographical Review, Journal of North African Studies, Cultural Geographies, and multiple edited volumes. His past research has focused on trans-Atlantic modernisms and the French cultures of art and design, including the francophone cultures of the colonial and post-colonial world. His current research emphasizes the heritage of nineteenth-century ideas on modernism, especially considering the impact of the Symbolist movement on aesthetics, book design, and the creation of immersive experiences.

Housefield has taught courses integrating the history of art and design history since 2000. He was formerly a curator at the Austin Museum of Art, and associate professor of the history of art and design at Texas State University, where he held the title of the National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities.

Research Areas and Select Publications

Marcel Duchamp, Dada, and Surrealism

“Marcel Duchamp’s Art and the Geography of Modern Paris,” The Geographical Review, Vol. 92, No. 4 (October 2002), 477-502 (available on jstor).

“The Nineteenth-Century Renaissance and the Modern Facsimile: Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebooks, From Ravaisson-Mollien to Péladan and Duchamp,” in Y. Portebois and N. Terpstra, eds., The Renaissance in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto, 2003), 73-88.

“The Modern Artist as Traveler and Geographer: The Case of Marcel Duchamp,” in Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker, eds., Geographies of Modernism (London: Routledge, 2005), 99-111.

“Starry Messenger: Astronomy, Fashion, and Identity in Marcel Duchamp’s Comet Haircut,” in Anne Collins Goodyear and James McManus, eds., AKA Marcel Duchamp: Meditations on the Identities of an Artist (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2014).

Geography, Astronomy, Art, and Design

(Co-authored with Diana K. Davis), “Joseph Cornell, Geographer of Utopia  Parkway” in S. L. Taylor and J. Edwards, eds., Joseph Cornell: Opening the Box (Oxford: Peter Lang Publishers, 2007), 47-68.

“Sites of Time: Organic and Geologic Time in the Art of Robert Smithson and Roxy Paine,” Cultural Geographies, Vol. 14, No. 4 (October 2007), 537-561.

French Colonial and Post-Colonial Cultures

“Moroccan Ceramics and the Geography of Invented Traditions,” The Geographical Review, Vol. 87, No. 3 (July 1997), 401-407 (available on jstor).

“Art: Regional Styles: Northern Africa,” The New Encyclopedia of Africa (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2007), 166-169. 

“Orientalism as Irony in Gerard de Nerval’s Voyage en Orient,” Journal of North African Studies, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Winter 2000), 10-24; reprinted 2001, in Susan Slyomovics, ed., The Walled Arab City in Literature, Architecture, and History: The Living Medina in the Maghrib (London: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001), 10-24.

“The Nineteenth-Century Renaissance and the Modern Facsimile: Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebooks, From Ravaisson-Mollien to Péladan and Duchamp,” in Y. Portebois and N. Terpstra, eds., The Renaissance in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto, 2003), 73-88.

Collaborative Projects / Film

State of Tomorrow PBS television series, Episode 11: “Creative Capital”
(2007); collaborated with Alpheus Media in production of this segment profiling NEH-funded research

Teaching: See below for current course descriptions

Undergraduate Teaching

DES 001: Introduction to Design

DES 40C: Design for Aesthetics and Experience [to be offered in 2015]
Course in development: Global historical survey of design’s engagement with changing notions of aesthetics and experience. Relates transformations in the theory, production, and reception of all aspects of design (objects, landscapes, architectures, etc.) to larger cultural, social, and political contexts. Audience experiences discussed in relation to reception, psychology, perception, and expectation. Emphasis on contemporary notions of “experience design” and the history of design for immersive experiences.

DES 144: History of Interior Architecture

DES 191C: Design Thinking and Research

Graduate Teaching

DES 290 & AHI 290: Marcel Duchamp: Art, Science, & Design on Exhibition
Chronological study of the work of Duchamp, arguably the most influential artist of the 20th century. Emphasizes Duchamp’s work in both art and design, examining his creation of experiential spaces and his interest in science and museums. Students will be encouraged to pursue projects that combine scholarly research with creative production to the degree that this complements their graduate studies effectively.

Research Supervision

Dr. Housefield supervises the research of graduate students whose areas of interest intersect with his work. A member of the graduate group in art history, he recently directed Brittany McKinney Thompson’s Master’s thesis on Paul Gauguin and advised other research into modern and contemporary art and visual culture. He mentors advanced projects in the areas of modern art and design (especially Dada and surrealism), the history of museums and exhibition design, the intersection of French culture with art or design, and California design, among other topics.

(530) 754-2602
Room 225, Cruess Hall

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