Special Topics in the History of Art
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Course Information from the University Catalog
May be repeated when topic is different.
Section Information from the Schedule of Classes for Fall 2011
Aesthetics for ARTH —
09:00 AM to 10:15 AM MW —
We often say we are “moved” by great art—why, then, don’t we laugh or cry in front of paintings? If the artwork voted “most beautiful ever” by a panel of connoisseurs is a depiction of great suffering, what does this say about our definition of beauty? Can an elephant produce a meaningful work of art? Can an 11-year-old? Can a machine? Aesthetics is the systematic investigation of “big questions” in the arts: questions about how and why we fall in love with, value, make, study, collect, and talk about art. In this course, we will consider important and challenging questions in aesthetics that art historians confront in their research and writing, as well as in practical contexts as curators, conservators, museum educators and art critics. By reading both classic and contemporary statements, we will consider such issues as the meaning of visual pleasure; criteria for evaluating artworks; beauty and ugliness; the relative standing of the artist and others in interpreting works of art; the influence of art worlds and art markets; and the respective roles of subjective experience and objective qualities in our responses to art. We will take a problem-focused approach, challenging ourselves with real and hypothetical problem cases to ground our inquiries. Class will include short lectures and lots of discussions based on reading and viewing assignments.
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