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This course will serve as an introduction to aesthetics and the philosophy of art. We will discuss topics such as the nature and value of the aesthetic dimension of experience, the meaning of central concepts in aesthetics (e.g., beauty, taste), the relation between the aesthetic dimension and art in general, central concepts in philosophy of art (e.g., artist, artwork, genius), the role of artists in the production of art, the grounds of artistic interpretation and evaluation, and the significance of aesthetics and the arts in education, culture, and politics.
Throughout the course we will engage with art of many different forms (painting, music, literature, photography, film, new media, among others) from many different historical periods, genres, and traditions.
We will also read selections from writings on aesthetics by various authors from various traditions, including classical works by Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, as well as more recent works by Theodor Adorno, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anne Eaton, Michel Foucault, Cynthia Freeland, Carolyn Korsmeyer, Susanne Langer, Herbert Marcuse, Linda Nochlin, Jenefer Robinson, Tobin Siebers, Grant Tavinor, Paul Taylor, Amie Thomasson, and Kendall Walton.
THE BASIC REQUIREMENTS
As stated on the syllabus, you will need to turn in a 2500-word final paper by Weds 5pm of finals week. You will need to turn in both an email copy to me and also an electronic copy to turnitin.com via the link that will be posted on our Canvas site. (no hard copy is necessary (despite the syllabus saying otherwise!))
The task for the paper is for you to construct an argument in support of a philosophical thesis about aesthetics (and/or philosophy of art), on a topic or area of your choosing, and to do so in a way that (a) engages with the thoughts of our two authors from the course readings, and also (b) discusses at least two works of art or aesthetic experiences (can be ones that have been discussed already in class or in the readings; can of course be new ones!).
SOME BASIC STEPS
Some key steps in writing the paper will be:
(i) find a topic: to decide what one or two topics, problems, questions, ideas interest you most from the course (think: key word(s))
(ii) find a conversation-space: identify which parts of our texts you think say the most interesting things (because provocative, correct, wrong, dangerous) about this topic/problem;
(iii) find a thesis: decide what you yourself think about the topic/problem, and how it relates to what our authors think about, perhaps:
(a) you agree with one, want to defend against the other; or
(b) you think one is better than another but we need to go even further that they do; or
(c) you think both are wrong for different reasons, maybe one gets one thing right, another gets another thing right, and we need both; or
(d) one sets up a nice framework for one topic, another for another topic, and you want to show how they can come together to bring light to how we should understand some third topic
(iv) write out one sentence that states directly and clearly what you’ve decided in (iii); this is your basic thesis statement!
(v) write out another sentence about how your thesis relates to each of the two authors you have selected in (iii); this articulates in words the conversation-space you are going to be engaging with in your paper.
(vi) make a quick list of 3-5 artworks or aesthetic experiences that you might like to talk about, to help illustrate what you have in mind in your own thesis
(vii) build your argument: decide on what the best order will be for building the case for your thesis, given this conversation-space, and write out this plan of argumentation in short sentences with argumentative connectives to get a schematic form of how the paper will go; here is one possible outline-form — though you should organize your own paper however you like:
(1) intro: tell us: what is the topic? why is it an important topic to think about? what is the gist of what have our authors said about it? what are you going to argue about it? (present your thesis statement); end the intro by telling us how the paper will be organized
(2) position A: first write out three or four sentences naming the parts of the views of author A which are the most relevant for your discussion; then add one or two sentences raising questions about A’s position;
(3) position B: then write out three or four sentences naming the most important parts of the views of author B; and add one or two sentences pointing out the key ways that they extend, or criticize, or complement author A’s; add one or two sentences raising questions about B’s position;
(4) your position: finally, turn to presenting and developing your own views; re-state your own thesis statement; write out the three most important points you will make to develop your case over and against A & B (for A against B; or for B against A; etc);