Aesthetics Seminar: Art and Morality

Dr. Cynthia Freeland

Fall, 1994

Textbooks (Required)

David Carrier, Principles of Art History Writing (Penn State, 1991)

Carol Becker, Ed., The Subversive Imagination: Artists, Society, and Social Responsibility (Routledge, 1994)


Michael D. Hall and Eugene W. Metcalf, Jr., Eds., The Artist Outsider: Creativity and the Boundaries of Culture (Smithsonian, 1994)

Richard Bolton, Ed., Culture Wars: Documents from the Recent Controversies in the Arts (New Press, 1992)

Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art (Hackett)

David Carrier, Artwriting (University of Massachusetts, 1987)

Course Outline

Unit One: Philosophical Views of Art, Culture, Morality (5 weeks)

  • Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Goodman (selected readings)

    Unit Two: Truth in Artwriting and Art Interpretation (4 weeks)

  • Carrier, Principles of Art History Writing

    Unit Three: Moral Issues in Contemporary Art (5 weeks)

  • Becker, The Subversive Imagination
  • Bolton, Culture Wars
  • Hall and Metcalf, The Artist Outsider

    Required Coursework

    Unit One: Weekly short reflection and exegesis papers on the readings (2 pages each, ungraded)

    Unit Two: A short critical paper addressing some issue from Carrier's book (5-7 pages, graded)

    Unit Three: A research paper describing and commenting on a moral issue in art (10 pages, graded).

    Research Paper Guidelines

    In addition, each student will be expected to compile a portfolio or artwriting journal (ungraded) of at least six entries including:

  • a short essay on a cross-cultural (non-western) work of art
  • a short essay on a pre-16th century work of art
  • a short essay on a non-visual work of art
  • a short essay on a controversial artifact of popular culture
  • a review of a Houston art exhibition, play, or concert
  • a short description/analysis of the contents of a contemporary art journal

    Final grade will be based primarily on the two assigned papers; seminar participation and satisfactory completion of the ungraded assignments will also be taken into account. NOTE THAT THERE WILL BE NO INCOMPLETES except for medical reasons.

    WARNING: Some material discussed and viewed in this course may be offensive to some students. Recent controversial artworks include representations considered by some to be heretical, pornographic, or obscene. It will be important to view and discuss such works as part of addressing the content of our course.

    March 21, 1996

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