AESTHETICS                                                                                                   Fall 2011

Dr. Christine A. James


Philosophy 3110 Section A   MW  2:00pm-3:15pm  WH 104   80547      


This syllabus is available online, and will be updated often, at


Office: 102 Georgia Avenue, First Floor Left Side

Office Hours: MTWR 3:30pm-4:45pm and after classes and by appointment as needed.

Telephone:  259-7609 

Mailbox:  Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Office, 102 Georgia Avenue

Fax:  259-5011

E-mail address:


Course content: This course provides an introduction to aesthetic theory.  We will address questions about how we define “art,” what we mean by “having aesthetic taste,” what “creativity” is, and if an artist’s intentions matter in the interpretation of a work.  The class will incorporate a variety of media, and we will address how visual arts, music, poetry, and even scientific images and models relate to human emotions.  This is a reading intensive course, so it will require you to read, think about, and write about a considerable amount of material.


Requirements:  Class participation, two written examinations, two papers, presentations.



In accordance with the revised learning outcomes for the Core Curriculum of the Georgia State System, and the VSU Core Curriculum, our course follows the Area C Learning Outcome:

"Students will analyze, evaluate, and interpret diverse forms of human communication."

(In the past, Philosophy courses at Valdosta State University contributed to the VSU General Education Outcomes listed at the link below, with special emphasis on numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8. )


The Learning Outcomes for PHIL 3110 are:

1. To understand the distinctions among the various sub-fields of aesthetics, including theories of taste, artist intention, form and content analysis as comprising basic branches of the discipline.

2. To recognize how philosophical inquiry applies to ‘real-world’ circumstances and to individual reflection on the meaning of life, self-expression and art criticism.

3. To become conversant with the history of aesthetics and the variety of approaches to aesthetic theory and notions of the beautiful from ancient philosophy to the present.

4. To recognize and define different world views, adopting a reasonably viable one and justifying it in a philosophically informed way that emphasizes critical reasoning and argument.

5.  To demonstrate the ability to discuss, in both oral and written discourse, the philosophical issues explored in the course.

6.  To be familiar with what academic philosophy is, and to understand how it can be applied to daily life as well as specific careers especially in the arts and museum management.

Members of the faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies have verified that these outcomes are in line with the outcomes of the course as it is taught at peer institutions in the State System of Georgia.

These course-specific learning outcomes contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Major by enabling students better to

1. Explain and analyze central issues, topics, and philosophers in the history of philosophy, from the ancient to the modern periods.
2. Write and speak critically and logically, applying various theories to specific cases and examples.
3. Explain their own value system, evaluating their values in the context of a diverse range of ideas that inform contemporary controversies and social conflict.
4. Create independent philosophical research, synthesizing a variety of sources, including traditional primary philosophical texts and secondary source
5. Demonstrate a working familiarity with current research methods, citation styles, and presentation techniques.




Required Texts:


Aesthetics by Susan Feagin and Patrick Maynard, eds., Oxford University Press,1997. 0192892754


Interpreting Art by Terry Barrett, McGraw Hill, 2003, 9780767416481, 0767416481.



How grades will be calculated:


A          = 100 - 90%                              Class participation, attendance = 20%

B          = 89 - 80%                                2 Exams at 10% each = 20%

C          = 79 - 70%                                1 First Paper at 20% each = 20%

D          = 69 - 60%                                1 Presentation or 1 Final Paper at 40%

F          = 59 - 0%                                  Total = 100%


*****Please note that I am not obligated to accept late work or to allow exams after the date given.*****


Exams and Papers: The exams in our class will be “short answer” written exams.  Usually I ask six questions and a complete answer should be no less than four complete sentences.  These exams are “objective” in the sense that the answers can be directly related to class discussions and the textbook.  Reading and participating in class are important for your exam grades.  The papers involve more creative and independent thinking.  The papers should be no less than five pages long, double spaced, in a standard 12 point font like Times New Roman.  Expect to use the class textbooks and cite sources with a consistent citation scheme of your choice, like APA or Chicago Manual of Style or the St. Martin’s Handbook.  “Use direct quotes!”  Don’t use plastic paper covers, just a staple is fine.  More specific topics are given out as we do the readings, and I always mention things that would make a good paper topic during our class meetings and discussions.



Here are some extra links, if you would like to use outside sources and secondary source material:  (click on “Full Text Journal Title List”) and

The direct link for the database (Academic Search Complete)  (Click on Academic Search Complete to open the first page with the search box.)



Attendance Policy: I do care that you attend class regularly.  As you know, VSU policy is that missing 20% of class meetings results in an automatic grade of “F”.  Faculty can also institute added attendance policies in their syllabi. Our class will have a 10% rule for absences.  You can miss up to 10% of the class meetings with no grade penalty.  10% of our 40 class meetings is 4.  On absence number 5, your final grade for the course will be reduced by one whole letter grade; on absence number 6, your final grade for the course will be reduced by two whole letter grades; on absence number 8, you will automatically fail the course.  Be considerate of your fellow students – don’t be late, and don’t leave your cell phones and pagers on.  Note that if you are regularly late to class, or leave class early, I will begin to count each as an absence.  Please note that this policy makes no distinction between excused and unexcused absences.



Once you arrive at class, make an effort to get involved in the conversation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification or would like more information: if you are confused, it is likely that others are too! The participation percentage you receive will depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) the frequency and helpfulness of your contributions to class discussions and the care you take when peer editing.


Pop Reading Quizzes:

If I notice that there are many students who are not keeping up with the reading, I may periodically administer reading quizzes in class. These will not be announced in advance. No “make-up” quizzes will be given, and a missed quiz will result in a grade of zero.  These quizzes are a solid reward for attending class, participating, and keeping up with the readings.


Online Discussions:


During certain times of the semester, you also will be expected to participate regularly in on-line discussions using WebCT Vista. Use this opportunity to comment on the week’s readings, ask questions, raise objections, and respond to what others have written or said in class.


To use Vista, you will need access to a computer with an internet connection. Your computer and its software will also need to meet certain technical specifications. You are solely responsible for all technical matters. Although you do not need to be on campus in order to access Vista, it is worth remembering that computer labs are available at VSU. For technical help, please contact the VSU Help Desk (located in Odum Library, to the left of the Circulation Desk) at 229-245-4357 or by e-mail at


To log in to Vista and the course “shell,” go to the VSU homepage and click on the words WebCT Vista in the upper right-hand corner. Your username and password are the same as for your BlazeNet e-mail account. For instructions on getting started, go to: 


When posting in an online bulletin board, like those in the Discussion area of WebCT Vista, you must (1) post at least one original message of your own, (2) read all the messages posted by others, and (3) respond substantively to at least one message from another student. Your postings are due the same day as the readings are listed in the schedule below (i.e., no later than 11:59 p.m. on the relevant dates.)


Your first message on a given topic should be about 200 words in length. That is roughly the length of two medium-sized paragraphs (e.g., this one and the next). Your second (response) posting can be about half that length, but it should be substantive (i.e., involving serious content). Try not to simply repeat what others have said already. Additional postings can be as long or as short as you desire. Be sure to give the first message an interesting title in the “Subject” line. This will help alert the rest of us as to what it will be about.


When you are ready to respond to someone else, do so by opening their message and hitting the “Reply” button. This will create a “thread” that others can add on to. Keep in mind that although it is fine to disagree with what someone else has said, it is important to do so in a way that is polite and constructive. If someone says something that makes you angry, pause and take a breath before firing off a reply! You can preview your message before you send it, but once you have hit “Post,” your message will no longer be editable.


Vista allows me to keep track of how many messages you have read and posted. I will monitor student activity and may from time to time add a message of my own.


Academic Honesty:

Members of the Valdosta State University faculty value honesty and integrity extremely highly and do not tolerate cheating of any kind. Anyone caught cheating will automatically fail the course. Cheating includes – but is not limited to – plagiarism, giving or receiving assistance on a quiz, having someone else do work on your behalf, doing work on someone else’s behalf, and working with a partner or in a group on an individual assignment. By enrolling in this course, you are in effect promising to maintain the bond of trust on which the professor-student relationship is based.                                                                        



VSU policy mandates that all official communication by e-mail take place through VSU e-mail accounts or through the WebCT Vista Mail tool.  Please check your VSU ( e-mail account regularly.



Special Needs:

Students requiring classroom accommodations or modification because of a documented disability should discuss this need with me at the beginning of the semester.  If you are such a student, but you are not registered with the Access Office, you should contact them too.  Students requesting classroom accommodations or modifications because of a documented disability must contact the Access Office for Students with Disabilities located in Farber Hall. The phone numbers are 245-2498 (voice) and 219-1348 (tty).


Note: This syllabus is not a legal contract; the content of this course is subject to revision by the professor.




Month/Day        Topics for discussion and assignments                                                 


8/15 M                        Introduction to the class           


                        First reading together: Academic Integrity





8/17 W            Feagin and Maynard, Introduction and I.a. The Aesthetic

Clive Bell, The Aesthetic Hypothesis

Paul Ziff, Anything Viewed

            Frith, Paddington Station


            Fildes, The Doctor  

            Romanesque Churches in Poitiers: Notre Dame La Grande



            T’ang Dynasty poetry and painting



            Grünewald, Crucifixion


            Picasso, Guernica



            Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra di Benci


            Henry Moore, reclining figure sculpture at Lincoln Center



                                    Vuillard, The Garden at Vaucresson


                                     Manet, Peonies







                                    Klee, Twittering Machine

Albers, Hommage to the Square







8/22 M    Special new items: Artists and Athletes:




What is Philosophy?  Do Philosophy majors get jobs related to that major?  Here is some interesting information:


News about what Philosophy majors are up to:


                        Continue I.a. The Aesthetic: 

Allen Carlson, Aesthetic Appreciation of the Natural Environment

Oscar Wilde, The New Aesthetics

John Dewey, The Aesthetic in Experience

            Brancusi, Bird in Space 

            Marcel Duchamp, Fountain


            Landscapes: Corot









Theodore :


Henri :





8/24 W            I.b. Many Aesthetics

                        Kakuzo Okakura, The Tea-Room

                        Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

                        Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dionysian        









                                    Golden Hall of Horyuji





                                    Pagoda of Yakushiji









8/29 M            Continue I.b. Many Aesthetics

                        Joshua C. Taylor, Art and the Ethnological Artifact

                        Linda Nochlin, Women, Art, and Power

                        Michael Roemer, The Surfaces of Reality

                                    Haida relief-carved chest




                                    Chou bronzes (China) contrasted with Zapotec works (Mexico)

               1100 BC


               300 BC - 700 AD

                                    David, Oath of the Horatii


                                    Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus


                                    Sir Joseph Noel Paton, In Memoriam


                                    Francisco Goya Lucientes, And They are Like Wild Beasts


                                    Rixens, Death of Cleopatra


                                    Gérôme, The Artist and His Model



                                    Dreyer, Passion de Jeanne d’Arc


                                    Kurosawa, The Seven Samurai, Rashomon



                                    Vigo, L’Atalante



                                    Fellini, Notti di Cabiria


                                    Cezanne, still lifes





                                    Chaplin in The Gold Rush


                                    Bergman, Wild Strawberries




                                    Dreyer, Vampire



8/31 W            II. Why Identify Anything As Art?

                        II.a. Ideas of Art

                        Paul Oskar Kristeller, The Modern System of the Arts

                        Abbé Batteux, The Fine Arts Reduced to a Single Principle

                        Jean Le Rond D’Alembert, The Arts and Fine Arts

                        Clifford Geertz, Art as a Cultural System

                                    Quattrocento painting




                                    Islamic poetry












9/5 M              No class, Labor Day


9/7 W              Review Day  THE REVIEW NOTES:



After review: First Exam due in WebCT Vista in the Assessment Tool.  (I’ll actually give you until Saturday, September 10 at 6pm in case you would like extra time!)



After you finish your first exam, please prepare the first paper with this handout in mind:

            For a preview of the grading rubric and points:


9/12 M            II.b. The Arts in Society

                        Mark Sagoff, On the Aesthetic and Economic Value of Art

                        Whitney Chadwick, Women Artists and the Institutions of Art

                        Griselda Pollock, Modernity and the Spaces of Our Lives

                        Kathleen Marie Higgins, The Music of Our Lives

                        Ivan Karp, How Museums Define Other Cultures

                                    Ojibway totems


                                    Angelica Kauffmann and Mary Moser



                                    Johann Zoffany, The Academicians of the Royal Academy



                                    A bar at the Folies Bergère

                                    Mary Cassatt

                                    Picasso, Demoiselles d’Avignon

                                    Berthe Morisot

                                    The harbour at Lorient,

 On the balcony,

On the terrace  

                                    Monet, Garden of the Princess

                        Music: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Sex Pistols, Lou Reed, John Cage 4’33”, Navajo medicinal music, Quranic singing, Japanese folk music (Ainu of Hokkaido Island), Kate Bush (whalesong in Moving)


9/14 W  



                        Music examples from Shape Note Singing, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Kate Bush




9/19 M                        III. What Do Artists Do?

                        III.a. Expression

                        Clive Bell, The Metaphysical Hypothesis

                        John Stuart Mill, What Is Poetry?



9/21 W                        First Paper Due

            (Papers will be turned in by WebCT Vista Assignment Tool.)       


9/26 M            Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art?

                        John Hospers, Art As Expression




9/28 W            III.b. Artistic Freedom and Creativity

                        Meyer Schapiro, Diderot on the Artist and Society

                        Immanuel Kant, Art and Genius

                        G.W.F. Hegel, Art, Nature, Freedom

                                    The artists’ role in society – examples from architecture

                                    Compare and contrast social and psychological effects of space (living space, museum space)

                                    Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, I. M. Pei, Frank Gehry

                                                How does Frank Gehry’s work relate to his own personal psychological development?

                                                Do Gehry’s structures reflect the type of genius that Kant described?  Do Gehry’s structures involve some aspect of the sublime                                                                   (greatness, beauty combined with elements of trepidation, fear, awesomeness)

                                                Hegel describes development of architecture through various ages – how do these different time periods resonate with the work of modern                                                                    and postmodern architecture that developed long after Hegel’s life?

Comparison images:
Mies Van Der Rohe

Cabrini Green

I. M. Pei

Frank Gehry


                                                Hegel on architecture: "[Architecture's] task consists in so manipulating external inorganic nature, that, as an external world conformable to art, it becomes cognate in spirit.”  The architecture of a society reflects its spirit and values.  In this sense, does the architect have a social responsibility to create architecture that brings about certain goods in society?


10/3 M                      Please Note: Advising and Preparing to Register for Spring 2012 courses begins now. Make appointments to see your advisor now in mid October, and be ready when Registration opens in Banner on October 31!


                                   Continue III.b. Artistic Freedom and Creativity

                        Warren L. D’Azevedo, Sources of Gola Artistry

Xie-He, Six Canons of Painting

Su Shih, Painting Bamboo

Wang Ch’Inch’En, Spiritual Excellence

Edgar Allen Poe, The Philosophy of Composition

R. G. Collingwood, Art and Craft

            Art in cross-cultural context – the example of the Bollywood film industry.

            How do the tropes of American film get taken up in Hindi language film?  Is the cultural transference going in both directions?  Reflect on the                                    experience of the actors who were raised in Western culture, but in families who had immigrated from India.  What was their experience like when they went back to India?  What were their concerns (being too Western, trying to be too Indian, being light or dark complexioned?)  What does this reflect about cultural tropes and memes in both Western and Indian culture?

            In Edgar Allen Poe’s reading he describes his process of writing The Raven (finding rhymes, recollecting specific experiences that he used in the poem) Does this process sound accurate, or does it seem like a “rational reconstruction” that makes the process of writing the poem more linear and rational and procedural than it really was?  How does the artists’ process affect their work?  How does Poe’s life, context, previous experiences influence and enrich his work?

D'Azevedo: Gola People of Liberia, Africa

the "creative personality"; no distinct term for artist, but a sense of behavior and general personality of creative people (197); spirits (nature: JIna, ancestors: anyun fa, witches: ese)
ability or talent: Wo na bene. Play, recreation, entertainment (201) holding a vocation, status that does not depend on the structure of local institutions (204)

Painting and Poetry about Painting in China; 206-207, originality as a primary value, the spiritual excellence of the genius.

Poe: tortured genius, complex personal life. The Raven: originality always in view (208), not a "frenzy" of creative writing, more of a process of carefully choosing impressions to convey (210), precision, linear process of writing.



10/5 W                        IV. Can We Ever Understand an Artwork?


Monroe Beardsley, The Artist’s Intention

Stephen Davies, Authenticity in Musical Performance

Richard Wollheim, Criticism as Retrieval

            Do the artist’s intentions matter in evaluating a work of art or a musical performance?

Beardsley notes that we unavoidably look for the psychological states, the causes, within the artist's mind. The part that these causes should play in evaluating, describing and interpreting the work might be variable (224). Internal and External evidence work together - a painter may tell us their internal story or their internal thought process in creating a work, and it is fine as long as it matches the external, the physical evidence of the work itself. (225)  Cases in which the artist is being purposefully ironic (227) may be the most interesting, where the internal and the external are exactly the opposite.

Davies is interested in "authenticity" in music. Authenticity can mean a variety of things: an authentic work by Beethoven, an authentic piece of indigenous music, an authentic performance in the sense of being socially constructed as a proper music performance with all of the connected goods (playbill, auditorium, etc.), or authentic in the sense of aiming for an ideal sound ("This was how it was meant to be played, heard, or performed!") In the latter case the intention of the original composer enters in. (230-234)

Wollheim argues that "criticism is retrieval", that we cannot completely reconstruct the creative process, but, by giving attention to the mental life of artists, we can understand the work better. (235) Criticism could also be revision, in the sense of reporting what is apparent to the critic upon experiencing the work; or criticism can be scrutiny, analyzing historical and contextual influences on a work (or making possible connection between this or that work, which the creator might not have been aware of in any way. (241)

            Examples from the Harlem Renaissance, a time of incredible creativity and artistic achievement among African Americans.

            Individuals involved: poets such as Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer, novelists like Ralph Ellison and Zora Neale Hurston, musicians like Duke                              Ellington and Charlie Parker, and performance artists such as Lena Horne and Paul Robeson; through leaders such as James Weldon Johnson, A. Philip Randolph, and W. E. B. Du Bois, it laid the foundation for what would grow into the extraordinary Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

“What is possibly less evident is that the leaders and followers of the Harlem Renaissance were every bit as intent on using black culture to help make the United States a more functional democracy as they were on employing black culture to “vindicate” black people.  If the founding fathers and mothers had presented America with a good start in those goals and principles stated so eloquently in the U. S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation, then women and men such as journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, historian and sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois, performing artist Florence Mills, author and political activist James Weldon Johnson, philosopher Alain Locke, sociologist Charles S. Johnson, and author Langston Hughes all thought the first half of the twentieth century a good time to put such goals and principles into life-saving practice.”



10/10 M          Continue IV. Can We Ever Understand an Artwork?

                        Michael Baxandall, Truth and Other Cultures

Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation


Michael Baxandall:

Understanding an artwork does depend on cultural background

Participants understand their culture immediately, spontaneously

Mere observers of a work with a different cultural background will have to “reconstruct” categories for perceiving what would have been obvious or natural to the viewers of the same socio-historical time as the artist

Piero della Francesca, Baptism of Christ (linked above)

Religious image (243), altarpiece, context of patronage system, skills – perspective, proportion – seeing for the artist is “theory-laden” (244)

Painting known for its excellent “commensurazione” – profiles and contours in proper place, in proportion, plus mathematical and language reference (248)


Susan Sontag:

Art is to be perceived, not merely intellectualized

Not in favor of conceptualized views on art, values the experience on non-cognitive grounds

Would argue against: Freudian interpretations of Leonardo portraits, Feminist analysis of Titian nudes, Marxist analysis of Renaissance altarpieces

These interpretations do not help us to understand the work of art  - it just inserts “content” where there might not be any

Better to appreciate the “lived experience” of the art work

Interpretations seek to revamp old “texts” to fit the needs of current times – attempt to resolve a discrepancy 250

Interpretations became more aggressive in recent times – contempt for “appearances”, assuming that there must be more content in a work than just its appearance 251

Refusal to “leave a work of art alone” 252

To avoid interpretation, art may become:



            Decorative (no content)

            Pop art – blatant content, nothing left to say other than what is there 254




10/12 W         Continue IV. Can We Ever Understand an Artwork?

                        Arthur Danto, Deep Interpretation

Nelson Goodman, Art and Authenticity

Roland Barthes, From Work to Text


Arthur Danto

Deep Interpretations – reveal meanings that are more than the speaker realizes

Some meanings have to be hidden deep for a work to mean what it does

Provides two different surface interpretations reflecting different intentions

“deep” does not mean profound 257

Prophetic revelation – religious, Moses, Hermes 258

Kledon = utterance that means more than the speaker realizes 258

Divination of these concealed meanings would destroy them – hiddenness secures their position, and the position of the interpreters/diviners 259

Marxist – kledons of class strife, instruments of the forces of history in which classes are the true “agents” who make things happen

Vesting economic decisions in humanitarian terms

Freudian – masking unconscious feelings/desires 260

Structuralism – discourse – structure of the unconscious must be the structure of language

The linguistic unconscious – marriage as a kind of language or communication – exchanging women as one would exchange words 261

Last Judgment – Leonardo – reverted to stains over time 262

Surface interpretation – knowing what was depicted 263

Responding to the work is separate

Deep interpretation presupposes that the surface interpretation is already done 263

Counterargument to Sontag


Nelson Goodman

Why these differences are so important – artworks must be understood in the context of art in general, art works are not separate from other artworks, nature, or other artifacts

Rembrandt’s Lucretia and its forgery (a very good forgery) 264

How do we determine authenticity?

What are the relevant aesthetic differences between the two, for any given viewer?  For a viewer who cannot see the difference?

Goodman argues that our ability to perceive the difference is not relevant at all 267

Value, and aesthetic significance, and authenticity are all dependent on historical context, the period in which the work was done, its membership in a class (the genuine works of Rembrandt) 268-269

The idea that we should experience a work of art purely by senses is absurd – part of our common nonsense 270


Roland Barthes

A text has a plurality of meanings

Every text can have meanings extracted from it

Creating meaning in a text is the responsibility of the reader

(the death of the author!)

Our view of language and literary text is changing 270

Linguistics, anthropology, Marxism, psychoanalysis have all changed how we see text

Interdisciplinarity has revitalized how we look at the scriptor (writer)—reader—critic relationship 271

The Text is not a defined object.

The Text is constituted by its subversive force – challenges old classifications

The logic that governs the Text is metonymic (meaning that terms that are connected can substitute for each other – the Ivory Tower means higher education, the Big Apple refers to New York, Washington refers to the federal government)

The Text is radically symbolic 271

The Text is plural and has an irreducible plurality of meanings 272

The work is caught up in a process of interpretation that implies familial relationships – author as father and owner of the work

But the Text is linked to enjoyment, to pleasure, without separation, in a social utopia of its own 274

The Text asks the reader for an active collaboration 273



10/17 M    Review Day  (Reminder: Registration is opening in Banner on October 31!)

Today will be a short class review day, because Dr. James has to go to an Academic Committee meeting that conflicts with our class meeting time.


10/19 W         Second Exam


Are you anticipating having a job interview?  Here’s a document that might help!



10/24 M  No class, Fall Break



10/26 W         V. Why Respond Emotionally to Art?


R. K. Elliott, Aesthetic Theory and the Experience of Art

Kendall L. Walton, Make-Believe and the Arts


Elliott: Artwork often relies on the emotional response of the audience


Experiencing the work of art from the inside or from the outside

Inside – emotional connection to the work, fellow-feeling with those performing particular roles, for example

Outside – comparable to surface interpretation; does not rely on emotional connection of the audience


Walton: representation

Work of art should inspire a “self-imagined” sensory representation, which goes beyond mere sensory experiences

Sensory experience is already theory-laden, each sensory experience is related back to our feelings of empathy – imagining ourselves in another’s position


Examples from class: children’s letters and cards for persons in the service; references and examples from the musical Rent


10/31 M          Continue V. Why Respond Emotionally to Art?

                        Aristotle, The Emotions Proper to Tragedy

                        Aristotle, Emotions and Music

Martha C. Nussbaum, Luck and the Tragic Emotions

Susan L. Feagin, The Pleasures of Tragedy


Aristotle sets up the idea of catharsis with regard to ancient Greek tragedy

                        Tragedy involves an audience reaction that is not merely fellow feeling, it also involves pity and fear


Nussbaum clarifies this – pity is the audience response for undeserved suffering, and fear is the response when we see that the same thing could happen to us, given different circumstances in life

Examples of cathartic moments from films (struggle is to find examples of tragedy for different ages and different experiences in the audience)


            The Fox and The Hound

            Old Yeller



            Dead Poets Society

            Love Story

            Brian’s Song

            The Color Purple


11/2 W            Continue V. Why Respond Emotionally to Art?

                        Ted Cohen, Jokes

Edmund Burke, The Sublime: Of Delight and Pleasure

Jerrold Levinson, Music and Negative Emotion


                        Cohen argues that jokes can involve more than mere amusement, they reflect background beliefs, assumptions, and prejudices, and as such, they set up and reinforce a sense of community

                        Jokes can also be used to exclude those who simply don’t get it or who are not in on the joke (consider the film The Aristocrats, which is the ultimate in-joke for stand up comedians)

                                    Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Mel Brooks, Ben Stiller


                        Burke discusses the feeling of delight that some works of art give the audience.  Delight involves merely removing pain – not a pleasurable feeling on its own.  Burke is also writing from the context of the late enlightenment period, and he was deeply concerned with the “revolutions” occurring throughout Europe and America – his political and aesthetic theories often reflect a need for peace or a desire to cease struggle – almost reactionary in his need for comfort, I think examples like Fargo and Notti di Cabiria would relate to his theory.  When we have this feeling of delight, and we realize that the danger is not real, that we will be alright, it is associated with the “sublime.”  (Note, you could do a great paper comparing and contrasting Kant and Burke on the sublime.)


                        Levinson discusses feelings of sadness and melancholy that certain types of music can inspire in us.  He seems to imply that his main examples are classical music, without an implied or explicit narrative (i.e., no lyrics, with content to interpret.)  He gives a theory of why we might want to seek out sad music, in a way related to the need for carthasis or emotional release going back to Aristotle and Nussbaum.  I think we could also apply Levinson’s theory to some of the music we have considered earlier, from traditional shape note music, to Rufus Wainwright’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, to Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry about his memories of Trenchtown.

                        The overall theme again is emotional reactions to works of art, and the possible benefits of these emotional reactions.



11/7 M            VI. How Can We Evaluate Art?


Curt Ducasse, Criticism as Appraisal

Meyer Schapiro, On Perfection and Coherence in Art

David Hume, Of the Standard of Taste


This section discusses key issues of “taste”.  What is good taste, and how is it developed?  Most of the theories rely on some notion of experience.  This is a tradition that comes from empiricism, the position that all knowledge comes from experience.  This experience may be sensory or cognitive. 


Ducasse argues that all aesthetic judgments are subjective.  Art critics are more experienced at describing why they like or dislike a work of art. The judgment of taste (whether you like it or not) is a separate question from whether or not the work of art is successful, if it expresses what the artist intended, and so on.


Schapiro values the variety of tastes, the fresh points of view that each person brings to a work.  In a sense this is like John Stuart Mill’s work in On Liberty; a wide range of opinions is necessary, and a free market of ideas should be respected.  It is difficult to perceive the “relevant” qualities of a work of art, it is a skill that is developed with practice.


Hume also described the specific experiences that are necessary to develop one’s taste. Specific perceptual skills, and freeing oneself from prejudices and habits of thought, are necessary to develop taste.  Hume concludes that taste is best understood as intersubjective, not objective or subjective.


Special in class work on taste and interior design professionals, to give you more material for papers and presentations.  Given that Hume believes taste is related to experience (and his empiricist philosophy) use the materials given out in class to address examples of design professionals and learning taste through experience:



Extra notes:

                        Arnold Isenberg, Critical Communication

John Berger, Lessons of the Past

Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Postcolonial and the Aesthetic


Isenberg holds that the judgment of taste cannot appeal to reasons, that it is not within the bounds of rational, logical argumentation.  Note that this inherently challenges what the art critic can do or say regarding taste.


Berger argues that works of art have the ability to depict broader issues, that they are not limited to particular times, histories, cultures.  For example, Goya’s depiction of war can be used to understand the greater issues of war and loss of human potential in any historical period.  The emotions involved are greater than specific human lives, for example the fear we feel in response to Goya’s work can be compared to the sublime of Kant and Burke.


Appiah discusses the postmodern, recent perspectives on art that avoid cross-cultural metanarratives, and that emphasize cross-cultural borrowing.  Cultures “contaminate” one another, bringing up new commonalities and new possibilities for cultural comparison.




11/9 W            Second Paper Drafts Due (for anyone choosing the Paper option instead of Presentations)

REMEMBER, you must use the readings and give notes and citations from our textbook in any Paper or Presentation.     

Ideally, you should use two readings and discuss their differences, create a debate between two different theories.

                        First Presentation today by …___________________


Outsider Artists, Folk Artists




11/14 M                      Second Presentation day … Meagan Ellis



11/16 W                     Third Presentation day … Dylan Hodge



11/21 M                      Fourth Presentation day … Oscar Garza



11/23 W No class, T-Day


11/28 M                      Fifth Presentation day … Justin Celeste and Moriah Walker



11/30 W                     Sixth Presentation day … Darien Trent and Pamela Johnson


12/5 M                        Seventh Presentation day ... Chantting Stephenson

Last chance for questions before turning in final papers, if you are doing a paper instead of a presentation






If you are not sure about how the final exam times are assigned for your other courses, use this link, and check the Final Exam Schedule on page 3 of the document linked here:  



Online Course Evaluations

Student evaluations are extremely important in helping faculty members plan and revise their courses.  Students will need to access evaluation forms via BANNER and complete them in a period during the last few weeks of class.  Please take the time to complete this important evaluation (or opt out of providing an evaluation) during the designated period.  If you do not do so, you will not be able to access the grade for this class, scheduled to be posted on the Monday after the final examination days. They will be in Banner under Answer a Survey.

At the end of the term, all students will be expected to complete an online Student Opinion of Instruction survey (SOI) that will be available on Banner (where you registered for classes). Students will receive an email notification through their VSU ( email address when the SOI is available (generally at least one week before the end of term.) SOI responses are anonymous to instructors/administrators. Instructors will be able to view only a summary of all responses two weeks after they have submitted final grades. While instructors will not be able to view individual responses or access any of the responses until after final grade submission, they will be able to see which students have or have not completed their SOIs, and student compliance may be considered in the determination of the final course grade. Some professors give extra credit for completing the SOI and some do not, please do not pressure any faculty member about giving extra credit - it's an individual instructor choice. These compliance and non-compliance reports will not be available once instructors are able to access the survey and a timetable for this term is available at



Tips for doing well in Philosophy classes, adapted from a handout by Robert Scott


1.  Read text with a pencil, underline the important ideas and key concepts. Write down technical ideas, key terms, key distinctions between two terms, definitions, diagrams, etc. to help you remember them.


2.  Write questions or reactions you have to the text in the margin of the book.  Ask about these questions in class, and keep them in mind, since they may provide good points to make about that author in papers you will write for class.


3.  Read ahead to see the ultimate objectives of the chapter and of the individual readings.  Keep in mind the overall picture of the chapters given in the introductory sections to each chapter in the book.


4.  Work with the new terminology frequently, and try to apply it to situations outside of class.  I would recommend flash cards to help you memorize the meanings of new terms quickly.


5.  For longer readings, be sure to review the reading as a whole after you have read it section-by-section.  What was the main question the author wanted to address? What were the answers? What concepts were used to make the points?


6.  When confronted with a difficult reading or question, break it down into parts, and into individual ideas.  This will at least help to clarify the question, even if it might not give the answer.  And for philosophy, clarifying the question is really half the battle!


7.  Ponder an unsolved problem and return to it every so often to see if it will give.  Inspiration may happen at an unexpected time, and the subconscious mind does work on problems even when we aren't consciously aware of it.


8.  Begin work on all the class tasks early, and spread out your work over time so as to maximize your chances for comprehending the readings accurately, memorizing the information, and grappling with the questions for papers.


9.  If you do need to meet with an instructor outside of class, be sure to have your questions for the instructor planned out ahead of time, to make the meeting as productive as possible.


10.  Always think about the philosophical issues for yourself, rather than waiting to be told what to think or believe.


11.  Study for all exams on a daily basis, for at least a week before the exam date. You will need to know who said what, from memory.


12.  Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked on an examination beforehand.  Questions may come from the readings or from lectures and class discussions, but in either case, certain terms and concepts will be emphasized more than others.


13.  Listen carefully to different points of view, and actively respond (when you read, when you are in class, and when you write your philosophy papers)!


14.  Philosophy involves skills, like learning to appreciate a good debate, learning to imagine the world differently than we assume it to be, and appreciating the world with a sense of wonder.