English 335-002: Aesthetics

Spring 2015

Teacher: Andrew Frankhouse | afrankhouse@innovationcharter.org
Extra Help: Tuesdays | 3:00-4:30PM | Room 146

STUDENTS PLEASE NOTE: Google Classroom will serve as the primary source for information and updates for this class.  Please follow the link below to your Google Classroom page:

Course Overview

Course Description

This reading and writing intensive course will seek to address a number of fundamental questions about art in the human experience: What is art?  How do we (and is it necessary to) differentiate between ‘fine-art” and ‘craft’, ‘commercial art’, ‘design’, and ‘entertainment’? What are beauty and ugliness, and how do they relate to our perception of art? Is there any objectivity in the criticism of art, or is it simply subjective and/or cultural in nature?  Students will examine a wide spectrum of works (visual, music, dance, film, literature), using the texts and ideas of critics, artists, and philosophers ranging from ancient to contemporary.  These touchstones will guide students in the development of their own individual aesthetic philosophy, and increase their awareness as consumers, fans, critics, observers, and participants in an ever more complex artistic environment.

Primary Texts

Art And Its Significance: An Anthology of Aesthetic Theory -- ed. Stephen David Ross

This text is  is a comprehensive collection of writings on aesthetics, covering thinkers from Ancient Greece to the early twentieth century.  It includes writings by philosophers, psychologists, religious figures, and artists themselves.  Purchasing a copy of this text is recommended, but not required.

In Praise of Shadows -- Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

This brief text, first published in 1933, muses on the influence of Western culture and the diminution of the traditional Japanese way of life.  In Tanizaki’s discussions of architecture, physical beauty, and even bathrooms, we get an immediate sense of the aesthetic value of that which may be half-illuminated, or entirely hidden in darkness.

Other Resources

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia -- Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Symbol, Myth, and Culture: Essays and Lectures of Ernst Cassirer -- ed. Donald Phillip Verene

On Beauty and On Ugliness -- Umberto Eco

The 1973 Norton Lectures -- Leonard Bernstein

The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays -- Albert Camus

Major Assignments

Theoretical Essay -- An essay of 1500 words comparing and contrasting values of prominent thinkers.

Analytical Essay -- An essay of 2000-3000 words analyzing one or more artistic works.

Aesthetic Debate -- A formal deliberation on aesthetic principles and analysis of various artistic works.

Course Expectations

  • Students will come to class on time, prepared, and ready to engage verbally and in writing.

  • Students will actively read/watch all assigned material before coming to class (even when dense, confusing, contradictory, or difficult), making note of any particular insights or questions that may arise.

  • Students will participate actively in class discussions and activities.

  • Students will be respectful of others and the instructor, and will be open to criticism of their viewpoints or opinions.