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How Art Works

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number IDSEM-UG1837
Section 001
Instructor Stephen Duncombe
Days T
Time 2:00 PM - 4:45 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM


Open to sophomores only.


It's commonplace to say that art "moves" us. But what does that really mean and how, exactly, does this happen? For millennia the effect/affect of art has been theorized, debated, and worried over. This class takes as its core the question "How does art work?", and looks at the ways in which various philosophic, religious, educational, political, and scientific texts, from antiquity to the present, have attempted to answer this question. Exploration of this larger question depends on others: What are the ancient philosophers' hopes and fears regarding art's affective abilities? What is at stake in the debate over Biblical iconoclasm and the defense of religious art? How do theorists talk about the ineffable sublime, or categorize aesthetic judgment? How does the avant-garde frame its intersection with the political? What does neuroscience suggest about art's impact on our brains? How does art educate? Finally, does art, as the poet Auden once pondered, make nothing happen? Through readings and in class discussions, writing individual research papers and creating a collaborative on-line database, students will tackle our major question from a variety of disciplinary and historical perspectives. Through this broad survey, How Art Works will be approached as an open question: our goal is not to arrive at a definitive destination, but instead to explore the terrain.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)