Course Description

The making of art and the cultivation of an aesthetic sensibility are two aspects that humanists and social scientists have identified as part and parcel of our “human condition.” As a part of culture, art is often seen as one means by which to make sense of the world and to construct meaning from it. From the hieroglyphs of Egypt to the cave paintings in Indonesia, evidence of our humanity often consists of art.

Today, art is haute. Amid global catastrophes, who has time for art? With pieces going for hundreds of millions of dollars at auctions, it seems that art is no longer within the realm of everyday life for the majority of people. Art no longer figures into our “deep” existence. But in these media-saturated, information-overload times, art is also everywhere. It is more available and there is greater knowledge of it. Major clothing brands are releasing special collections based on collaborations with the likes of the Basquiat and Warhol.

What do we make of this odd juxtaposition of facts? While art is increasingly cut off from the everyday experiences of most people, it is also more available. In the wake of such puzzling questions, I would maintain that the study of art from a social perspective that is necessary. Hence, in this course, we will look at art as it relates to varied spheres in social life, including economics, politics and philosophy.

I’d like to note that this course is a seminar. Seminars only work when its participants participate. That means you all must do the readings but also be prepared to discuss them during the class. To aid the seminar atmosphere, you all will be responsible for presenting the readings in groups. We will select the groups on the first day of the seminar.