This course examines human aesthetic responses and our capacities to interpret diverse forms of cultural expression. Students will study some of the following: literary and / or religious texts, paintings, sculpture, architecture, music, film, dance, opera, the decorative arts, as well as other forms of aesthetic expression.
This is a multi-section course, taught differently by each of its instructors, who focus on different ideas and use different texts, assessments, and pedagogical methods to achieve the course objectives. Such variety serves as the best means to enhance learning outcomes of a diverse student population and to allow for innovations in teaching.
During periods of upheaval and uncertainty, art has been a vital way of expressing and critiquing contemporary visions of the good life. That is, when existing verities and beliefs appear to be no longer providing a way of adequately comprehending and controlling the uncertainties of the world, new ways of visualizing and interpreting the world are needed. Artistic expression provides an important role then within cultures because it can either try to re-establish the hold of existing worldviews or help develop new ones.
Through this course, students will examine a variety of historical crises and then review the aesthetic responses of that period. In our own time, when people are once again feeling a renewed sense of crisis – whether it be due to world-wide financial uncertainty, the Mayan 2012 predictions, on-going environmental concerns, or the ever-increasing political strife within the settled democracies of the western world – it may be beneficial for students to historicize crisis and recognize how artistic expressions can help us grapple with these feelings.