Aesthetics: the Philosophy of the Arts

Professor David Clowney Rowan University

Course lecture pages
Course Guides
Reading Guides
Writing Guides
Topic Questions
Philosophers, artists and critics on art
Arts on line
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Writing Guides

Writing Criticism:

The peer review sheet (on Blackboard, under Course Content) is a good quick outline of what I expect in your critical essays. Here are a few more helpful hints:

There are many ways to write criticism well, depending on the audience, the purpose of the criticism, and the vision and goals of the critic.  By including the following elements you can usually produce a good and readable piece of criticism, and unless you have specific permission to do something different I expect to find all of them in your essay.  After that, it's practice, familiarity and insight!

  • Give specific details about where or in what venue the work was seen or heard or performed, and say how readers can have access to it.

  • Describe the work well enough that your reader can understand the rest of what you say, and can tell whether he or she is interested in hearing/seeing more. 

  • Describe any unique features of the work.  Say what general categories the work fits into, if it seems to you to fit any such categories, and indicate how it compares with other work in this category.  Tell us anything else important about where the work comes from, who made it, and its place in the world.

  • Tell us what draws you to the work, or turns you off. Do this by describing the aspects of the work that make you feel that way, rather than by telling us how you feel!

  • Comment briefly on the strengths and weaknesses of the work, if you have not already done so.

  • Discuss any aesthetic issues that the work raises for you.

Preparing your project:

Your final project will be the equivalent of a ten page (or longer) term paper. It will have a written component, which may or may not be that long, depending on its other components. Your project may be an extended essay in criticism, in which you develop some point in philosophical aesthetics.  It may be a piece of straight philosophical aesthetics, like some of the readings. It may be the presentation of a piece or a body of your own work, with comments on how that work relates to themes we have read about and discussed in class. If you want to do this, be sure to talk to me first. Please note that I will not be grading your project as art, but rather as aesthetics (philosophy of art). Other options are also allowable; check them with me. You must present your project to the class, either in one of its planning stages or as a finished product.    Make sure you do the rough draft; this is the only way that you will be sure we are on the same wavelength about the expectations you must meet.  The following list of topic questions should give you some ideas.  Check the web-site for a list of specific projects you might do, plus some examples of successful past projects.

Presenting your project: As part of your project, you will make a 5 or 10 minute presentation to the class on your project topic. Slots are available from October 5 through December 14. Early presenters will be expected to tell us what you are working on, why it interests you, what questions you are trying to answer, where and how you will look for the answers, and why your project is an example of philosophy of the arts. Later presenters will be expected to present a class-friendly version of your finished project (of course it will answer the questions above).




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