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Course Details

Course Number: 93-835

Aesthetics and Critical Judgement

Units: 6

In this course, we will examine the question of how one judges a work of art. The course will provide an overview of the history of aesthetics in the Western tradition, and in the process we will examine the central questions of: defining beauty, evaluating the artistic object, determining what external factors are relevant to aesthetic judgments (time, culture, biography), and analyzing the inter-relationships between artist, audience, and artistic object. Beyond the knowledge gained, course objectives will include the cultivation of analytical skills in evaluating artistic expression and aesthetic theory, and the development of expository writing and speech skills in aesthetic analysis.
The course will follow two parallel paths: (1) an ongoing examination of aesthetics and the validity of critical judgments, using selected works of art as case studies in judgment, and (2) a historical survey of the Western tradition and aesthetics and artistic theory. While principal readins will consist of texts on aesthetics, exercises will engage artistic works across disciplines – visual art, music, literature, film, etc. – examined through the critical lens studied during a given week. As we build a vocabulary of critical judgment, we will then apply differing schools of thought to works, in order to compare their application in arriving at aesthetic judgments.


Andrew Swensen