Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction

OUP Oxford
4
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In today's art world many strange, even shocking, things qualify as art. In this Very Short Introduction Cynthia Freeland explains why innovation and controversy are valued in the arts, weaving together philosophy and art theory with many fascinating examples. She discusses blood, beauty, culture, money, museums, sex, and politics, clarifying contemporary and historical accounts of the nature, function, and interpretation of the arts. Freeland also propels us into the future by surveying cutting-edge web sites, alongside the latest research on the brain's role in perceiving art. This clear, provocative book engages with the big debates surrounding our responses to art and is an invaluable introduction to anyone interested in thinking about art. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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About the author

Cynthia A. Freeland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston. She has published on topics in the philosophy of art and film, ancient Greek philosophy, and feminist theory. She is also author of The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror (1999) and co-editor of Philosophy and Film (1995).
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Additional Information

Publisher
OUP Oxford
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Published on
Feb 13, 2003
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Pages
184
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ISBN
9780191579325
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / Criticism & Theory
Art / History / General
Philosophy / Aesthetics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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For two millennia philosophy has restlessly stalked a fundamental problem—the answer to the question “what is art, really?” Aesthetic discourse, focused on the Platonic Matrix of truth and beauty, arthood and object, imitation and representation, form and idea, has not delivered on its promise, leaving us in bewilderment over principles that are either ignored or contradicted by the arts themselves. In this searching critique, some astonishing faux pas are brought to light. Notably that aesthetics makes do without a knower, the heuristics of art, and the dynamics of self-exploration that are central to the aesthetic experience.

What this book seeks to accomplish is a thorough reformulation of the terms of reference, based on the actual “form of life” that is art. This amounts to a framework for a wholly new philosophy of art. It demonstrates that art is quintessentially involved in the meaning of life, and through its heuristic dimension serves our impulse for self-knowledge and an understanding of the human condition.

The book is in the first instance a philosophical treatise and therefore suitable for academic study in all grades, though perhaps with greatest benefit at post-graduate level. But it has been written in an approachable style to encourage a wider audience to engage with its tenets: accordingly it seeks also to address art aficionados, whether professional or dilettante, as well as general readers with an interest in these ever perplexing and profoundly intriguing issues of our human estate.

Human beings engage works of the arts in many different ways: they sing songs while working, they kiss icons, they create and dedicate memorials. Yet almost all philosophers of art of the modern period have ignored this variety and focused entirely on just one mode of engagement, namely, disinterested attention. In the first part of the book Nicholas Wolterstorff asks why philosophers have concentrated on just this one mode of engagement. The answer he proposes is that almost all philosophers have accepted what the author calls the grand narrative concerning art in the modern world. It is generally agreed that in the early modern period, members of the middle class in Western Europe increasingly engaged works of the arts as objects of disinterested attention. The grand narrative claims that this change represented the arts coming into their own, and that works of art, so engaged, are socially other and transcendent. Wolterstorff argues that the grand narrative has to be rejected as not fitting the facts. Wolterstorff then offers an alternative framework for thinking about the arts. Central to the alternative framework that he proposes are the idea of the arts as social practices and the idea of works of the arts as having different meaning in different practices. He goes on to use this framework to analyse in some detail five distinct social practices of art and the meaning that works have within those practices: the practice of memorial art, of art for veneration, of social protest art, of works songs, and of recent art-reflexive art.
Contemporary art has never been so popular - but what is 'contemporary' about contemporary art? What is its role today, and who is controlling its future? Bloody toy soldiers, gilded shopping carts, and embroidered tents. Contemporary art is supposed to be a realm of freedom where artists shock, break taboos, flout generally received ideas, and switch between confronting viewers with works of great emotional profundity and jaw-dropping triviality. But away from shock tactics in the gallery, there are many unanswered questions. Who is really running the art world? What effect has America's growing political and cultural dominance had on art? Julian Stallabrass takes us inside the international art world to answer these and other controversial questions, and to argue that behind contemporary art's variety and apparent unpredictability lies a grim uniformity. Its mysteries are all too easily explained, its depths much shallower than they seem. Contemporary art seeks to bamboozle its viewers while being the willing slave of business and government. This book is your antidote and will change the way you see contemporary art. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Horror is often dismissed as mass art or lowbrow entertainment that produces only short-term thrills. Horror films can be bloody, gory, and disturbing, so some people argue that they have bad moral effects, inciting viewers to imitate cinematic violence or desensitizing them to atrocities. In The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror, Cynthia A. Freeland seeks to counter both aesthetic disdain and moral condemnation by focusing on a select body of important and revealing films, demonstrating how the genre is capable of deep philosophical reflection about the existence and nature of evil?both human and cosmic. In exploring these films, the author argues against a purely psychoanalytic approach and opts for both feminist and philosophical understandings. She looks at what it is in these movies that serves to elicit specific reactions in viewers and why such responses as fear and disgust are ultimately pleasurable. The author is particularly interested in showing how gender figures into screen presentations of evil.The book is divided into three sections: Mad Scientists and Monstrous Mothers, which looks into the implications of male, rationalistic, scientific technology gone awry; The Vampire's Seduction, which explores the attraction of evil and the human ability (or inability) to distinguish active from passive, subject from object, and virtue from vice; and Sublime Spectacles of Disaster, which examines the human fascination with horror spectacle. This section concludes with a chapter on graphic horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Written for both students and film enthusiasts, the book examines a wide array of films including: The Silence of the Lambs, Repulsion, Frankenstein, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Alien, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, Frenzy, The Shining, Eraserhead, Hellraiser, and many others.
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