The People’s Colloquium › Forums › Mondays – Academic Seminar › Seminars › October 2018 – March 2019: Theory, Criticism, and Society › Monday, December 10th – Theory, Criticism, and Society
Below, please find syllabi for our December 10th discussion and lecture. Typically these resources are posted 2 weeks in advance.
Theory, Criticism, and Society: 10/2018 – 3/2019
During this semester, we’ll explore ideas from theory and criticism focusing on art, literature, music, and culture, with the further intention of applying such ideas to the creation and organization of society. Our goal is to deepen our understanding of theory and criticism, and to broaden our perspective of the world we live in—and the possibilities open to us.
Lecturer: Morgan F
Syllabus: Art and War: World War I
The turn of the twentieth century, and the handful of years that bookend it, produced some of the most groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting work in western art. Art history often mines religion or social conditions for symbolic meaning or focuses on paradigm shifts in how art is perceived/created. For this lecture, we will be doing something like a combination of these and something different: exploring the art of the early 20th century through the lens of World War I.
Previous to World War II, this was called the Great War, as there had never been anything quite like it. Outdated modes of thinking about honorable combat and chivalry ran up against machine guns and artillery to disastrous effects. The “lost generation” as they were called, were in so many ways shaped by this war. So we will be examining the artwork made by that generation through the war that moved and shaped them.
We will begin by exploring the war itself, from a purely historical perspective to appreciate its impact, work through the complicated mechanisms of its cause, and see what it was like to survive it.
Secondly, we will turn to how art interacted with war at the first. This will chiefly focus on propaganda as artwork, how preexisting art movements responded to the war, and art as a practical and state-sanctioned practice during the war. We will then move into artists as participants and observers. Some artists served in the war in various capacities, some watched it from the home front or the sidelines. We will explore a couple of these in detail while also looking at some of the most influential war inspired pieces of the period. We will consider this art while looking back at our earlier exploration of the war itself, as a source of social catharsis.
We will close with a brief exploration of artistic movements in the post or rather interwar years, and how we might speculate the war’s effect on this work.
Suggested preparation is attached.
During this discussion, we’ll analyze an excerpt of Karl Mar’x writing titled “Idealism and Materialism.”
The text can be found here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm
In this excerpt, Marx discusses some of his foundational ideas, including the material course of history, how idealism / religion deludes humankind, and how human beings are the product of their material world, which is to say, the world created by their economy, technology, and possessions. A note on the reading: the wording in this essay can be abstract, and there are times when Marx is responding to the ideas of his time, which may seem irrelevant to our concerns today. For these two reasons, don’t feel bad if you don’t understand what Marx is writing about, or if you have to skim certain sections of skip them entirely. Just do your best to read through the selection, if only to get a sense of how Marx constructs his ideas.
The first part of our discussion will focus on unpacking this essay and bringing forth relevant philosophical reflections; the second part will focus on exploring the question: “To what extent is Marx correct when he asserts that our material conditions create who we are as individuals?”
Theory, Criticism, and Society: 10/2018 – 3/2019 During this semester, we’ll explore ideas from theory and criticism focusing on art, literature, music, and culture, with the further intention of applying such ideas to the creation and organization of society. Our goal is to deepen our understanding of theory and criticism, and to broaden our perspective of the world we live in—and the possibilities open to us.
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