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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

What is Art?

This course will give a critical overview of the richest theories of what art is and why art matters, from Ancient Greece to the present.

What is Art

We will discuss Plato’s theory of art as a dangerous, seductive, second-rate activity and Aristotle’s theory of art as a catharsis that is important for individual and social well-being; early Modern theories of art as valuable because it is beautiful or pleasurable; Romantic theories of art as expression: expression of emotion, expression of the will of the world, expression of the self. We will then move onto those modern theories which understand art as something which gives us knowledge, about the world or how to act in it.

I will argue that each of these theories is defective, but to have glimpsed part of the truth. We will finally discuss theories of art such as Danto’s and Collingwood’s, which hold that art is a way of coming to see more deeply into the world and ourselves. These theories, I will argue, capture the nugget of truth in the other theories. They also show us a way in which to understand modernist, conceptual and abstract art, and bring out the continuities of these arts with traditional arts.


Date: Wednesday 28 January

Time: 19.00-21.00

Length: 6 weeks

Location: Avenue Campus




Booking is completed through the Online Store, please click here to book your place.

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