So one stream of thought that we need to engage in the context of an Introduction to the Arts that delivers general education credit at a public university is measuring our relationship to censorship. It rarely makes sense to advocate for an absolute libertarianism with regards to the arts; we all can immediately think of important qualifiers that require thinking about the modification of representation. Most everyone accepts that there need be a shared sensibility about age-appropriateness for instance (although little agreement about what is age appropriate); we accept that there are contexts that might rightfully be called “sacred” in which some materials might be inappropriate (although little agreement about when something is truly sacred); we accept that absolute freedom with regards to speech is hard to maintain — we recognize the usual prohibitions about, say, “shouting fire in a crowded theatre.”
That said, one of the most important things that a university education can provide is opportunity for students to gain sophistication and subtlety in the development of an attitude to speech and representation for which it is harder to generate community consensus. You need to learn context, appreciate diversity while not slipping into solipsism or absolute relativism, and — as always in this class — learn to describe your response (aesthetic, religious, political) in enough quality detail that others can make sense of the story you are trying to tell.
So let me throw out a few examples over the next few weeks that might provide occasion for you to try out your skills at explaining context, working to recognize diversity of opinion, and articulating what you see and hear in the context of your own value system.