Great reflection on judgment and excellence in the arts. . .

Some of you struggle, I suspect, with the writing in this class because you are quick to assert that all interpretation in the arts is subjective. And so oppressively subjective that when you sit down to write it must feel burdensome to be so self-revealing. We’ve tried to manage this a little bit with a framework [relation to self, description, comparison, interpretation], but I expect — and understand — that it can be hard to make judgments — or even good descriptions — when you feel either unqualified or at risk. Keep on, keeping on…. it gets better the more you write.

Here’s a nice piece by arts writer Franklin Einspruch on the mysteries of the subjective:

High and Low

This I like . .. and you should take encouragement from it: “Upon finding out that I was an art critic, someone recently asked me what my theoretical background is. I don’t have a theoretical background. I have a method, and I can sum it up in four words: look, and look again.”

And this too: “If you have healthy highbrow taste, you’ll argue with your highbrow friends about whether Pere Goriot or The Country Doctor was the better Balzac novel. If you have healthy lowbrow taste, you’ll argue with your lowbrow friends about whether Next Generation or Deep Space Nine was the better arc of Star Trek. These activities are identical to the extent that they both recognize that excellence exists in art, and that it’s worthwhile to make distinctions between examples thereof. In fact, I think it’s hard to prove that the former conversation is better in any significant way than the latter one. Whether either of them ends up being illuminating or pathetic has more to do with the people in the conversation than the topic.”

In other words. . . you do this work all the time.


About jchall1960

I'm the instructor for FA 200, Introduction to the Arts at the University of Alabama
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