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New Fall 2016 Course: The Idea of Beauty

In an exciting late edition, we will be running Prof. Margaret Soltan’s “Idea of Beauty” course in our Arts & Humanities offerings! Details are below:


beautycourse2016soltanThe Idea of Beauty

Professor Margaret Soltan
HONR 2053:14 – 3 Credits
CRN: 17473

Fulfill: CCAS: Humanitites; ESIA: Humanities; GWSB: Non-Business Elective/Unrestricted Elective; SEAS: Humanities
Equivalent: ENGL 3830 Aesthetics, counts as Category E

What do we consider beautiful, and why does it matter?  Does it matter that a lot of people seem to consider the art of Action Bronson, to take a recent example, not beautiful, but ugly?  Or is it art?  Can something be ugly and aesthetically valuable?  Ugly and beautiful?

We seem to invest a lot of value in the concept “beauty,” but what precisely is that value?  For instance, will you lead a more valuable life if there is beauty (natural, artistic) in it?

In this course, we’ll examine not only music, but architecture, film, poetry, painting, sculpture (we’ll take a look, for instance, at the modern sculpture scattered around GW’s campus) and other human objects we consider more meaningful and valuable than other objects because they are beautiful.  We’ll talk about human beings we consider in some way special because they are beautiful.  And we’ll talk about the natural world and how, according to some writers on beauty, our sense of nature’s beauty can have moral effects on the way we interact with it.
Indeed, can a certain appreciation of beauty not only give you a richer life, but make you a better person?
Our reading for this course will be a series of selections from writers from all disciplines (including, for instance, the hard sciences) who, since Plato, have tried to puzzle out what beauty is, and why it seems to mean so much to us.
This is a no-lap (no technology of any kind, please), discussion-based, seminar.  There will be an essay-style in-class midterm, and an essay-style in-class final exam.  There will also be a 6 – 8 page paper due on the final day of class.  Shortly before final papers are due, one class will be devoted to each you briefly describing your paper.