Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Modernism and the Question of Beauty

ENGL 591.301
instructor(s):
W 12-3

This course examines shifts in the idea of beauty that came about through modernist movements in the arts. We will begin with Kant and Burke, and then observe the growing dominance of the sublime over the beautiful in the basic trends of twentieth-century modernism. In particular, we will examine the symbols of woman, ornament, form, and fetish as they weave in and out of twentieth-century aesthetics. With woman the predominant nineteenth-century symbol of beauty, the "turn away from beauty" in modernism is inevitably connected to gender politics, as is the current, much-heralded "return to beauty." We will observe contemporary artists and theorists wrestling with the problem of how to reinstate the value of beauty without at the same time regressing to a pre-feminist mind-set.

Fulfills X & X requirements.