Taste and Art

Taste as perception.

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Yesterday I led a panel at the conference ‘Taste After Bourdieu‘ at Chelsea College of Art, London consisting of papers by Ken Wilder, Pil and Galia Kollectiv and Peter Osborne. Here is my 10 minute intro to the panel.

Why does a panel on taste and art stink of privilege and complacency, like the revival of beauty in art? Talking about taste after Bourdieu is like talking about monarchy after Cromwell: it shouldn’t happen, or it’s a sign that there’s been a retreat. A case might be made that talking about taste beyond the bastion of art challenges the economy of cultural capital, but to persist in talking about art and taste is to run the risk of undoing the critique. In this short introduction I want to challenge this intuition without realizing its prophesy.

The concept of taste has attached itself to art to the degree that…

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How to Teach Art

Interesting commentary on art pedagogy.

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Michael Corris has taken me to task in the letters page of Art Monthly about my article on the difference between teaching art and teaching the arts. Here’s my article, given the title “Teaching the Unteachable” when it was published.

Paul Kristeller, in his pioneering study of the historical formation of the ‘modern system of the arts’, says the modern belief that ‘Art cannot be learned, and thus often becomes involved in the curious endeavor to teach the unteachable’ was unknown to the ancients who equated art with skill understood as ‘something that can be taught and learned’. The difficulties and controversies associated with teaching art arise as a result of the transition from the various arts to the singular concept of art in general.
The various arts had always been ordered – the distinction between the Liberal and Vulgar arts is ancient – but the specifically modern ordering of…

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Special Topics Description

I am able to propose a new course that will help me work toward the goals of the NSF Project InTeGrate grant I have received. The course will allow me to work with students in a multimodal context. I have posted the description below and will make periodic posts here as I design the course over the next few months.

 I have proposed a section of English 201 Specialized Knowledge and Integrative Contexts in English Studies.  

Course Title:

“Making Sense of Environments: Mapping Multimodal Meanings”

Books or Book Excerpts (some will be e-copies available in ReggieNet or through Milner):

Constance Classen, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott. Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell. London: Routledge, 2003.

Alain Corbin. The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination. Boston: Harvard U.P., 1986.

Tim Ingold. The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling, and Skill. London: Routledge, 2000.

Mark Johnson, The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Doreen Massey. Space, Place, and Gender. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.

Mark A. Smith. How Race is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses. Chapel Hill: UNC, Press, 2006.

Additional readings, and e-copies if applicable, will be available in ReggieNet, our Sakai-based learning management system, or hosted by Milner Library for reasons pertaining to copyright restrictions.

Course Description:

This class is an introduction to the language and rhetoric of multimodal sensory perceptions vis-à-vis environmental justice initiatives. Put differently, we’ll be learning how people translate their sensory experiences in different environments and how the language of those experiences becomes entwined with cultural history. Because our sensory experiences are inherently multimodal, we will spend much of our time understanding how our sensory experiences travel from one aspect to another. (Think, for example, how the smell of a place or thing may trigger a specific memory.) As a result, this course will require short field trips to different environmental settings, and we’ll learn about those settings as well. During the course we will map our experiences in multiple modes—textual, oral, aural, digital, visual, and so forth. Learning to read our sensory experiences is an interpretive, iterative, and culturally informed process. Informed action to redress environmental (in)justice requires that we understand how, why, and when our senses collude to persuade us to act (un)ethically toward other people.

In addition to our field trips, and multimodal work, we will also learn about concepts that address embodied sensory perception, the environment, and sensory rhetoric. We will do this via texts, documentary films, podcasts, and from invited speakers.

Course Format:

The course engages the senses. As such participants are expected to read, compose, discuss, listen, orate, feel, visualize, taste, and smell. This course will also function as a rhetoric course and a workshop for sharing our ideas.

Course Portfolio Update

In the next few posts, I’ll relate some of the final outcomes my students noted about my first efforts at teaching the 145 English course. At the end of the semester, my students filled out a completely voluntary post-course assessment of my teaching and their overall course experiences. Based on their feed back I kept some of my teaching materials the same, but I changed how I approached assessment and assignment guidelines. I adopted a contract-based assessment method wherein students have more control over (and assume greater responsibility for) what they do for projects. I also implemented project prompts that are more in line with the Writing Program’s Cultural Historical Activity Theory and Genre Studies models.

At first, instituting these changes was more than a little nerve-wracking because the model was so foreign to the students. Not one of my students had experience with contract-assessment or a “flipped” classroom. A flipped classroom is one in which the bulk of the course materials need to be read or completed outside of the course. This means that the course instructional time is devoted to activities that help the students develop deeper knowledge by doing in-class activities with their peers and me.  In essence, I have shifted my pedagogy to a more student-centered approach. I felt as though I was already doing that sort of work, but now there is no doubt in my mind that I have “de-centered” the classroom to be fully student-centered. While I am very pleased with the students uptake of this model, I wonder how well I am meeting the key learning objectives of the course. For the most part, I think students are learning more and are more deeply engaged with key course materials; however, measuring this type of student learning and engagement is difficult at best, particularly in quantifiable terms.