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KEY BENEFIT: Written for individuals who have little or no knowledge of the arts, Perceiving the Arts has a specific and limited purpose: to provide an introductory, technical, and respondent-related reference to the arts and literature. KEY TOPICS: Intended to give basic information about each of the arts disciplines–drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, architecture, music, theatre, dance, cinema, landscape architecture, and literature–the book seeks to give its readers touchstones concerning what to look and listen for in works of art and literature. MARKET: For arts and humanities instructors and enthusiasts.
1. What Are the Arts and How Do We Respond to and Evaluate Them?
The Visual Arts.
2. Pictures: Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, and Photography.
The Performing Arts.
The Environmental Arts.
8. Landscape Architecture.
The Language Arts.
For Further Exploration.
Fundamentally, Perceiving the Arts has a very specific and limited purpose: to provide an introductory, technical, and respondent-related reference to the arts and literature. Its audience comprises individuals who have little or no knowledge of the arts, and it is designed to give those readers touchstones concerning what to look and listen for in works of art and literature. Such a purpose, attempted in such a short text, is challenging because most artistic terminology and concepts are complex. Many characteristics of the arts change (sometimes subtly and sometimes profoundly) as historical periods and styles change. Further, most artists do not paint, sculpt, compose, or write to neat, fixed formulas. For example, widely used terms like symphony have many subtle connotations and can be defined accurately only within specific historical contexts. Nonetheless, our understanding begins with generalities, and the treatment of definitions and concepts in this text remains at that basic and general level. When a course requires more detailed and sophisticated understanding than the basic definitions provided here, an instructor can easily add those layers.
The arts may be approached in a variety of ways. One of those deals with the questions of what we can see and hear in works of art and what we can read in literature. Perceiving the Arts takes that approach and relates the arts to the perceptual process. To do that, we adapt Harry Broudy's formulation of aesthetic response. That is, we can ask four questions about an art, an artwork, or a work of literature: (I) What is it? (a formal response); (2) How is it put together? (a technical response); (3) How does itappeal to the senses? (an experiential response); and (4) What does it mean? (a contextual and personal response). These questions constitute a consistent and workable means and comfortable springboard for getting into the arts at a basic level. However, like any categorical device, this one is not foolproof. People don't always agree on definitions of terms and-concepts. Also, choices of what to include and exclude, and how best to illustrate, remain arbitrary.
Getting the most from an experience with the arts depends to a large degree on our skills of perception. Knowing what to see and what to hear in a poem, painting, play, building, or musical composition is one step toward developing discriminating perception and toward making effective steps into getting the most from a relationship with the arts. Introducing the aesthetic experience through terminology may be arguable, but the approach gains credence from the College Board statement on "Academic Preparation for College" where use of "the appropriate vocabulary" is emphasized as fundamental. Vocabulary isolates for us characteristics of what to see and hear in individual works of art and helps us focus our perceptions and responses. Knowing the difference between polyphony and homophony, between a suite and a concerto, between prints and paintings, and between fiction and poetry is as important as knowing the difference between baroque and romantic, iconoclasm and cubism.
The arts are accessible to everyone. This text illustrates how much can be approached using the perceptual skills we have been developing since childhood. However, this step is only the beginning. I hope the understanding and confidence readers develop will make them want to make study and involvement with the arts a lifetime venture.
This book originated as a text for an interdisciplinary course in aesthetic perception. The text was designed as an information sourcebook and should be flexible enough to serve any course that examines more than one artistic discipline. Its information is basic and more easily presented in a text than in a lecture. Those whose background is expansive can read it rapidly, pausing to fill in the holes in their background. Students who have no or little experience with the arts can spend the necessary time memorizing. Thus classroom time can be utilized on expanded illustration, discussion, analysis, and experience of actual works. Readers' personal philosophy about the arts and literature should not be affected by this work. For example, when theories, philosophies, or definitions differ, we provide an overview. We might compare this text to a dictionary in a writing course.
This edition of Perceiving the Arts contains four major additions: (1) an in-text pronunciation guide; (2) a series of "cyber examples"—that is URLs to link students to additional examples on the internet; (3) a Basic Analysis Outline at the end of each chapter to facilitate writing basic critical descriptions of works of art based on the concepts discussed in the text; and (4) chapter-ending Additional Study and Cyber Sources. With regard to the last of these, in Chapter Two and to a lesser degree in Chapter Three, I have dropped the limited and arbitrary list of specific artworks for additional study of the previous edition in favor of a longer list of representative artists. This represents a bit of a dilemma—that is, an attempt to respond to a number of users' requests knowing that the response will displease other users. In addition, there is a new Introduction and a Conclusion, as well as new sections on drawing and color in Chapter Two. In addition, it should be explained that the "A Matter of Style" features, which inject discipline-appropriate references into each chapter, do not attempt to make a history book of this compendium. Rather, taken in sum, they give a very brief overview of the major artistic styles of history.
Finally, a word of explanation. When the first edition of Perceiving the Arts was published in 1978, the text for the chapter on film was written by Ellis Grove; the chapter on landscape architecture, by Donald Girouard. Both of these gentlemen were extremely patient in adapting their ideas to my organizational scheme. Seven editions later, the material in those chapters remains basically true to their original concepts. I have, however, made many changes both in style and content. Thus, whatever faults may now appear in these chapters belong to me.
It goes without saying that I am extremely grateful to Ellis and Don, and to the late Warren Smith, who introduced the course for which this book was originally written. I thank the following Prentice Hall reviewers for their input: Norma J. Humphries, Ohio University; Stephen W. Shipps, Emerson College; James E. Doan, Nova Southeastern University; Merrie Martino, California State University, Long Beach; Joel Hollander, Florida Gulf Coast University; and William Springer, University of Texas, El Paso. Also, I am fundamentally indebted to a host of editors at Prentice Hall who through the years have been very generous with their assistance and insights. Finally, I am grateful to my wife, Hilda, to whom this book is dedicated, for her patience, editorial and critical assistance, and love.
D. J. S.
Posted March 19, 2009
No text was provided for this review.