About the Series: Oxford's Very Short Introductions offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjectsfrom Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, and Literary Theory to History. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume provides trenchant and provocativeyet always balanced and completediscussions of the central issues in a given topic. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how it has developed and influenced society. Whatever the area of study, whatever the topic that fascinates the reader, the series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
About the Author
Cynthia A. Freeland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston. She has published on topics in the philosophy of art and film, ancient Greek philosophy, and feminist theory. She is also author of The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror (1999) and co-editor of Philosophy and Film (1995).
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. Blood and Beauty
2. Paradigms and Purposes
3. Cultural Crossings
4. Money, Markets, Museums
5. Gender, Genius, and Guerrilla Girls
6. Cognition, Creation, Comprehension
7. Digitizing and Disseminating
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Best "wee book on..." series out there. I want the whole series, they're great, and this one's especially good for the reference shelf, because I knew nothing about art.
I began this book with moderately high hopes. They were quickly dashed, but partially redeemed in later chapters.The one thing that this book, like pretty much any book purporting to offer some sort of explanation of art, does not do is problematize art. That is, nowhere does it discuss what distinguishes art from not-art. It considers several suggestions put forth by others, and briefly discusses what all art must have in common; but it finally accepts an expansive definition of art dependent upon intention, which is great as long as you know who the artist was and what they were thinking, but problematic when you don't. The reason for this is it's the only definition that can accommodate everything that anyone has ever called art (although I think it doesn't work very well with respect to Dada). But in doing so, it accepts that anything anyone has ever called art actually is art: which makes it useless for distinguishing, theoretically, between art and not-art. This is an important point because the amount of variation accepted as art will strongly affect the relevance and significance of different art theories. It is also an ironic point to find at the beginning of a book entitled Art Theory.Anyway.In the first chapter's discussion of Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," so much is made of what the work is not, that I was left without a clear idea of what it is. The subsequent attempt to situate it within a long-term artistic tradition is disingenuous. I'm not saying it's not a work of art, just that this book does not make a convincing case. Chapter 3 is basically an introductory anthropology unit on why ethnocentrism is bad. Chapter 4 is basically a lament of the influence of money and markets on art, without doing much to consider it dispassionately as one of art's many influences. It leaves a distinct sense that art should be pure and unsullied by crass worldly concerns. Chapter 5 considers the influence of artists' life experiences on their work, primarily looking at sexuality. It concludes that sometimes it is an important influence, and sometimes it's not. The final two chapters are actually fairly decent: the first of them is the most philosophical chapter in the book, and the latter takes a look at electronic art.The book refers occasionally to literature and music as well as painting and photography, but I do not recall any discussion of architecture. This is disappointing because architecture is the most public art form.All in all, it's not bad, but it's not particularly good, either. It takes a strictly academic-art perspective, but academics are only a small part of the art world. If I knew of a better intro to art theory, I'd recommend it. But I don't know of any others, at least not now. I found that in attempting to simplify the subject it oversimplified, making it seem too simple, too easy in parts.