Fall 2018

  HA 192T | CCN: 24450

Undergraduate Seminar: Evolutionary Aesthetics and the History of Art

Whitney Davis,

Tuesday | 2:00 - 5:00pm

A recent resurgence of interest in evolutionary-developmental aesthetics (in such disciplines as cognitive anthropology, philosophy of art, and prehistoric archaeology) has reopened many questions about the “origins of art” and aesthetic consciousness, about “prehistoric art,” and about the role of art in human biocultural emergence in the Pleistocene, Holocene, and Anthropocene. Topics include: A revived neo-Darwinian theory of the roots of aesthetic consciousness in sexual selection (D. Rothenberg, R. O. Prum), and a commensurate attentiveness to earlier nineteenth-century natural- and sexual-selectionist approaches in the theory of art (J. A. Symonds, Vernon Lee); models of the “art instinct” (D. Dutton) and the “aesthetic brain” (A. Chatterjee); new accounts of the utilitarian (adaptive) functions of “making things special” (E. Dissanayake) and of artifacts having “striking visibility” (J. Stejksal); intersections between cognitive neuroscience and aesthetics/art history (J. Onians, E. Kandel); new ethological-ecological approaches to art (M. E. Dijkstra); and investigations of the role of art-making in the emergence of “psychologically modern” Homo sapiens (S. Davies). The seminar will read these contributions, assessing their relevance for the archaeology, anthropology, and history of art. 

This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical area (E) and Chronological period (I), based on the topic of the final research paper or project.