Courses / Spring 2021

Spring 2021

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    Course Number: HA 190M | CCN: 26247

    African Aesthetics

    Ivy Mills

    Mon, Wed, Fri: 1:00-2:00pm

    How should we approach the grotesque, the exaggerated, the imperfect, the improvisational, the unfinished, and the obscured in African art? Should we read “ugliness” as a sign of the “bad” – either as an intentional signaling of moral deviance, or as evidence of the artists’ lack of skill and taste? Or, are there other aesthetic criteria that might help us understand the power and appeal of works that appear to violate the principles of symmetry, coolness, and moderation that are privileged in many African artistic traditions? In this upper division lecture course, we will seek to complicate binary approaches to African aesthetics, examining the complex interrelationship between beauty and ugliness in some instances, and questioning the usefulness of these categories in others.  Our inquiry will lead us to an examination of a wide range of objects, including masks, sculptures, textiles, shrines, ritual performances, and photographic portraits.


    This course fulfills the following requirements for the History of Art major: Geographical areas (D) and Chronological period (III) (or possibly II, depending on the topic of the research paper).

    It may also satisfy the university’s breadth requirement in the art/literature and history categories.

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