Questions for Thought

      Everyone commonly passes judgment--sometimes rather severe--on movies, books, and music, but how often do we stop to consider what we mean by “good” and “bad”?  Where do our tastes come from? Evaluation of art is obviously a very subjective and relative matter, but then how do we decide, as a community, what art will be supported?  And how is it that so many people over decades and centuries--indeed, even over the span of a millennium--have agreed that certain works are especially great?  What do you know about the canon debate, and about how art gets produced, funded, sanctioned?  Are the arts an escape from the world, or a way to confront the world?  What is sentimentality in art?  Is art a minor, low-priority recreation, or a vital human endeavor? Should children (or for that matter college students) be required to take classes in art and music? What is imagination, and what is its role in our lives?  And how do mass media images relate to these questions about art?  What do you make of Michael Ventura's provocative assertions in “Report From El Dorado”?  Of the cynical, money-driven, formulaic production of movies illuminated in Robert Altman’s The Player?  Finally, what  works in particular do you especially like, and why? What art would you recommend to others, and how important is it in your everyday life?

      Pick a specific work of art (or body of work), and write a four to five-page review of it for High Plains Reader, Art Forum, The Spectrum, or The Shining Times.  "Art" here can include painting, music, literature, film, dance, etc.--anything YOU deem to be art.  You might even consider a sport, handicraft, or vocation that you love, depending on your definition.   Just be sure, in your review,  to do the following:

Your purpose is to analyze and evaluate.   Help your readers come away with a better understanding of the piece in particular and of art in general.
Scoring Criteria

      When I score your final product, I'll look for a consistent thesis about a work of art.    I'll check that you've grounded your thesis on a number of distinct claims, which in turn are supported in well-developed paragraphs with lots of SPECIFIC details, description, and analysis.  Some of that support must clearly establish your personal criteria for evaluating art, and you should warrant and background your views by developing connections to our readings.  Provide a comprehensive introduction and conclusion, focus your paragraphs with strong topic sentences and transitions, and take care that your established criteria apply logically and coherently to the subject under review.  Finally, remember to proofread your work for lapses in style or mechanics.

  Draft #1 due _______________

  Draft #2 due _______________

  Final version due _______________

Need help? Try the Center for Writers

Prepared by Cindy Nichols,
Department of English, North Dakota State University
Last modified 6/04
NDSU Webmaster

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