English R1A

Reading and Composition: Kitsch and "Bad Taste" in 20th Century America

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Fall 2011 Gaydos, Rebecca
Gaydos, Rebecca
MWF 12-1 222 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust; Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita; Frank O’Hara, Meditations in a State of Emergency; Zadie Smith, On Beauty; John Waters, Polyester (film); a course reader including selections from Susan Sontag, Clement Greenberg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre Bourdieu.


Is there such a thing as a universal standard of good taste? When we judge a work of art, can our judgment hold true for everyone? Or does our cultural and social context determine our taste in art? In this class we will consider how what counts as good or bad taste has changed throughout the 20th century. More generally, we will think about different attempts by writers, visual artists, literary critics, and philosophers to define both the art object and its viewer. Some things we will look at include: the separation between “high” and “low” art, the emergence of camp and pop-art, as well as more recent reflections on the intersection of race and taste.
The primary goal of this course is to improve your academic writing skills. Students will produce 32 pages of writing (including drafts and revisions) over the course of the semester.

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