English R1A

Reading and Composition: The Bonds of Taste

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2013 Weiner, Joshua J
MWF 2-3 122 Latimer

Other Readings and Media

All course materials will be circulated electronically.


What does it mean to cultivate “good taste” for oneself? What sorts of social relationships happen when we judge someone else’s taste or recognize through their appreciations a kindred spirit? How is taste learned and taught? Our course will be framed around the eighteenth-century critical texts that first took up taste as a key social problem. We will tackle very short works in three clusters: the first writers who argued taste could be a foundation for polite culture after 1700 (Addison and Shaftesbury), the group of writers around 1750 who produced the key mature statements about taste (Burke and Hume), and the writers around 1800 who looked away from taste as a way to understand the social life of artworks (Kant and Schiller). Each of these moments will be paired with works that will illustrate the theories (for example the poetry of Milton and Pope), test and complicate these theories (the engravings of Hogarth and the opera of Handel), and discover which social figures they helped construct (from the “fop” in Restoration drama to the “snob” in Proust). As we work through these materials, we will think about issues like the rise and persistence of consumer culture, the policing of class and gender through tacit judgment, and style as a social practice of selfhood. Frequent writing assignments will stimulate you to both cultivate your analytical skills and reflect on how aesthetic judgments bond you to yourself and to others.

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