Fine Arts and Literature

student sculpting with clay


To help students develop their creativity and ability to innovate as they pursue their intellectual interests, it is important to consider how literature, the arts, and other forms of artistic and aesthetic expression create distinct ways of knowing. These ways of knowing are various and include how artists interact with their media as well as how all of us can develop the critical skills necessary to understand a work of art, its production, and its reception.

Beyond the classroom, being able to approach works of art in any form and understand something of their place and role in a culture is essential to developing a lifelong appreciation of the arts and to supporting the richness they bring to human society.


Courses that satisfy the art and literature requirement may well include creative practice. Certainly, they should always include the critical analysis of others’ creative practice to enable students to develop the analytical tools to recognize a work’s formal dimensions and its ideas as well as the often-complex interaction between the two. Engagement with artworks will also lead students to reflect on how aesthetic forms of expression help us define ourselves and our world. Analysis of a work of art, be it through its production, through careful interpretation of the work, or through its reception, should lead students to a deeper reflection on how art and society interact, and how artistic expression reflects the position of the artist and the individual with respect to society at large. Through the act of making, students will be able to integrate technical, perceptual, and conceptual skills to produce creative works in dialogue with both the history of their chosen methodologies and the contemporary culture-at-large.

Learning Goals

  • Students will be able to do a close analysis of the structural components of a work of art, whether it be a novel, a painting, a symphony, a film, a building, or an object of design. Students should be able to read an artistic text in order to understand what it delivers as a way of knowing.
  • Students will be able to appreciate what factors shape the creative process. What sort of decisions do artists need to make in the act of producing an aesthetic experience?
  • Students will be able to situate works of art in reference to the relevant historical contexts and compare how the arts represent those periods and cultural frameworks in reference to other contemporaneous ways of knowing.
  • Students will be able to apply different critical frameworks for understanding the creation and reception of a work of art.