Controversy in aesthetics : implications for metacriticism in art education.




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Aesthetic controversy over the link between art and criticism is investigated with a view to exploring implications for metacriticism in art education. Artistic intention is defined as a principal controversy on the assumption that it is representative of disputes in aesthetics as a whole concerning the relative validity of divergent critical stances. A disparity is found to exist between the centrality of aesthetic controversy as a focus of metacriticism among aestheticians and its peripheral status in art education theorizing. On the (discipline-based) assumption that art teaching and learning should be grounded in the content and methods of artists, art historians, art critics, and aestheticians, this disparity is considered a research 'problem'. It is hypothesized that controversy in aesthetics is a potential source of curriculum development in art education. Relevant 'kinds' of theory are analyzed with a view to clarifying issues underlying aesthetic controversy, such as that prompted by intention. An analysis is made of standard oppositions in philosophy and aesthetics with particular reference to the divide between analytical and Continental philosophical traditions. underlying theoretical frameworks are identified and speculations made about the kinds of critical strategies that might arise from them. In this connection, teaching about intention in the field of literature education theory is explored in some detail with the a1m of discovering strategies for metacriticism that might be applied to art teaching. Moreover, the research addresses the problem of translating discipline-based content in respect of controversy into a pedagogy of metacriticism. Following an examination of pedagogical models in general education theory, it is concluded that fundamental controversy (in aesthetics) implies a paradoxical, though not illogical, alignment of 'commitment' and 'impartiality' in respect of subject content and wider educational goals. A synthesis is finally made of arguments arising from the analyses of separate kinds of theory and this culminates in a formulation of principles for teaching metacriticism. This is based on key aspects of aesthetic theory which, in combination, reflect not only the diversity but the contestability of art criticism, namely, the distinctions between intrinsic and extrinsic evidence, descriptive and interpretive statements, moral and aesthetic judgments, and between intentional ism and anti-intentionalism. Discussion of the metacritical principles is illustrated by reference to relevant classes of artworks. Moreover, the implications of teaching aesthetics and criticism as an interactive whole are discussed in respect of curriculum development and teacher training at both national and institutional levels. '!be study concludes with a reflective criticism of the research method and suggestions are made about possibilities for future research.





Research Institute