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Modernism and the Total Work of Art

ARHA 339
Spring 2023 not offered
Crosslisting: GRST 239, GELT 239, RL&L 339, COL 349
Course Cluster and Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate

The term "total work of art" refers to the German concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, which took on new urgency in the 19th century amid social upheaval and revolution. Understood as the intention to reunite the arts into one integrated work, the total work of art was tied from the beginning to the desire to recover and renew the public function of art. While there exist many approaches to totality in the modern era, this course focuses on modernist theories and practices that simultaneously critiqued existing society and posited a utopian alternative. We will begin by studying formulations of totality in response to a cultural crisis initiated by the 1789 French Revolution. From there, we turn to German idealism and to an analysis of composer Richard Wagner's ideas and compositions that made the idea of the synthesis of the arts a central focus for European modernism. Yet if Wagner's works and writings provided the dominant reference for subsequent developments from the 1880s onward, these most often consisted of a search for alternatives to his own theory and practice, particularly in the visual arts. We will examine attempts to envision totality after Wagner in Impressionist painting and German Expressionism. Ideas of totality and utopia continued to carry positive associations for modern artists until the 1930s, when they became co-opted by totalitarian governments. The course concludes by examining the perversion of modernist dreams in Nazi festivals and art exhibitions.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ART
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ARHA-MN)(ARHA)(ARST)(COL)(FRST-MN)(FRST)(GRST-MN)(GRST)(RMST)

Last Updated on JUN-15-2024
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