What Art Is Like, in Constant Reference to the Alice Books

What Art Is Like, in Constant Reference to the Alice Books

eBook - 2012
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Harvard University Press

What Art Is Like is a comic, serious inquiry into the nature of art. It provides welcome relief from prevailing modes of explaining art that involve definitions, philosophical claims, and critical judgments put forth by third parties. Scrapping all such chatter, Miguel Tamen’s aphoristic lark with aesthetic questions proceeds by taking its technical vocabulary only from Lewis Carroll’sAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

According to Tamen, it would be ridiculous to think of poems or paintings or films or any variety of artistic production as distinct from other things in the world, including people. Talking about art should be contiguous with talking about many other relevant and important matters. Tamen offers a series of analogies and similes to help us imagine these connected experiences. One, taken from the analytical table of contents where the book is writ small, suggests that “understanding a poem is like understanding a cat; neither ever says anything back and you can’t keep a conversation with them. All art is like this, but not only art is like this; nature, the past, numbers are also like this.”

Tamen takes up many central issues in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, including the connection between art and having fuzzy ideas about art, the mistake of imagining that art-decisions are put forth by art-courts where you are both judge and jury, and the notion that what happens with art also happens to you.


This comic, serious inquiry into the nature of art takes its technical vocabulary fromAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. It is ridiculous to think of poems, paintings, or films as distinct from other things in the world, including people. Talking about art should be contiguous with talking about other relevant matters.

Book News
This is a "reactionary book," explains Tamen (U. of Lisbon, Portugal) in his introduction, in that it rejects the prevailing mode of explaining art--i.e., "collecting opinions and definitions of art, summaries of philosophical claims, and critical judgments put forth by third parties"-- and instead focuses on a few general problems about art: the connection between art and having fuzzy ideas about art, the notion that art furniture is not art specific, the mistake of imagining that art decisions are put forth by art-courts where you are both judge and jury, and the fuzzy idea that what happens with art must at least happen to you. It also idiosyncratically seeks to address these issues through readings of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 2012
ISBN: 9780674067950
0674067959
Characteristics: 1 online resource (117 pages)

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