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May 18, 1996

Laura L. Runge
USF-St. Petersburg



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    The History of Beauty

    Part 4

    Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15

    Week 13 -- April 9

    Required Reading:

    Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth [pp. 1-130; also choose one of the remaining sections: Sex, Hunger, Violence or Beyond the Beauty Myth]

    Natalie Beausoleil, "Makeup in Everyday Life" in Selected Readings pp. 114-125


    [Orlan is a French performance artist whose most recent metamorphosis involves cosmetically altering her face through surgery to resemble various famous beauties from classic painters. The operating room is her stage.]

    Barbara Rose, "Is it Art? Orlan and the Transgressive Act" Art in America (February 1993) pp 82-87; on Reserve

    Carey Lovelace "Orlan: Offensive Acts" Performing Arts Journal 49 (1995) pp. 13-25; on Reserve

    Any current woman's magazine.

    In Class:

    Video, "Still Killing us Softly: Advertising's image of women" by Jean Kilbourne (1987).

    Commercialism or Art: Women's Relationship to Cosmetic Beauty

    This week's readings present a barrage of information on the images of women in contemporary culture and media, and they provide a number of strategies to make sense of it. Most of these texts assume that physical beauty, as it forms the texts of the media or lived experience, is informed by aesthetic standards and expectations, and in that way these readings continue our investigation of aesthetics and beauty. In other respects, however, the material under investigation in these readings is separate from the literary artifacts and historical perspectives we have thus far encountered. They share with the readings by Morrison and Walker a direct connection with our present culture, but they differ from literature by more directly analyzing our personal experience. In fact, we are in many ways the subject of this class, and this might lead to problems in perception and understanding, on the one hand, or fruitful and provocative reflection on the other. I encourage you to try to maintain a critical perspective as you read through Wolf, Beausoleil, Lovelace and Rose, and try to apply the semester's learning to your own experiences.

    Week 14 -- April 16

    Required Reading:

    Gary Witherspoon, Language and Art in the Navajo Universe (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1977); chaps. 1, 4 (on Reserve)

    Shonto Begay, Navajo Visions and Voices Across the Mesa (NY: Scholastic, 1995), "Introduction," "Mother's Lace," "Coyote Crossing," in Selected Readings.

    N. Scott Momaday, "Foreword," Between Sacred Mountains, Navajo Stories and Lessons from the Land (Tucson: Sun Tracks and Univ. of Arizona Press, 1994) in Selected Readings

    Sam D. Gill, Sacred Words: A Study of Navajo Religion and Prayer (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981) pp. 54-57 (on Reserve)


    Chief Seattle, "How can you buy or sell the Earth?" (Handout)

    Hózhó, Environment and Navajo Conceptions of Beauty

    The anthropological readings for today (primarily Witherspoon) combine art and linguistics in effort to explain how the Navajo conception of the universe is inextricably related to language. You will find poetry and myth strewn throughout all the readings. Because the art and information from the Navajo culture is non-Western and in many ways alien, it provides an alternative to the traditions and problems in aesthetics we have been studying. As you read, examine the differences and similarities between Navajo and Western ideas of art, beauty and aesthetics. The alterity of the Navajo culture for us -- those non-Native Americans among us -- provides a lens through which we can see our own culture as alien, which suggests that our cultural presuppositions are not inevitable. Rather, we can learn, through the perspective of the Navajo, that our conceptions of art and beauty are constructed through a cultural inheritance that differs markedly from the Navajo. It is important to recognize that the Navajo texts occupy a contemporary space in America; by placing them last on our syllabus, I want to emphasize their contemporaneity. At the same time, I do not want to suggest that the Navajo culture provides an easy answer to urgent culture conflicts surrounding notions of beauty. The ahistorical nature of Navajo myths and the implicit faith in the efficacy of language tempts the "white man" to view Navajo metaphysics as a panacea for Western spiritual ailments, but in doing so we risk the cultural re-colonization of the Navajo through a false nostalgia for their peaceful, harmonious vision. Instead, we might listen to the voices of the Navajo in these texts and ensure their participation in our critical dialogue on beauty.

    Week 15 -- Apr. 23

    Research projects due -- Oral summaries of projects; retrospective on course.

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