Statement of Intent: A Socratic Dialogue on Art, Criticism, and the City

After spending six weeks engaged in stimulating conversations with my classmates and industry professionals on Vancouver’s art scene, I have chosen to write a Socratic-style dialogue to explore some of the course’s major themes surrounding the arts: the cultural value, the local scene, and the role of criticism. The Socratic dialogue is a genre of literary prose where a dramatic or narrative dialogue occurs between two or more characters[1]. This form of prose has preserved the works of ancient Greek philosophers Plato, Xenophon, and Socrates[2]. In addition to my desire of trying to write a new form of prose, I selected the dialogue format because I was motivated by what Max Wyman[3], art activist and critic, had said in one of our guest lectures, “the purpose of art criticism is to provide the reader with a different perspective in order to start a conversation.” I thought the dialogue was the best format to showcase what I learned in this course because it mirrors some of the wonderful conversations that I have had with other classmates which further contributed to the enrichment of my learning of the arts.

Using Dorothy Dittrich’s[4], The Piano Teacher, I will begin the dialogue with a critique of the play masquerading the voices of writer and professor, Susan Sontag[5], and art historian, Linda Nochlin[6]. I selected this powerful and emotional play because of the way in which it explores the themes of personal tragedy and grief while using love, friendship, and music as catalysts for healing and recovery. Sontag and Nochlin, known for their contributions to the art world, will approach the theatrical piece from two different perspectives. Sontag, celebrated for arguing against the emphasis of intellectually constructed notions on analyzing the aesthetics[7], will explore the transcendental power of music and friendship and its impact on self-healing. On the other hand, Nochlin, a pioneer in feminist art history and theory, will approach the piece through a feminist lens, focussing on the play’s romantic and platonic relationships and its effect on the character’s recovery.

In addition to Sontag and Nochlin, I will include a third voice, a mediator who will not only facilitate the dialogue but also, question the role of the critic and its importance within the arts. This third voice is also a reflection of myself, representing questions and thoughts that emerged throughout the course of the term. At the same time, all three voices will share some of the revelations I had while our class explored the arts in further detail through the course readings, lectures, field trips, and classroom discussions. Although this Socratic dialogue may not be as philosophical as the dialogues Socrates had with his students, Plato and Xenophon, it does offer a setting conducive to exhibiting my personal journey of learning about art, criticism, and the city.

[1] Wikipedia. Socratic dialogue. Accessed June 13, 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] For more on Max Wyman, see The Canadian Encyclopedia. “Max Wyman.” Accessed June 13, 2017.

[4] For more on Dorothy Dittrich, see Dorothy Dittrich’s website. Accessed June 13, 2017.

[5] Wikipedia. Susan Sontag. Accessed June 13, 2017.

[6] Wikipedia. Linda Nochlin. Accessed June 13, 2017.

[7] Wikipedia. Susan Sontag. Accessed June 13, 2017.


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