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Meaning in the Arts: Independent Field Study Assignment

Meaning in the Arts: Independent Field Study Assignment

For this assignment, you will write a two to three page paper on a painting, sculpture, or work of architecture you have selected, using the artwork as a jumping off point to explore one of the theories or topics we have been studying. You will find the goals of the assignment and the directions below. Good luck!

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  • Plato, Republic Book X
  • Selections from Aristotle’s Poetics
  • Schiller, “Of the Sublime”
  • Nietzsche, Selections from The Birth of Tragedy
  • Hume, selections from The Standard of Taste
  • Arthur Danto, “The Art World”
  • Lessing, “What is Wrong with a Forgery?”
  • Dutton, “Artistic Crimes”
  • Margolis, “The Ontological Peculiarity of Works of Art”
  • Feagin, “The Pleasures of Tragedy”
  • Caroll, “Enjoying Horror”
  • Gant, “The Paradox of Horror”
  • Beardsley, “The Testability of an Interpretation”
  • Margolis, “Robust Relativism”
  • Gadamer, “Hermeneutical Experience”

The goals of this assignment are to:

  • Explore the artwork of Philadelphia
  • Develop some basic research skills
  • Apply a theory or develop a topic we have covered in the course readings and the classroom
  • Practice citing sources

Step 1: Select a creative work of art in Philadelphia from the following forms: painting, sculpture, or architecture.

  • Visit a museum – the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Barnes Foundation, the Rodin Museum, or the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, for instance – or select an outdoor sculpture or building.
  • The artwork should relate to the course by acting as an example or counterexample of a theory or topic we have studied, or by raising important questions related to a theory or topic.
  • If permitted by the museum, be sure to photograph the artwork and the corresponding information tag. If not, make sure you write down the details of the information tag.

Step 2: Write a two to three page essay that explains how the artwork you selected relates to a theory or topic we covered in the course readings.

  • In your essay, provide an image of the artwork that you selected
    • Take a photograph of the artwork at the museum, if permitted, or
    • Find an image of the artwork on the museum’s web site, in one of the library’s image databases, or on the free web
    • Be sure to properly cite the image
  • Your essay should include (but is not limited to) the following:
    • An introductory paragraph in which you briefly introduce the artwork, the theory or topic you selected, and how it applies to your artwork. Be sure to craft a strong thesis statement in this paragraph.
    • A paragraph of background information on the artist and the artwork.
    • A detailed, accurate, and thoughtful paragraph on the theory or topic you have selected to use from the class readings.
    • A paragraph that thoughtfully describes how the artwork relates to the theory you have chosen.
    • A concluding paragraph restating your thesis, reviewing your evidence and arguments, and offering final thoughts.


  • Be sure to cite your sources! Cite your sources using Chicago Style.

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