Just a question: when you judge a work of art (books, movies, paintings, etc.), do the values that it promotes factor into whether you think it is a good or bad artwork? I’m not talking about a specific character (since often artists will include a terrible stereotype while, in the larger scheme, undermining it), but when you step back and look at the work as a whole, if it promotes an ethos that you object to, does that play a role in your judgment of it as “good art”?
Evaluations based in part on ethics used to be the norm in art criticism, but now the pendulum has swung entirely the other way: art has to do with aesthetic qualities, and generally any commentary it offers on our morality is incidental to its role as art. Just like I may get a sense for how to navigate the NY transit system from a book set in NYC, morals may be included in a work of art, but they need not be included in our evaluation of that work as art.
I was hoping to know what people outside the art critical world have to say about how they judge art. This has something to do with my aesthetics class, and also something to do with the Virginia Tech tragedy. I can’t help but remember that the kid was a senior English major, submitting work that incited alarm in his teachers and peers. Bless my fellow instructors, the ones who actually teach creative writing, because I know they occasionally have strange or alarming stuff come through their classroom, something that I thankfully don’t have to face.
But if the kid’s plays were well-written, would his instructors have been alarmed? Quite possibly, as it is the content that they mention repeatedly in their interviews. But if a major art critic caught sight of the plays, would he also think them frightening and worth calling the police, or would he have picked them up as the next big thing?