Text, Context, Subtext


mediumwhat it’s made of...

media of visual arts & architecture=wood, clay, colored pigments, marble, granite, metal, neon, film, computers

medium of dance=body

medium of music=sound

medium of literature & philosophy=words

purpose of prose: info, narration, description
purpose of poetry: express intense emotion
purpose of philosophy & history: analyze & communicate ideas & info

FORM—outward shape

*subject matter or form of literature determines its genre (type or category)

*long narrative poem about hero=epic

*formal, dignified speech in praise of person or thing=eulogy

*form or outward shape of a work of art depends on how the artist manipulates the formal elements of composition

visual art: color, line, texture, space, light

representational—looks like sense apparent reality; the image takes the shape/form of its subject

abstract--the work of art is based on something in the “real world” but does not seek to represent it as it is seen; often used to create an intensified emotional experience or to take the viewer beyond sense apparent reality and the already known often used to defamiliarize or rethink the familiar or to delve beneath the surface meaning.

nonobjective or nonrepresentationalwithout identifiable subject matter

music: melody, rhythm, harmony, tone color (timbre)

music is durational—unfolds over time

literature, especially poetry:  same as music

literature and cinema are durational also

dance:  1) temporal and performance oriented or 2) spacial

CONTENT—the subject it describes

--in almost all modes of expression form and content are often interrelated (gestalt)

--visual arts & formal elts of music are without symbolic content

--literature, painting, & sculpture may imitate or describe nature

--music is almost always nonrepresentational


v      historical and cultural environment

v      ask: 

o        In what time and place did the artifact originate?

o        How did it function within the society in which it was created?

o        Was the purpose of the piece decorative, didactic (designed to teach a lesson), magical, propagandistic?

o        Did it serve religious or political needs (or both) of the community?


[      its secondary or implied meanings

[      embraces the emotional or intellectual messages embedded in, or implied by, a work of art

o        Greek epic glorifies prowess and physical courage in battle (embody male virtues)

o        Louis XIV portrait imbued with power and absolute authority

o        Andy Worhol’s serial soup cans and Coke bottles comment on late 20th century/postmodern commercialism and consumerism.