Honors 2108 – Intellectual Traditions
Instructor: Dr. Brian Kubarycz

Intellectual Traditions 8:
Behold The Brillo Box: The 20th Century and Its Discontents

If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.

–Andy Warhol

Skyler wrote, directed, and produced the film, which traces the provenance of an original (so to speak) Brillo Box, from the time it was purchased by her parents in 1969 (for $1,000) to its eventual sale some 40 years later at Christie’s for over $3 million.

–The New York Times

Course Overview and Purpose

The purpose of this Honors class is to make you a more critical and sensitive reader, to break down your prejudices and open your mind and imagination, to allow you to see yourself from the perspective of others. Developing these attributes will help you in the future; but they are part of a growth process which is worth enjoying now, for its own sake. I do not consider Intellectual Traditions courses to form a “Great Books” series. I don’t propose to teach universal moral truths or even ‘objective facts’. Rather, I hope to teach you to read in new and exciting ways. I want students to discover the strangeness of the past, learn to appreciate ideas different than their own, and to allow such an encounter with the past to occasion key questions about our own society, values and practices. So, while we won’t maintain a Great Books attitude, we’ll nevertheless read a broad array of great books. I hope you will enjoy the time we spend with them.

Course Objectives

In this course, students will be prepared to:
• read critically and discriminatingly
• think creatively
• write clearly and purposively
• speak articulately
• deliberate collaboratively

Expected Learning Outcomes

• Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World through: study in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, histories, languages, and the arts
• Intellectual and Practical Skills, including: 1) inquiry and analysis, 2) critical and creative thinking, 3) written and oral communication, 4) teamwork and problem solving
• Personal and Social Responsibility, including: 1) civic knowledge and engagement—local and global, 2) intercultural knowledge and competence, 3) ethical reasoning and action, 4) foundations and skills for lifelong learning

The Nature and Function of University Studies

Traditionally, the project of developing the self, in general and for its own sake—a process which the Germans called Bildung—is the very essence of university studies. It is the reason students choose to attend a university, instead of a conservatory, academy or technical school. This belief in the inherent value of a Liberal Education lies at the very heart of the Honors College and its curriculum. The Honors College was created as an alternative to the technocratic culture which has overtaken so much of contemporary life. I will do my best to present assigned readings in ways which are both intriguing and relevant. However, in most instances the immediate payoff will not be automatically apparent. You’ll need to discover the relevance and create the meaning of these readings, with my help and that of your peers. The way you interpret them will teach you as much about yourself as anything else. If you find the assignments confusing at first, that is a normal and healthy response to what is genuinely new; disdain or apathy, however, are not healthy responses. These latter attitudes will limit you intellectually, emotionally and socially, both in and out of the classroom. Remember, nothing aids learning as much an open mind and a positive attitude.

Course Overview

The overall theme of our course will be the emergence and obsolescence or technologies and artistic mediums. For sixteen weeks, we will examine key statements which critically examine the continuing relevance of both traditional and revolutionary literary, visual, and musical artifacts in contemporary university studies. These statements will be drawn from philosophical and theoretical texts, and applied to the examination of representative cultural productions, both elite and popular. You be expected not only to complete assigned readings, but also to familiarize yourself with the artistic works under discussion.

Our first aim will be to observe “embodied meanings,” as much as possible, still in their “raw” state, not yet packaged in textbooks. Additionally, however, we will attempt to take a step back and investigate whether the goal of direct encounter with the past might in fact be a modern myth. A clearer understanding of the stakes involved in the modern construction of knowledge will require an investigation of the modern university, and the institutionalization of the arts and sciences, along with the representation of knowledge within public institutions and the contemporary curriculum. Our first readings will address these topics.

Teaching and Learning

The point of this Honors class is to make you a critical and sensitive reader, to break down your prejudices and open your mind and imagination – yes, because it will help you in the future; but, even more importantly, because it is worth doing now, simply for its own sake. I don’t believe in eternal verities, and so we won’t read so-called Great Books as unimpeachable vessels of timeless wisdom, we’ll nevertheless still read a broad array of deeply fascinating and highly influential landmark texts. I hope you will enjoy them.

University courses demand that both teachers and students share the responsibility of working toward insight and understanding. This course will be no exception. I will explain assigned readings as clearly as possible. You, in turn, must complete the assignments, so that my explanations can find a ground in actual written words, as well your thoughtful comments and questions. Also, you must also participate verbally in class discussions. I will depend upon you to provide much of the course content, by asking clear questions and making helpful comments. I do not intend to convey mere information you can simply memorize and repeat on a quiz. Insights into texts and objects will come into being as we intelligently and sensitively discuss them. You will remember these insights not because they are definitive, but rather because you participated in their creation and witnessed the moment of their emergence, all of which is intimately connected with the full theory of Bildungs, or linguistic development and intellectual growth. To truly learn and successfully complete this class, you must participate actively and alertly in class discussions. Simply sitting quietly, smiling and allowing others to do all the talking is not sufficient to earn an A.

Significant Dates

Classes Begin — Monday, January 8
Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday — Monday, January 15
Presidents’ Day holiday — Monday, February 19
Spring Break — Sun-Sun, March 18-25
Classes End — Tuesday, April 24

Accessing Required Readings

All readings will be provided via the WordPress website in the form of PDF files which are fully compliant with the Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act. I will distribute them via the WordPress website. Feel free to print these documents or read them on a personal electronic device.

Reading Schedule

Week of Jan. 10 – The Romantic Voice and Its Other
William Wordsworth: “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads”
Oscar Wilde: “Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Week of Jan. 22 – Canons of Modernity
T.S. Eliot: “Tradition and The Individual Talent,” “The Metaphysical Poets”

Week of Jan. 29 – A Material Vision: Marxism and Form
Clement Greenberg: “Toward A Newer Laocoon”, “The Plight of The Public”, “The Avant-Garde And Kitsch”

Week of Feb. 5 – Art As Secular Ritual: The Anatomy Of Sacrifice
Harold Rosenberg: “The American Action Painters”
Leo Steinberg: “Contemporary Art And The Plight Of Its Public”

Week of Feb. 12 – Art as Passion, Two Version
Susan Sontag: “Against Interpretation”, “Notes On Camp”
Michael Fried: “Art And Objecthood”

Week of Feb. 21 – Theories of Theater, Ancient and Modern
Aristotle: Poetics
Berthold Brecht: “On The Epic Theater”
Antonin Artaud: The Theater and Its Double

Week of Feb. 28 – Reproduction In The Age of Technology
Walter Benjamin: “The Work of Art in The Age of Its Mechanical Production”
Beatrice Colomina: “Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism,” “The Eameses’ Multimedia Architecture”

Week of Mar. 5 – The Trouble with Genius
Simon de Beauvoir: The Second Sex
Linda Nochlin: “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

Week of Mar. 12 – Criticism and The Great Confinement
Douglas Crimp: “The Birth of The Museum and The Death of Art”, “The Museum’s Ruins,” “The Art of Exhibition”

Week of Mar. 26 – Escaping The Prison-House of Purity
Arthur C. Danto: Beyond The Brillo Box

Week of Apr. 2 – The Insistence of Structure: The Obsolescence Of The Object
Rosalind Krauss: “The Originality Of The Avant-Garde”, “Sculpture In The Expanded Field”

Week of April 9 – The Postmodern Enclosure of The Land
Hal Foster: The Art/Architecture Complex

Graded Assignments

1) Review of Public Speech: 20%
2) Personal Class Preparation and Participation (Spoken and Written): 20%
3) Group Midterm Project: 20%
4) Final Paper: 40%

Grading Rubric

Thesis: Does your argument take up a clear position and is that position controversial? Does it address current events or positions? Does it show a creative or critical strategy for solving familiar problems, or does it effectively point out problems many people don’t recognize? In a word, is your argument worth making?

Claims and Warrants: Were your claims clear and distinct from one another, and did they actually develop your thesis? Did your claims reflect a clear understanding of the theoretical text you used to support your ideas? Did your warrants demonstrate a clear use of logical inference to support your claims?

Evidence: Did you draw resourcefully and creatively from a variety of materials – read, observed, overheard, speculated or hypothesized – to support your claims? Or did you just repeat the same assertion again and again? Did the evidence you enlisted actually corroborate your claims, or is the relationship between your claims and evidence ambiguous or wholly arbitrary?

Organization: Did you use the expository form sensibly and flexibly as a means to help you generate and arrange your ideas for clarity of communication? Or, did you allow the expository form to become a straight jacket which hindered your thought and cramped your style, or did you jettison formality altogether and produce a loose and baggy argument?

Expression: Did you write in simple and clear sentences which conveyed your point accurately and persuasively, or did your language instead put up a barrier between yourself and your reader? Was your voice mature, relaxed and natural, or was it excessively formal and pompous or excessively flippant and vulgar? Was your use of vocabulary and phrasing precise or sloppy?

Grade Definitions

A Outstanding achievement. Student performance demonstrates full command of the course materials and evinces a high level of originality and/or creativity that far surpasses course expectations. A- Excellent achievement. Student performance demonstrates thorough knowledge of the course materials and exceeds course expectations by completing all requirements in a superior manner.
B+ Very good work. Student performance demonstrates above-average comprehension of the course materials and exceeds course expectations on all tasks as defined in the course syllabus.
B Good work. Student performance meets designated course expectations and demonstrates understanding of the course materials at an acceptable level.
B- Marginal work. Student performance demonstrates incomplete understanding of course materials.
C Unsatisfactory work. Student performance demonstrates incomplete and inadequate understanding of course materials.
D Unacceptable work.
F Failing.


Changes to Syllabus: I retain the right to make changes to the course syllabus, course schedule, assignments, due dates and other course requirements. Students will be notified promptly of any changes.

Attendance and Punctuality: As this is college and not high school, I do not intend to monitor student behavior. Nevertheless, if you will be absent or late to class, please notify me – in advance, if at all possible.

Food and Drink: I have no issue with students eating or drinking in class. Just don’t create a disturbance.

Cell Phones and Computers: Students are welcome to use computers in class, but only for course-related purposes. Texting, messaging, and (unapproved) web surfing are strictly prohibited and will result in dismissal from the class.

Submitting Assignments: Turn in all written work, in either doc or PDF format, before the stipulated cutoff time. No late work will be accepted without prior approval.

Prohibition on Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct: “Plagiarism” means the intentional unacknowledged use or incorporation of any other person’s work in, or as a basis for, one’s own work offered for academic consideration or credit for public presentation. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, representing as one’s own without attribution, any individual’s words, phrasing, ideas, sequence of ideas, information or any other mode or content of expression (Student Code, p. 3 at

Plagiarism, using others’ work without proper citation, is a serious offense. Plagiarism cases will be reported to the relevant authorities and may result in severe consequences; including, but not limited to, taking a grade reduction, receiving a failing grade for the course, suspension or dismissal from the program. You need to refer to any source even if it is an internet source. In accordance with University policy (as articulated in the Student Code), academic misconduct—including creating, fabrication of information and plagiarism—is not acceptable. A student found engaging in this behavior may receive a failing grade. If at any time you are unsure whether your actions constitute academic misconduct, please see me in order to clarify the matter. See the following link for more information:

Accomodation Policy: Some of the writings, lectures, films, or presentations in university courses such as this may at times include material that some students will find offensive or at odds with their personal beliefs. In light of this, the university has established an Academic Accommodation Policy. The Policy is grounded in University community held values of academic freedom and integrity as well as respect for diversity and individually held beliefs. The Policy creates a structure for responding to accommodation requests grounded in these values. Please review the syllabus carefully to see if the course is one that you are committed to taking. If you have a question or concern, please discuss it with me at your earliest convenience. For specific information regarding the university’s Academic Accommodations Policy, please see this website:

Wellness Statement: Personal concerns such as stress, anxiety, relationship difficulties, depression, cross-cultural differences, etc., can interfere with a student’s ability to succeed and thrive at the University of Utah. For helpful resources contact the Center for Student Wellness –; 801-581-7776.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Statement: The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in the class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Building, 581-5020 (V/TDD). CDS will work with you and the instructor to make arrangements for accommodations. All information in this course can be made available in alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.

Sexual Assault and Harassment: Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender (which includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression) is a Civil Rights offense subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, color, religion, age, status as a person with a disability, veteran’s status or genetic information. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you are encouraged to report it to the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 135 Park Building, 801‐581-8365, or the Office of the Dean of Students, 270 Union Building, 801-581-7066. For support and confidential consultation, contact the Center for Student Wellness, 426 SSB, 801‐581-7776. To report to the police, contact the Department of Public Safety, 801-585-2677 (COPS).

Veterans Center: If you are a student veteran, I want you to know that the U of Utah has a Veterans Support Center on campus. They are located in Room 161 in the Olpin Union Building. Hours: M-F 8-5pm. Please visit their website for more information about what support they offer, a list of ongoing events and links to outside resources:

LGBT Resource Center: If you are a member of the LGBTQ community, I want you to know that my classroom is a safe zone*. Additionally, please know that the U of Utah has an LGBT Resource Center on campus. They are located in Room 409 in the Oplin Union Building. Hours: M-F 8-5pm. You can visit their website to find more information about the support they can offer, a list of events through the center and links to additional resources:

Learners of English as an Additional/Second Language: If you are an English language learner, please be aware of several resources on campus that will support you with your language development and writing. These resources include: the Department of Linguistics ESL Program (; the Writing Center (; the Writing Program (; the English Language Institute (


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