Honors 2108 – Intellectual Traditions
Instructor: Dr. Brian Kubarycz

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

Course Overview and Purpose: 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. The purpose of this Honors class is rather to make you a more 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. So, while we won’t read Great Books, we’ll still read a broad array of great books. I hope you will enjoy them.

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 traditionally 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 extreme corporate model which has overtaken so many other departments and programs at the university. A corporate university can understand education only as a commodity, a product with an immediately identifiable utility and market value. I do not subscribe to this model. I will do my best to present assigned readings in ways which are both interesting and relevant. However, their immediate relation to your major, in most instances, will not be automatically apparent. You’ll need to search for that, with my help and that of your peers. If you find readings confusing, that is a normal and healthy response to what is new; intolerance, however, are not healthy responses. These latter attitudes will harm you intellectually, emotionally and socially both in and out of the classroom.

Course Methods: We will use a variety of historical texts and art works as a means of mastering a set of concepts, sensibilities and critical skills. Our aim will be to observe embodied meanings, as much as possible, still in their “untamed” state. Further, we will attempt to take a step back, to become self-critical and investigate whether this goal of unmediated encounter might in fact be merely a dream. A clearer understanding of the stakes involved in the construction of knowledge will require an investigation of the 19th-century’s institutionalization of art and literature, as well as scientific research, as well as the representation of knowledge within the public sphere.

Participation: 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 key texts as clearly as possible. You, in turn, must complete the readings, so that my explanations can find a ground in actual writings, 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 teach you true meanings which inhere is a text. Even less will I attempt to convey mere information you can simply memorize. Insights into texts and objects will come into being as we intelligently and imaginatively discuss them. You will remember these insights not because they are authoritative, but rather because you participated in their creation and witnessed the moment of their birth, all of which is intimately connected with the full theory of Bildung, or linguistic development and intellectual growth. To truly to learn and successfully complete this class, you must participate actively and alertly in class discussions. Just hanging out, smiling and listening and others talk is not sufficient to earn an A. You must also show personality and character, and I will grade you on both.


➢ Verbal Participation in Class Discussion (20%)
➢ Two Short Response Papers (10% each)
➢ Midterm Outline (20%)
➢ Final Paper – ten pages (40%)

Schedule: The course schedule will remain flexible, but the reading assignments will proceed in the following order. Below are the scheduled group lectures.

Readings—Identifying Preconceptions, Collecting And Honing Tools

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

Canons of Modernity
T.S. Eliot—“Tradition and The Individual Talent,” “The Metaphysical Poets”

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

Art As Secular Ritual: The Anatomy Of Sacrifice
Harold Rosenberg—“The American Action Painters”
Leo Steinberg—“Contemporary Art And The Plight Of Its Public”

Saturn In The Age Of Aquarius: Toward A New Age Of Sense And Sensibility
Susan Sontag: “Against Interpretation”, “Notes On Camp”

Painting As Agony: A Transcendental Aesthetic
Michael Fried: “Art And Objecthood”

Theories of Theater, Ancient and Modern
Berthold Brecht: “On The Epic Theater”
Antonin Artaud: “The Theater and Its Double”

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”

The Institution of Genius
Linda Nochlin: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

Criticism and The Great Confinement
Douglas Crimp: “The Birth of The Museum and The Death of Art”, “The Museum’s Ruins”

Out of The Prison-House of Medium
Arthur C. Danto—Beyond The Brillo Box

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



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. 

Grading Rubric

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

2) Claims: Were your claims clear and distinct from one another? Were they logical and did they actually support your thesis? Did they show a clear understanding of the theoretical text you used to support your ideas?

3) 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? Does the evidence you enlist actually corroborate your claims, or is the relationship between your claims and evidence ambiguous or wholly arbitrary?

4) 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?

5) 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?

Official University Policies:

*** 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 written information in this course can be made available in alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.

*** In accordance with University of Utah policy, any instances of plagiarism will result in immediate failure of the course. For more information, please see the University of Utah’s Student Code of Conduct – B.2.c.:

*** 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).

*** 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:

Professional Conduct

These expectations are meant to teach and encourage responsible professional behavior, within your major or your profession. Additionally, this format is meant to prepare you for applying to graduate schools, a process for which you should begin to prepare yourself sooner rather than later. Be sure you are willing to comply with all these expectations. Failure to comply with them will result in dismissal from class and a lowered grade.
lowered grade.

• Don’t not speak rudely or behave discourteously in class

• Turn off your phone before class starts. Refrain from surfing the net, instant messaging, text messaging and any similar activities during class. If I see you doing any of the above, I will ask you to leave the room for the rest of the period.

• Please use only one name during the semester, that which appears on the official university records. I’m happy to call you by a nickname or something similar in class. But be prepared to make all necessary arrangements so that your all your emails and paper come to me with a name which will allow me to identify you.

• Submit documents in the form of email only, and exclusively in Microsoft Word or Office format. Papers submitted in other formats will not be read and cannot be resubmitted.

• Submit all work on time. Late papers will not be accepted, period.

• Submit all papers with an appropriate document file title: last name, first name, assignment name; i.e.; Jones, Tony – Paper 1

• Remember that keeping your scholarship is your responsibility, not mine.

• Never beg, bride or manipulate.

• Unless you believe I made a genuine mistake (it does happen), don’t complain to me about your grades.

• Seek appropriate help from me, but don’t act helpless; i.e., try before giving up.

• Do communicate with me in a friendly and professional manner.

• Do rely on your peers for help. Do acknowledge peer help when you receive it.


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