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

What We Will Read:

This class will examine representative texts from High Modernity, Late Modernity, and Post-Modernity in Europe and America. We will focus on a number of topics, though we will pay particular attention to the debates over the nature and function of art and technology and the dialectical role they play in shaping and expressing one another, as well as recent human consciousness. Assigned materials will be of literary, aesthetic, philosophical, historical, psychological, sociological, and even scientific interest. Readings will derive from both primary and scholarly sources. They will tend to be brief excerpts or individuals essays, rather than complete books, so as to allow for a more intensive engagement with each text.

Why We Will Read It:

Our concern will be to examine and productively challenge popular concepts, values, and practices associated with modern art and technology and our capacity to understand and master the material world. We will examine differences between received modes of knowledge and practice, as well as the extent to which it is possible to make clear and meaningful distinctions between, say, high and low culture, or superstition and science. The purpose of this will be to develop a greater awareness and understanding of systems of meaning which precede and coexist with our own, to examine the capacities and limitations of various mediums and disciplines, and to grain an appreciation for the status of consciousness as a material social practice.

What We Will Learn:

In addition to a general knowledge of recent art and thought, this course is designed to develop practical skills crucial for success within today’s university. These include:

• astute and sensitive reading
• analytical and imaginative thinking
• effective written and oral communication
• group and individual deliberation

How We Will Learn It:

We will learn through reading, discussing, and writing on a variety of historical and contemporary texts, both visual and written. Higher education – especially in the Honors college – should be a dynamic social process. Genuine learning entails far more than the mere retention and replication of isolated facts. Therefore, this class will function as a quasi-seminar. The instructor will explain unfamiliar and difficult materials in informal lectures. Meanwhile, students are expected actively to participate in class sessions. Successful students will:

• ask questions
• make spontaneous and considered (not Googled) observations
• post comments on the class daily blog
• meet with the instructor during office hours
• responsibly and professionally communicate through email
• moot with other students
• attend (as possible) optional field outings.

To be clear, mere passive consumption of class materials will be NOT be sufficient to earn an A grade. Students are expected to understand this policy and conduct themselves accordingly.

Why We Will Learn It:

The knowledge, skills, and sensibilities fostered by the class are designed to challenge your assumptions, expand your cultural awareness, improve your overall academic performance, and grow your brain. Honors was not designed to be an elite club for students with astonishing GPAs, and your experience in the college should serve as far more than just another accolade to extend your resume. We discourage such attitudes. In fact, Honors is intended to function as a socially and culturally enriched milieu which will sustain curious and motivated students and provide them with an incentive and opportunity to reflect on the larger world and the role they wish to play in it. We encourage you to become such a student.

The specific skills and knowledge you acquire in Honors are intended help you develop these more comprehensive personal qualities:

• empathy for other persons and groups
• ethical reflection
• social engagement
• sustained curiosity and inquiry

Accordingly, Intellectual Traditions courses, the core of the Honors curriculum, are hardly intended to functions as mere costly obstacles standing between you and graduation. Rather, these courses are meant to serve as a relevant complement to studies within your chosen discipline. In Intellectual Traditions we commit ourselves to a mode of learning which exceeds mere programming, obedience training, and rote recitation. Not only will this more active and highly engaged pedagogy help you to discover and expand the full array of your mental, emotional, and social capacities, but it will also allow you to experience a degree of intellectual excitement and satisfaction that will set a standard for a lifetime of personal growth.

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.

Significant Dates:

Classes Begin – Monday, August 20
Labor Day — Monday, September 3
Fall Break – Sunday, October 7 – 14
Thanksgiving Break – November 22-25
Classes End — Thursday, December 6

Reading Schedule: (subject to change with notice)

Week of Aug. 20 – The Romantic Voice and Its Other
William Wordsworth: “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads”
Oscar Wilde: “Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Week of Aug. 28 – Canons of Modernity
T.S. Eliot: “Tradition and The Individual Talent,” “The Metaphysical Poets”

Week of Sept. 3 – A Material Vision: Marxism and Form
Clement Greenberg: “Toward A Newer Laocoon”, “The Plight of The Public”, “The Avant-Garde And Kitsch”

Week of Sept. 10 – 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 Sept. 17 – Art as Passion, Two Version
Susan Sontag: “Against Interpretation”, “Notes On Camp”
Michael Fried: “Art And Objecthood”

Week of Sept. 24 – Theories of Theater, Ancient and Modern
Aristotle: Poetics
Berthold Brecht: “On The Epic Theater”
Antonin Artaud: The Theater and Its Double

Week of Oct. 15 – 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 Oct. 22 – The Trouble with Genius
Simon de Beauvoir: The Second Sex
Linda Nochlin: “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

Week of Oct. 29 – 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 Nov. 5 – Outside The Prison-House of Purity
Arthur C. Danto: Beyond The Brillo Box

Week of Nov. 12 – The Insistence of Form: The Obsolescence Of The Object
Rosalind Krauss: “The Originality Of The Avant-Garde”, “Sculpture In The Expanded Field”

Week of Nov. 19 – The Postmodern Enclosure of The Landscape
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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