Seminars – there will be essential reading for seminars each week. I will give out hard copies in class. You can also access e-copies, and suggested questions here.

I have linked to electronic versions of the readings where possible. You need to be connected to the University of Sheffield network for the links to work. Where there is no electronic copy of the reading available, I will provide a scan in the module dropbox – link is on Blackboard/MOLE.

You are not expected or required to read everything on this list!

For topics where there is something particular I want you to read, I will let you know. Where there is no essential reading, you should explore the topic yourself using this list and other literature you find. I’ve marked papers in bold that would be good places to start.


How should we define ‘art’? A number of definitions have been offered, but none is free from problems. A significant worry is that they embody relations of power, and do not adequately reflect art created by less powerful groups and/or non-Western societies. This and other problems with defining ‘art’ might lead us to be sceptical about the project of reaching a definition. Finally, there are interesting questions about works that lie at the borders of ‘art’, such as pornography.

General reading

Art and the expression of emotion

Institutional theories

Cluster theory of art

Problem of universality
I have divided the readings for this topic up a bit to help you find your way around them, but there are a lot of cross-connections between them and you will find material from one section relevant to the others.
Cultural imperialism

Where are the women?

Art versus craft

  • Collingwood, R. G. 1938. The Principles of Art. Oxford: Clarendon Press, Book I.
  • Janaway, Christopher. 1992. Arts and crafts in Plato and Collingwood. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 50 (1): 45-54.
  • Markowitz, Sally. 1994. The distinction between art and craft. The Journal of Aesthetic Education 28 (1): 55-70.
  • Mounce, Howard. 1991. Art and craft. British Journal of Aesthetics 31 (3): 230-240.
  • Parker, Rozsika and Pollock, Griselda. 1981.Old Mistresses. London: Pandora, chapter 2 [DROPBOX]
  • Shiner, Larry. 2001. The Invention of Art: a Cultural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, chapter 15.
  • Walker, Alice. 1983. In our mothers’ gardens: the creativity of the Black women of the South. In her In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. Mariner Books. This essay has been printed online by Ms Magazine.

Universal? Art and Evolution

Art at the boundaries – pornography and art

  • Arrowsmith, Anna. 2013 My pornographic development. In H. Maes (ed.) Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography. Basingstoke :Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 287-297. [DROPBOX]
  • Eaton, Anne. 2012. What’s wrong with the (female) nude? In H. Maes and J. Levinson (eds.) Art and Pornography: Philosophical Essays. Oxford: OUP, pp. 278-308.
  • Fokt, Simon. 2012. Pornographic art – a case from definitions. British Journal of Aesthetics 52 (3): 287-300.
  • Levinson, Jerrold. 2005. Erotic Art and Pornographic Pictures. Philosophy and Literature 29 (1): 228-240.
  • Maes, Hans and Levinson, Jerrold. 2012. Art and Pornography Oxford: OUP. Available via Oxford Scholarship Online – you will find any of the essays in this collection useful for this topic.
  • Mikkola, Mari. 2013. Pornography, art and porno-art. In H. Maes (ed.) Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography. Basingstoke :Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 27-42. [DROPBOX]

Scepticism about the classificatory project


The idea of art is closely linked with the notion of aesthetics. Artworks are sometimes claimed to be objects that embody aesthetic properties and/or provide aesthetic experiences. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about aesthetic properties, experiences, judgements…?

An interesting topic in this area is something known as ‘everyday aesthetics’, which, as the name suggests, shifts the focus of aesthetics away from just those special things we identify as artworks, and onto ordinary experience. We will look at some writing in this field.


Cultural appropriation can be defined as people from one culture adopting the cultural forms (art, music, fashion, etc.) of a different one. Generally speaking, the term ‘cultural appropriation’ connotes cases where this cultural exchange is claimed to be morally problematic, due to a power imbalance between the two cultures involved. But is this assumption justified? When it comes to artworks, does it require us to think of whole groups of people as ‘the artist’? Can cultures have intellectual property rights?

  • Coleman, Elizabeth Burns; Coombe, Rosemary, J.; MacArailt, Fiona. 2009. A broken record: subjecting ‘music’ to cultural rights. In J. O. Young and C. G. Brunk (eds.) The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation. Chichester: Blackwells, pp. 173-210. [DROPBOX]
  • Coleman, Elizabeth Burns. 2004. Aboriginal art and identity: crossing the border of law’s imagination. The Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (1): 20-40.
  • Matthes, Erich Hatala. 2016. Cultural appropriation without cultural essentialism? Social Theory and Practice,42 (2): 343-366.
  • Scafidi, Susan. 2005. Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, especially chapters 2, 5, 7, 8. [DROPBOX]
  • Walsh, Andrea, N.; Lopes, Dominic McIver. 2009. Objects of appropriation. In J. O. Young and C. G. Brunk (eds.) The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation. Chichester: Blackwells, pp. 211-234. [DROPBOX]
  • Young, James. 2010. Cultural Appropriation and the Arts. Chichester: Blackwells, chapters 1,3, and 4 [DROPBOX]


Many artworks are pictures – they present us with objects that may or may not exist in the world. For example, a picture of Toussaint L’Ouverture, presents us with the leader of the only successful slave rebellion. But what is it for something to be a picture? One might think there is an easy answer to this question: pictures resemble – or are like – their objects. But this does not get us very far. One thing’s resembling another is not sufficient for it to be a picture of it. Moreover, we also need to ask what it is for a picture to resemble its object.


  • Gracyk, T. 2012. The Philosophy of Art. Malden: Polity Press, ch.1, section 1.2. [DROPBOX]

Nelson Goodman on pictures

‘Seeing-in’ and depiction

Kendall Walton on mimesis as make-believe


It has long been thought that creativity and maybe genius are essential to the production of great art. But what exactly are these things? And are there any problems with the way we conceive them?

General reading

Creativity and rationality

Creativity and tradition

  • Carroll, Noël. 2003. Creativity and imagination. In B. Gaut and P. Livingston (eds.) The Creation of Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 208-234. [DROPBOX]
  • Olsen, Stein Haugom. 2003. Creativity and imagination. In B. Gaut and P. Livingston (eds.) The Creation of Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 192-207. [DROPBOX]
  • Briskman, Larry. 1980. Creative product and creative process. Inquiry 23 (1): 83-106.