Arts One Exam prep: Some Thoughts

While the texts/authors in a given Arts One list are presented in a vertical column, the trick to getting the most out of the course (and preparing for its exam) is to think horizontally. A typical Arts One theme will be presented in the form of binary opposition (reason and passion, nature and nurture, individual and society–you get the idea) or will be pitched at a general enough level to invite binary analysis. For example: is Frankenstein’s creature a monster or a victim of a monstrous upbringing? Or, in the words of the infinitely quotable Morrissey, “is evil just something you are, or something you do?” Arts One is all about questions that have no obvious or easy resolution. It is important, therefore, to view any given theme (or the issues arising from within a theme) as continua along which range a host of essentially contested ideas.

As you prepare for the exam, individually or in groups, try to utilize what can be called a key-concept-comparison approach. Arrange our authors horizontally along a row:

e.g. Genesis, Medea… Plato… Hobbes… Rousseau… Defoe… Levi… Gilman… Moore etc.

Then construct a vertical column of concepts/themes etc. that strike you as relevant:

Genesis… Plato… Hobbes… Rousseau… Defoe… Gilman… Moore etc.

Human nature

Free will

Liberty

Equality

Gender

Community

(and so forth)

Be creative in your attempt to develop points of comparison. You are building a visual map that allows for instant comparison (similarities & differences) around key points. Ask yourself how and why a category applies, and be prepared to decide whether or not it is an especially useful way of looking at a work. You might decide, for example, that free will has no real place in Freudian analysis. And be prepared to expand your thinking. You might think, for example, that Plato has no real interest in liberty when it might be more accurate to say he has no sense of modern liberalism’s idea of freedom, but does have a conception of liberty that revolves around the notion of freedom from non-rational impulses like appetites and passions. You will also want to develop a sense of where a particular text tilts in terms of its view of human nature (positive/negative? fixed/changeable?) community (individual rights/communal values?) and so forth.

What you should be able to construct is a visual map for quick reference, and a reasonably in-depth sense of how these texts compare around key points.

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