SAMC 111 syllabus

Trinity Western University

SAMC 111 (3 s.h.) – Spring 2016

Critical Issues in the Arts


Prerequisite:  none

Instructors/Contact:  Dr. David Squires (coordinator), ex3469;

Mus Bldg, office hrs MW 11am-noon (usually), or by appt

Dr. Lloyd Arnett, ex2058;

Mus Bldg, office hrs M 2-3, W 3-4, or by appt

Edith Krause, (604) 888-3192;

RNT-SNC main floor, office hrs by appt

Course Format:  lectures: MW 9:00-9:50; discussion groups: M 10-10:50 (Arnett, Krause, Squires); M 4-4:50 (Squires)



This foundational interdisciplinary arts course introduces some of the complex issues in the arts, such as: arts and technology, arts and culture, arts and interpretation, arts and gender, and arts and faith. Students will explore these issues through the engagement of representative works of both artists and scholars from varying viewpoints and historical periods. Students will be expected to participate fully in individual and collaborative research projects applying both developing skills and critical evaluation. The format of the course includes lectures supplemented by assigned readings for discussion and debate. The course will be delivered by an interdisciplinary teaching team. Students attend weekly lectures, and participate in one of three discussion groups (Dgroups).


This course is designed in such a way that the diligent student will:

  • develop critical tools for the interdisciplinary study of the arts and apply these tools to specific topics;
  • engage with the arts and ideas charitably, critically, and reflectively;
  • be challenged to consider human artistic creations in the arts as originating from and reflective of God’s gift of creativity to us, and consider how this may affect aesthetic sensibilities;
  • come to appreciate the value of the interdisciplinary connections amongst the arts as attempts to illuminate aspects of the human condition;
  • be challenged to think about the roles of cultural and historical contexts in the fostering of human creative expression;
  • learn to become a self-directed learner, thinker, and writer who balances intuition and imagination with scholarly method.



Required texts:  course pack, plus…

Freeland, Cynthia. But Is It Art?: An Introduction to Art Theory. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Other resources: (course material will be posted regularly)



Discussion Group (Dgrp): 20%

Weekly discussion groups (Dgrps) focus on assigned readings and material arising from lectures. All students are expected to take an active role in leading and sustaining the discussion, based on questions they themselves bring from the readings. Marks are for active engagement and participation in Dgrp discussion group based on adequate and evident preparation of the assigned material.

Module Critical Reviews: 25% [5 x 5% each]

At end of each of the first 5 modules in the semester, students will write a critical review which involves their personal engagement with key ideas raised in the lectures, readings, and discussions of the particular module. Each one is due the Monday after the module is completed. Submit a hard copy to your Dgrp instructor during Dgrp.

Each critical review is:

  • a 700-800 word reflection on issues arising within the module, responding to a guided set of questions posted on the course web site
  • an informed personal response to lectures and readings in each module and to issues arising in class discussions (using the critical review template on the course website)
  • written in first-person, demonstrating a command of the central issues of the module and a keen sense of curiosity and imagination

Integrative Research Project (IRP): 25% [proposal 5%, project 20%]

Interdisciplinary teams of three or four (preferably students of differing majors) will be formed to develop and present a multi-disciplinary project in class. The project involves the research and preparation of an exhibit and event on a critical issue. In essence, the team will be curating an imaginary exhibit with an accompanying community event on a critical issue theme, using existing works of art, theatre, and music. More details will be provided in early February.

Here is the timeline:

  • Feb 2 – teams formed
  • project parameters will be clarified, and student teams will be finalized by this date – instructors make final decisions on the team as necessary
  • Feb 15 – team huddle in class
  • instructors will discuss their experiences of working on interdisciplinary projects, then student teams will begin working on their ideas in the last portion of the class
  • Feb 24 – team work in class
    • the entire class will be devoted to teams huddling to work on their project proposals
  • Feb 26 – proposals due (before leaving for Reading Break)
    • by email to DS
  • Mar 7-11 – team meetings with DS
    • in the week after Reading Break, DS will arrange meetings with each team outside of class time to discuss proposals
  • Mar 30 – IRP Exhibits
    • projects will be presented in class
    • documentation (in the form of a research paper) is due the same day

Final Exam: 30%

There will be a written exam based upon lectures, readings, and discussion. It will be focused on critical integration of interdisciplinary knowledge gained in the course. More details will be provided in class closer to the end of the semester.



The course is organized into six modules. Each module includes lectures, discussions/debates, and student critical reviews.

Module 1 – Arts and Interpretation

How are we to interpret the arts? What responsibilities do we have? An examination of different views of interpreting the arts, including discussion of the embodied nature of experience and the impact of our historicity in interpretation.

Jan 13:  Introductions, syllabus, structure of course (All)

Jan 18:  Roundtable: How does art mean?

  • Dgrp 1: Annie Dillard: ‘Seeing’ from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (led by instructors)

Jan 20:  Roundtable: Seeing and experiencing

Jan 25:  Roundtable: Perception and personal histories

  • Dgrp 2: John Russon: ‘Interpretation’ from Human Experience plus Freeland ch 1


Module 2 – Arts and Christianity

Throughout Christianity, the arts have been both central and forbidden in the life of the church. What were/are these views, and why were they held? How do/should Christians today view the arts?

Jan 27:  Christianity and visual art: a very brief history (EK)

Feb 1:  Christianity and music: a very brief history (DS)

  • Dgrp 3: David Morgan: ‘Imaging Protestant Piety: The Icons of Warner Sallman’

plus Richard Hays: ‘Why Should We Care About the Arts?’

Feb 3:  Christianity and theatre: a very brief history (LA)


Module 3 – Arts, Justice, Community

What responsibilities do artists have to the community? What responsibilities does the public have to art? What is ‘public art’? Responses to these questions will be drawn from such sources as Greek tragedies, elitist art, and public funding.

Feb 10:  The arts and public funding (DS)

Feb 15:  Roundtable: Undertaking an interdisciplinary research project through the creative arts – process and expectations […and IRP team huddle]

  • Dgrp 4: Richard Kearney: ‘Where do stories come from’ from On Stories

Feb 17:  The role of theatre to create ‘responsible citizens’ in Ancient Greece (LA)

Feb 22:  Art, knowledge, and power (EK)

  • Dgrp 5: Freeland chs 2 + 4

Feb 24:  IRP team work in class (guided by instructors – more information closer to the time)

Feb 27-Mar 6: Reading Break


Module 4 – Arts, Bodies, Gender

The relationship of arts to the body has changed over history, from the cerebral arguments of Cartesians to the embodied arguments of feminists. These views will be examined with relevance to prevailing current perspectives.

Mar 7:  Music and gender (DS)

  • Dgrp 6: Freeland ch 5

Mar 9:  Incarnation and portraying gender on the stage (LA)

Mar 14:  Art, gender, and the human body (EK)

  • Dgrp 7: James Smith: ‘Faith in the Flesh in American Beauty: Christian Reflection on Film’


Module 5 – Ownership, Authenticity, and Copyright

It seems that the most agree that ‘good’ art needs to be ‘authentic’. But just what makes something authentic? When did the value of authenticity come about historically? How does this relate to cultural appropriation? Who ‘owns’ art?

Mar 16:  Roundtable: Copyright in history and in the digital age

Mar 21:  Music and authenticity (DS)

  • Dgrp 8: Nicholas Cook: ‘Musical Values’

Mar 23:  Art, craft, and kitsch (EK)

Mar 30: IRP Exhibition

Apr 4:  Copyright and authenticity in theatre (LA)

  • Dgrp 9: Kevin Haas: ‘Authentic Experience: Multiplicity and dislocation in printmaking and contemporary culture’

plus Freeland ch 3

Module 6 – Arts, Media + Culture

At TWU, and in SAMC, we speak often of cultural transformation, and the very name of the school (Arts, Media + Culture) connotes an interrelationship. What are some of the contours of this interrelationship? How is culture shaped by the artist, and how is the artist shaped by culture?

Apr 6:     Environmental art (EK)

Apr 11:  Cultural transformation (DS)

  • Dgrp 10: Freeland ch 7

Apr 13:  Theatre, environment, and technology (LA)

Apr 18: Exam review (last day of classes – no Dgrps)



The following grading scale differs from the university standard grading system, and will be used for this course:

A+             97-100                    B+             83-87                       C+             69-73                       D+            56-59

A               92-96                       B               78-82                       C               64-68                       D               53-55

A-              88-91                       B-              74-77                       C-              60-63                       D-             50-52     (F: up to 49)

The following grade definitions are applicable in this course:

A-/A/A+      outstanding, excellent work

B-/B/B+      good, competent work

C-/C/C+      adequate, reasonably satisfactory work

D-/D/D+     minimally acceptable work

F                inadequate, not up to required standard



Attendance and Deadlines

  • Attendance and participation is required to get the most out of the course.
  • Anyone who misses 25% of the classes may be barred from writing the final exam.
  • Assignments are accepted late at a penalty of 10% per day to a maximum 40% off, unless the assignment has been taken up in class. In this case, the assignment will receive a grade of zero.

Writing quality

It is expected that your level of writing is up to university standards. Assignments with significant grammatical problems will be referred to the Writing Centre for rewriting before the assignment will be marked. The Writing Centre is an excellent resource for students at all levels to improve writing skills. See:

Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism at TWU

One of the core values of Trinity Western University is the integration of academic excellence with high standards of personal, moral, and spiritual integrity. The University considers it a serious offence when an individual attempts to gain unearned academic credit. It is the student’s responsibility to be informed about what constitutes academic dishonesty. For details on this, and on identifying and avoiding plagiarism go to the University Homepage > Academics > Academic Calendar > Academic Information > Academic Policies > Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism.

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Responsible Use of Electronic Devices

If you bring or use electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops) in class, please do so responsibly. Responsible use of electronic devices includes:

  • Setting up devices and turning off all sounds prior to the start of class.
  • Using devices for class related work. Checking social networks not only distracts you, but also those around you.
  • Using devices as a way to increase engagement rather than detract from engagement. In some situations (discussion, viewing images, etc) this may involve turning devices off.

Fragrance-Free Policy

Trinity Western University is moving towards a scent-free environment in response to numerous faculty, staff and students whose health is at risk when exposed to chemical-based or scented products. More information:

Campus Closure and Class Cancellations

In case of extreme weather conditions, check the campus state at:

Students with a Disability

Students with a disability who need assistance are encouraged to contact the Equity of Access Office upon admission to TWU to discuss their specific needs. All disabilities must be recently documented by an appropriately certified professional and include the educational impact of the disability along with recommended accommodations. Within the first two weeks of the semester, students must meet with their professors to agree on accommodations appropriate to each class. Students should follow the steps detailed by the Equity of Access Office outlined in the Student Life section of the University Calendar.




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