Alice Harberd (UCL) - 2021-22 Students

Genre, Self-Knowledge and the Value of Art

My project is about two interrelated questions.

Firstly: why does genre influence what counts as good and bad for an artwork? Genres have associated rules – comedy should be funny, horror should be scary – I want to work out what grounds this “should”. One reason I find this so interesting is that the rules aren’t absolute. Some art is valuable precisely because it breaks genre rules.

Secondly: why is good art a good thing? Lots of work is done on what is distinctively valuable about art. This question is slightly different: rather than asking what this distinctive artistic value is, it asks why it is valuable. I think part of the answer might lie in the value we place on understanding ourselves: understanding our identities and coming to terms with them.

How do these relate? Firstly, understanding why a particular aspect of an artwork matters requires some idea of why art matters generally. Secondly, genres and identities relate in a range of ways. Producing art in particular genres allows us to express and understand things in ways which wouldn’t be possible in other genres. I suspect that this might include certain identities and ways of life.

Back to the top