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The Art of Social Critique

Painting Mirrors of Social Life

Edited by Shawn Chandler Bingham - Contributions by Sven Arvidson; Markus Breitschmid; Valerie Chepp; David Curtis; Paul Dean; Jared Del Rosso; Timothy M. Gill; William Koch; Brent Lamons; Lawrence Lanahan; Patricia Leavy; Philip G. Lewin; Elaine Miller; Gregg Mosson; Joe Norris; Paul Rutz; James R. Pennell; Damon Powell; Karl Precoda; Thomas Ratliff; Gail Satler; Andrea Scarpino; Robert Stanton; James Michael Thomas and Adrienne Trier-Bieniek

From novelists to political cartoonists, artists have long brought a unique perspective to important public discussions of social and political issues. Yet, fury and debate over the role of the artist has resulted in blacklisting, banning, and symbolically burning artists who use their work as a means of social critique and social change. The Art of Social Critique makes a case for the complexity of artistic ways of “seeing” social life — observing, analyzing and portraying society — by examining the interdisciplinary nature of imagination. The authors cover a range of novelists, painters, musicians, cartoonists, poets and others whose explorations of the human condition directly connect to complex methods of social inquiry often associated with other disciplines. Specific parallels are drawn between the social sciences and the theories, lenses, and aesthetics that allow these artists to gain a clearer view of social life. Artistic techniques, such as metaphor, caricature, and irony, are examined as unique methods of social inquiry, while the novelist and poet become ethnographers of social life. By treading the common ground between the arts, humanities and social sciences, The Art of Social Critique raises a number of important questions about the role of art in society: What are the relationships between imagination, creativity, perspective, experimentation and unveiling social life? How does the artistic perspective engage in representation, give voice, or unveil? How have artists examined the relationship between the individual and society, social structures, or social norms that we take for granted? Each chapter explores how the “artistic eye,” as a form of qualitative social inquiry, helps both the artist and the audience arrive at a more complex understanding of society. From art as a social movement to the important relationship between art and collective memory, The Art of Social Critique covers imagination as an interdisciplinary concept that draws on the sociological, psychological, historical, and political. Together these essays reveal art as more than mere entertainment or amusement — it is an interdisciplinary way of knowing our social world. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 594Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-4923-2 • Hardback • February 2012 • $147.00 • (£95.00)
Shawn Chandler Bingham directs the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences program at the University of South Florida. His recently authored books include Thoreau and the Sociological Imagination (Rowman & Littlefield 2008) and a forthcoming book on disability and comedy.
Seeing Beyond the Verge of Sight: Imagination(s) and Social Inquiry
Shawn Chandler Bingham
Part I. Novel Visions
Chapter 1: Sociology on the Road: The Sociological Imagination of Jack Kerouac
Valerie Chepp and Paul Dean
Chapter 2: Jean Genet: A Case Study of the Artist’s Explication and Alteration of Social Practice William Koch
Chapter 3: James Baldwin: The Novelist as Historian and Public Intellectual
Brent Lamons
Part II. Poetic Inquiry
Chapter 4: Carolyn Forché and the Fraught Nature of Poetic Witness
Andrea Scarpino
Chapter 5: American Poetry: Process as Vision
Gregg Mosson
Part III. Building Social Structures
Chapter 6: Frank Lloyd Wright: Building an American Architecture from Within Outward
Gail Satler
Chapter 7: The Architect as “Molder of the Sensibilities of the General Public”: Bruno Taut and his Architekturprogramm
Markus Breitschmid
Part IV. Painting Mirrors
Chapter 8: Tellin’ It Like It Is: Social Realism and the Art of Aaron Douglas
Damon Powell
Chapter 9: Political Cartoons: Artful Commentary
Elaine Miller
Chapter 10: Mourning America’s War Harms: Alan Magee’s Trauerbeit
Robert Stanton
Image Gallery
Part V. Performing Life
Chapter 11: Other People’s Dancers: Paul Taylor’s Choreography by Messenger
Paul Rutz
Chapter 12: Reconceptualization through Theater: Reflections on Mirror Theatre’s “(Re)Productions
Joe Norris
Chapter 13: Standing Up Racism: Richard Pryor and the Development of a Contentious Racial Politics
James Michael Thomas
Part VI. Sounding Off
Chapter 14: Learning from Lennon: Using Songs and Stardom to Promote Peace and Justice
James R. Pennell
Chapter 15: “She is Risen”: Creating Feminist Identities and Challenging Patriarchy through the Music of Tori Amos
Adrienne Trier-Bieniek and Patricia Leavy
Chapter 16: Propagandhi and the Politics of Subcultural Resistance
Philip G. Lewin and Timothy M. Gill
Part VII. Reel Life
Chapter 17: Staging Truth: Errol Morris’s Pursuit of the Objective in the Subjective
Jared Del Rosso
The Art of Social Critique: Painting Mirrors of Social Life is a welcome addition to the literature on the arts and social change. Unusually wide-ranging in the art forms and topics it covers, and filled with useful insights, this anthology should prove of great interest to scholars and students in American studies, ethnic and gender studies, sociology, the fine arts and literary/cultural studies.
T. V. Reed, author of The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle

What a marvelous journey this book is. These encounters with the likes of Jack Kerouac, James Baldwin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Pryor, Tori Amos, and "The Wire", are all potent reminders that our art is the enduring and essential mirror we need to make sense and meaning in the world. The Art of Social Critique, is both inspiring and entertaining. Read and weep, read and laugh, read and be provoked.
William Cleveland, author of Art and Upheaval and Between Grace and Fear: The Role of the Arts in a Time of Change

Shawn Bingham’s The Art of Social Critique: Painting Mirrors of Social Life is a tour de force of how artists of all kinds use their talents, skills, and visions to embrace, interpret, and change the world. This collection of essays proves without a doubt that artists play crucial roles in the politics of cultural values and norms, not just policy and protest. Thus, these articles go beyond the clichéd debate over whether artists should be political—their work is inevitably and inescapably political. Instead this book investigates the myriad ways in which artists are sociological in their representations of and conversations with the social world. From architecture to poetry, from stand-up comedy to rock music, Bingham’s anthology will give readers an array of tools for investigating how art and artists provide us with the most powerful interdisciplinary depictions of our life and times—something all students of the social world will want to know.
Corey Dolgon, Worcester State College