Fall 2023 - SA 317 D100

Sociology of Art Forms (S) (4)

Class Number: 2829

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Oct 6, 2023: Tue, Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

    Oct 11 – Dec 5, 2023: Tue, Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



This course may focus variously on one or all of the following: the social origins and functions of art, sociological theories of aesthetics, and contemporary issues in art, such as the fate of art in modern society, popular culture, mass media, ideology in art. Students with credit for SA 416 are not eligible to take this course for further credit.


Everywhere and throughout all of history humans have expressed themselves in art forms. Is artistic expression, therefore, intrinsic to human nature?  Is art necessary? Is there a single abstract significance to all art forms? The consideration of these questions is the principal task of this course. We shall pursue it mainly through an examination of the aesthetic theories of Hegel -- and, secondarily, through those of Marx and others. 

Within the framework of these theories, we shall examine several other questions, which may include the origin and development of art, other theories of art, the fate of art in modern society, the meaning of postmodernism, the feminist critique, and so on. These questions will be considered throughout the course, but especially in the last third in a review of the development of modern art, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.

The course has three parts. The first part is the study of the aesthetic theory of Hegel; because much of modern and post-modern analysis of art begins with or rests on Hegel, at least implicitly, this emphasis is easily justified. An introduction to Hegel on art is the first aim of the course.

After Hegel, the work of Marx and Marxists on aesthetics has been singularly important in the history of art, either as a ‘debate with Marx’s ghost’ or as the eminence grise behind many theories and art criticism. The understanding of how Marx’s approach further developed the appreciation of art is our second objective. Here we will continue to uncover analytical tools for grasping the social basis and significance of art.

In the last section, we will employ the analytical concepts developed in the first two parts to examine elements of the development of modern art and, as time permits, certain contemporary/postmodern themes and issues.


This course will provide the student with:

  1. A brief introduction to the philosophy of Hegel on the arts; although widely ignored in mainstream philosophy and the social sciences, his arguments will go far to stimulate and challenge your mind,
  2. A brief introduction to Marx’s arguments about art,
  3. A brief survey of the main ‘schools’ and movements in modern art, and a short discussion of post-modern art.
  4. In general, a theoretical appreciation of art that should mean for you a greater enjoyment of art and perhaps even an inspiration for your own artistic aspirations.



  • Analysis of a work of art (10-12 pages) 40%
  • Answers to questions on the text by Hegel 10%
  • A formal essay examining a selected problem in art, of interest to the student (About 15-20 pages) 50%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T20.01), and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10‐S10.05). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style. It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.

The Sociology and Anthropology Student Union, SASU, is a governing body of students who are engaged with the department and want to build the SA community. Get involved!  Follow Facebook and Instagram pages or visit our website.



(These two books and one book chapter are out of print and so will be made available via scanned copies. Or found on Canvas for SA317)  

  1. H. Paolucci (ed. & trans.) Hegel: On the Arts
  2. W. T. Stace, The Philosophy of Hegel, (pages 439-483)
  3. A. S. Vazquez, Art and Society


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.