After a weekend of independent activities, spanning visiting Paris to participating in London Pride day to shopping in Oxford to working on class (the last was me), we all came back to class this morning. Well, two of the students got stuck in Paris. Poor them, right?
Our chapter theme was C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein and the quadrant of the city was just east of us up St. Clemens Road to Headington. C. S. Lewis is buried in Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry and I had visited the site early last week on my own. It is a quiet place and quite moving.
This chapter told the story of the Headington Shark, a full size model of a shark which sticks out of a house in Headington. When first “installed” there was a huge uproar but over time the ruckus died down and now there is a movement to save the shark. The fascinating question that did capture the students attention was whether this was art and if yes, did that give it a sacred status of some sort? That is, versus an eyesore that we would argue should be pulled down for the good of the community and property values. From there our conversations ranged afield:
- What is the difference between art and propaganda?
- Can anything be art?
- How do we judge the quality of historical accounts, past and present?
- How have corporations taken over so many aspects of our culture in places and activities that eveything has a logo promoting that company?
- What is the difference between overbearing corporate sponsorship and philanthropy?
- What do we need to be able to make clear judgements as to the quality of the information given us by the media, scholars, anyone?
I may have been alone in advocating for some notion of truth or standard for truth claims–and claims about art and beauty. Somebody has to be the rationalist in the group. Despite the delightfully lively discussion, I fear we may not have made any progress. I think that may be a theme for tomorrow: when has a discussion brought about more clarify, changed minds, or simply seemed productive in the end? How can we construct those? Clearly this issue is not one simply for our SJC class but is sorely needed at every level of community and organization.