Post your essay. Get expert feedback. For free.We're trying to help students improve their writing the hard way. Do you know students who want critical essay reviews from a professor of English Literature? Click like to share. Click here to sign up and post your own essay. We offer no paid services. All reviews are completely free.
GRE Issue: That Art Must Be Understandable To Most People - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt: “In order for any work of art—for example, a film, a novel, a poem, or a song—to have merit, it must be understandable to most people. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.”
Is it true that understandability is a necessary condition of the merit of an art work? To answer that, the presumptive question is what merits an art work can have. Leo Tolstoy introduced some good ideas about the goals of the art: it is not only for obtaining pleasure, instead it should be seen as a necessary condition to stay alive. People rely on it to contact each other and explain feelings. To contact each other, the art work must be understandable. Yet to explain feelings or stay alive, no clear clue points to the request that this piece of art must be digestible on each dining table. His idea clearly highlights that besides interpersonal contact, the art can also have a wider range of merits which do not live upon the public comprehension.
Consider the case when the art carries the idea of an innovation; art work now has the merit of creativity, improving the whole society’s spiritual world with richer content. In order to be innovative, one has to be sometimes out of the "thinking pace" of the contemporary world; more precisely they are faster than the rest. When they decide to use a new way to express the world, thereby challenging the existing well-recognized art work, it is well-expected that most people would find it weird or hard to understand. It is un-acceptable because of the habit or the traditional thinking, but not because the art itself has any bad or good character associated. Thinking about Van Gogh, nowadays people appreciate him as being extremely talented post-impressionist artist, everyone remembers his sunflowers. But back to his era, few people except for his little brother Theo understand his work. Could anyone claim his art is meritless? Absolutely no one could. In fact, understandable or not, in this case, can never demean the merit of the innovation: simply because some day, someone who finally invents another way of expression of human-being and the art itself demarcate the era.
Not only the merit of the innovation could challenge the necessary of the understandability for measuring the merit of an art work, have you ever thought, an art could be designed for not to be understood? Such an art work could still have the merit of inspiration: Surrealist artists spend all their life to try to make an art work bridging the abstract spiritual realities and the real forms of the material world. The objects in their world are, rather than concrete, but intangible metaphors. They strive to create the anatomy of the psyche. If one does not share the same philosophy, does not believe in the psyche, this art is not designed for them to understand simply because they do not have the same ground to stand and think. And more than often, this type of art will only attract few audience who really embrace the idea and hence the profoundness hidden in the art fruit. Less resonance from the audience, however, could not diminish the merits of all the crafts, sculpting, and drawings. The merits lie in the inspiration of thinking in all possible spaces, not only the concrete, visible ones, but also the numerous invisible dimensions.
All the above examples illustrate the possibility that without universal understandability an artwork could still be a shinning treasury deserved a careful respect and preservation. The merits attached with any artwork, in fact, should not be confined by the visible concrete concepts, but appreciated and cherished based on a broader definition of art work. Only by then, the art will serve a better role of freeing the minds and leave us a world full of potential.
This essay is, to me, obviously thoughtful, but since you need to demonstrate more than your intelligence in the essay, you will need to work on improving the intelligibility of your writing (the conclusion to each of the final three paragraphs, for example, and especially your second paragraph, is vague) and on demonstrating more openly the structure of your argument.
Given the specific instructions included with this prompt (“consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true”), I think you are being invited to imagine the possibility that the answer will depend on the purpose of the artwork itself. You have obviously imagined that possibility, but you don’t specifically claim that the answer depends on the purpose. Instead you claim that the answer depends on “what merits an artwork can have” and the fact that the answer to _that_ question depends on the purpose or “goals” of the work is communicated only indirectly in the from of your Tolstoy example. Generally, then, you appear to be arguing that work can have merit independent of its understandability, but a good deal of your essay is concerned with the task of showing that art can be considered to have different kinds of “merit” even if it’s inaccessible, whereas the matter of first interest to your reader (your GRE reader) will be the logical structure of your argument (and perhaps the matter of second interest will be an argument about the value of accessibility itself). You need something as banal as:
“The merit of a work of art depends on its purpose. If the purpose is to educate, then it will only have merit if it is understandable. If its purpose is to allow the artist to explore the boundaries of human expression, or if its purpose is to affect, rather than educate its audience, then etc.”
In short, at present, you are showing off your knowledge of art more than your skill in developing an argument. I’m more interested in your knowledge of art, so I like your essay, but your GRE reader may not be.
You might also consider the role of critics, teachers, other artists, in working out the “meaning” or significance of a work of art. The question, in other words, is complicated not just by considerations of “purpose” but also consideration of whether art can legitimately depend on critical discourse to communicate its meaning or importance. Or, again, one might consider whether art should speak to its immediate audience (those now living) or to all people of all time; if it tries to do the latter, its immediate intelligibility might be threatened.