CRARTS 1001 - What Is This Thing Called Art?

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2023

Can a toilet be considered a work of art? Who decides what art is? According to many scholars, when Marcel Duchamp exhibited a urinal he purchased from a plumbing warehouse under the title 'Fountain' in a New York art exhibition in 1917, he created one of the most iconic works of art of the twentieth century. Duchamp's action challenged received notions of art, such that now, according to Theodor Adorno, it is 'taken for granted that nothing which concerns art can be taken for granted any more: neither art itself, nor art in relationship to the whole, not even the right of art to exist'. In this course we will examine art as just such a contested category, and consider some of the ways in which the arts have been understood across human history. The course encompasses all forms of art, from the literary and visual to the performing and decorative, and will be organised thematically around a series of questions and topics. We will discuss some definitions of art and we will examine the relationship of art to ideology, the economy and the state, to gender and social class, and we will discuss some of the debates about the social functions of art and the notion of taste. Above all, the course will encourage students to think critically about the very notion of art and to begin to question their own practice as makers of art in contemporary culture.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code CRARTS 1001
    Course What Is This Thing Called Art?
    Coordinating Unit School of Humanities
    Term Semester 2
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Assessment Participation 10%, Textual analysis 20%, Annotated bibliography 30%, Research essay on an Artwork 40%
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Maggie Tonkin

    Dr Brydie Kosmina will step in as Course Convenor in the first few weeks of the course while Dr Tonkin is on sickleave.
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1. Discuss some of the different ways that the arts have been understood across human cultures.
    2. Demonstrate understanding and be able to discuss some of the debates about how art has been defined and categorized, and about the relationship of art to power, ideology, the economy, race, gender and social class.
    3. Locate and access primary and secondary sources relevant to the course.
    4. Read and interpret criticism and apply it within academic arguments.
    5. Write logical and coherent arguments based on evidence, and engage in critical debate.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.


    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.


    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.


    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.


    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Learning materials will be provided online via MyUni.
    Online Learning
    All lectures will be recorded and available via MyUni. Assessement details, announcements and email communications will all be available through MyUni.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The weekly lecture will introduce students to how art has functioned historically in Aboriginal Australia and the Ancient world, as well as to debates about whether art can be defined and the functions art has in contemporary society. Lectures will cover such topics  as art and ideology, art and money, art and gender, art and representation, and so forth. 
    Seminars will be devoted to discussion of course concepts and set readings, small and large group work, as well as student presentations.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    1 x 1 hour lecture 12  per semester 12 hours per semseter
    1 x 2hour seminar  12 per semester 24 hours per semester
    6 hours reading per week 12 weeks per semseter 72 hours per semseter
    2 hours research per week 12 week per semseter 24 hours per semseter
    2 hours assignment preparation per week 12 weeks per semseter 24 hours per semester
    TOTAL 156 hours per semester
    Learning Activities Summary
    The weekly lecture will introduce students to course concepts and give historical overviews of the evolution of thinking about art across various cultures and periods, and will introduce some of the key debates about how art has been defined historically. 
    The weekly seminars will be devoted to the exploration of ideas introduced in lectures, and discussion of the set readings, as well as some didactic teaching that will scaffold academic skills such as searhing for secondary sources, texctual analysis and essay writing. Student will also present their own research on representation in art. 
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Modified arrangements have been made to assessments and the details provided here reflect recent updates.
    Assessment Task Weighting
    Presentation (online or in class) 10%
    Textual analysis 20%
    Annotated bibliography 30%
    Research Essay 40%
    Assessment Detail
    Assessment tasks are scaffolded to develop key academic skills for first year students.

    Textual Analysis ( 20%) Students will write a 1,000 word anaylsis of an scholarly article on Aboriginal art, in which they will be ask to consider differing European and First Nations conceptions of art. This is both summative and formative, in that it will develop key skills of texctual anaylsis and develop critical thinking skills about art that will underpin later assessment tasks.

    Annotated Bibliogaphy (30%) Students will write a 1,000 word Annotated Bibliography, for which they will find 4 scholarly articles on the topic of their Reserach Essay. they are required to reda and critically evalute these articles, and write a 250 word summary of each, plus a bibliographic citation according to either Harvard or MLA referencing styles. Formative and summative.

    Research Essay (40%) Students will write a 1,5000 word essay on ONE of 4 questions about the definitiona nd/or function of art, drawing on the scholarly articles they have identified in their Annotated Bibliography. Summative. 

    Class Presentation (10%) Students will work in pairs to present a 10 minute presentation to the class, with an accompanying powerpoint, on a topic of their choice relating to representation in the arts or a community arts project. Summative.
    All work will be submitted via MyUni, and be evaulated using Turnitin and the AI tool to detect issues of academic integrity.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.