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Artistic Hierarchies

An artistic hierarchy ranks works of art. Two kinds of artistic hierarchies: - those that rank particular works of art (e.g. painting X
is better than painting Y); - those that rank entire genres or art forms (e.g.
painting is better than poetry) To study genre fiction, we need to move beyond the tendency to argue that literary fiction is entirely better than genre fiction.


Leonardo da Vinci,ca. 1508

sculpture cannot capture the world like painting can do

painting give us pleasure through the eyes
while poetry is through the ear

to show how the world is really like (the point for da vinci)


The Baby Einstein Phenomenon

Individuals have a purported duty to “improve.” What does it mean to improve? Many assume that exposure to high art catalyzes this vague notion of improvement. The baby-educating industry exploits this assumption.


Study on baby media

The most important result was that children who viewed the DVD did not learn any more words from their monthlong exposure to it than did a control group. The highest level of learning occurred in a no-video condition in which parents tried to teach their children the same target words during everyday activities.”


Problems with these claims

1. The concept of “improving the individual’s mind” is arbitrary. 2. The mere act of reading a book comes with no guarantees. 3. Different people interact with different art forms in different
4. These claims imply that art is merely instrumental.
5. They shame the enjoyment of art for art’s sake.
6. They imply that an individual who lacks exposure to certain art
forms is somehow inadequate.
7. They shame the individual who cannot find meaningful life
lessons in certain works of art, e.g. Homer’s Odyssey.
8. Artistic hierarchies tend to target “new” inventions, notably
those associated with the working classes.


G enre fiction addressed newfound anxieties associated with rapid social changes, including:

the declining role of religion in everyday life
• the rise of cities
• new forms of labour and ways of life stemming from
the industrial revolution
• the breakdown of traditional gender roles • the discovery of new worlds and new cultures
• the rise of nationalism and a sense of “national
• the increasing belief in the role of scientific reasoning
• the suppression of beliefs in magic and the occult