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These short essay prompts reflect themes that are integral to the Civilization courses at BYU. Students are invited to synthesize knowledge from the classroom with their observations of original works of art in the MOA to develop an informed critical analysis.

What is Freedom?

The ability of the individual to make choices and affect change in their own life and in society has been both restricted and enriched by various political, economic, and cultural factors. Consider two artworks that showcase the themes of bondage and freedom, whether in artistic expression or thematic representation. Also consider how the artist or viewer might have perceived them in their original context, and how that context may have changed today.

What is Beauty?

Beauty has long been considered one of the foundational elements of art. However, standards of beauty have developed and changed over the course of history. While some artists have sought to capture beauty in ideal physical form, others have explored the beauty of the human experience. Yet many other artists have critiqued or questioned the superiority of beauty as the most important aspect of aesthetic value. Find two works of art that convey differing approaches to the concept of beauty. Compare and contrast these in terms of their historical, political, and social contexts.

What is Truth?

In Raphael’s School of Athens, the artist positions Plato and Aristotle, two fathers of Greek philosophy, as the central figures of separate but complementary schools of thought. Plato points upward, seeking truth in the ideal form that cannot exist in its perfected form within the confines of the fallen world. Aristotle points firmly forward, grounded in the empirical realities of the world around him. These two schools of thought have long informed the development of the fine arts. Select two works of art, one that features the Platonic and the other, Aristotelian ideological approaches to discovering truth. Consider how the artists’ political and social contexts may have influenced their approach.