A number of the assignments make reference to the “seminar themes.” These themes are the questions and ideas present across the whole range of art and literature that we will be covering. They include, but are not limited to, the themes listed below:

What makes New York City unique? New York City has gone through many transformations which have been reflected in art.

New York City characters and lifestyles: Many works of art devote themselves to exploring the one or more of the many cultural types that inhabit New York City. An important subgroup of New York City characters are artists themselves.

What is art and what is its purpose? We will be studying works of art that have been created for a variety of reasons. Some express the feeling of the artist, some make critical comments on politics and culture, some aim to please an audience, and some exist only for their own sake. It prompts one to ask if there is any way of defining art that adequately describes everything that we call art.

Social Justice: A vast disparity between the wealthy and the poor has existed for much of the history of the city. This disparity has been the theme of many artistic works.

Immigration: Many of the artistic works we will be studying deal with the situation of nineteenth and twentieth century immigrant groups.

Morals and norms: Many works of art comment on moral codes connected to sexuality, gender roles, business and personal ethics through description, transgression, or both.

Meaningfulness: Most works of art explicitly or implicitly make some statement about what is meaningful in life—what things give life a sense of purpose—even if that statement is sometimes that there is no purpose.