Are Art Criticism, Art Theory, Art Instruction, and the Novel Global Phenomena?

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James Elkins


As visual art becomes more international, ways of writing about art become more uniform. This essay proposes that two disciplines concerned with contemporary visual art, art criticism and art theory, are on the verge of being effectively homogeneous around the world. They share concepts, artists, artworks, institutions, and bibliographic references. For comparison, I consider two other fields that may also be increasingly uniform: studio art instruction and the novel. The last, in particular, is the subject of a large literature; critics and historians debate whether contemporary global novels are becoming more self-similar if not more predictable. The literature on the novel allows me to conclude that it is likely writing on art is following the same tendency.

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How to Cite
Elkins, J. (2018). Are Art Criticism, Art Theory, Art Instruction, and the Novel Global Phenomena?. Journal of World Philosophies, 3(1), 79–92. Retrieved from
Author Biography

James Elkins

James Elkins’s writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes). He is completing a manuscript on world art history, some of which is on his website