Reading Response Paper on the Ancient Civilization of Art History by J. Alden Mason

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Having read and annotated the following article, The Trouble with (the Term) Art, by Carolyn Dean it is safe to say that the main idea of this essay is to address how the term art is not being used when describing object that date back centuries. This mostly has to do with Europeans describing their art as art and non- western artifacts as “primitive” Everything being unearthed is not being considered “art”. They are using a term to exclude these unique art forms from the more typical art pieces hanging up in museums such as paintings, and portraits. The cultural artifacts are often times considered “primitive art”, this term is used frequently in Dean’s essay. They use the word primitive in front of the word art instead of just calling it, plain and simply what it is. Art! Deans article is essentially trying to reason with simply being art, not adding labels. Art can’t be defined by historians or art theorists.

The Trouble with (the term) Art has a lot of references to bring the authors opinions and thoughts to light. She uses sources for and against her claim. This strengthens her own reasoning and makes her audience more trustworthy of her ability, she does not come across as biased because of this. At the very end of the article, in small print, is a small portion of information about the writer. This could have you question her own biases. Dean is a professor at the University of California. As a professor, Dean teaches History of Art, as well as, Visual Culture. Though Dean is very knowledge on this topic her response and research could be biased because she knows this topic so well. She specializes in Incan visual arts. In this article the author often also includes resources that favor their artifacts being expressed as visual arts. Such as in her reflection of the Ancient Civilization of Art History article by J. Alden Mason. Mason assessed that “stone sculptures… [were missing] from Inca visual culture” (Ancient Civilizations, Mason).

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This article to myself was confusing. It did not get much better looking at it critically. It was difficult it tells at first what the article was about, what was being argued. I thought at first it was about how everything is just considered art, and some things are more cultural or religious pieces. It was not until the second paragraph on page 27 that it became clear that not everything has been considered art, even though it should because art cannot be defined or have a clear-cut standard. Dean gives a real-life experience, being an Art History professor, it is her job to tell identify to students “what is art”. She shows her lectures other figures and spiritual items, of which have not always been recognized as an artform. “the values of modern art have led to a more sympathetic and objective approach to exotic arts…” (Style, Shapiro). Having read the conclusion to this article it really wrapped up everything. I do thing this article was relevant to what we have been learning in class. I also feel like the resources used in this article are accurate and relevant.

Carolyn Dean states a claim that essentially is saying the terminology we use to describe art is wrong. All art is art, there doesn’t have to be non-western art vs western art. Dean appears to believe that this “naturalization of the culturally and historically bound concept of art through… modern art history’s notions” (Dean, 32) Dean aims for the discipline in naming something art or not to be diminished.

To conclude an analysis of Carolyn Dean’s the Trouble with (the term) Art must acknowledge that Dean went back and took reviews and recommendations from her audience. Not having been able to read or watch this article being presented at conference it cannot be said what the original essay was like or if the contributions and reviews changed the ideal of the core paper. This article effectively argues for the writer’s position on the topic. Dean could possibly me biases, but she does give the audience full discretion. There are aware that she is a professor on the topic. She may be biased, but she also has knowledge of the topic. She carefully found articles that would contribute to the discussion.


  1. Dean, Carolyn. “The Trouble with (The Term) Art.” Art Journal, vol. 65, no. 2, 2006, p. 24., doi:10.2307/20068464.
  2. J. Alden Mason, The Ancient Civilization of Peru (Baltimore and Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1957), 231.
  3. Meyer Shapiro, “Style”, in Preziosi, The Art of Art History, 147
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Reading Response Paper on the Ancient Civilization of Art History by J. Alden Mason. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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