• Unit 8: Other Worlds – Mortality, the Spirit, and Fantasy

    Humans use art to capture ideas about worlds outside our own. Art can be a vehicle for myth, which uses narrative to convey truths about human nature. Art also expresses hard-to-articulate aspects of spiritual worlds, which are products of religious practices. Cultures use iconography to symbolize abstract ideas, such as dreams, love, power, and emotion, and societies call on the artist to create them. Art also plays a significant role in rituals and ceremonies. In this unit, we explore how artists materialize human thought, belief, and imagination through art.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

    • 8.1: Myths

      We derive myth from the Greek word mythos, which means story. Most cultures preserve collections of stories to preserve their most ancient historical backdrop. We sometimes call them folk tales or heroic epics. These stories help us define our cultural identity on a grand scale across space and time, such as by tying people to territories and relating current events to the old creation myths. We retell myths, legends, stories, and songs to highlight the more durable features of human character and general patterns of life that recur across the generations.

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    • 8.2: Dreams

      The influence of dreams in art is significant. Dreams provide creative subject matter for visual artists and play an additional role in art through ceremony and ritual. For example, William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream continues to be a popular play from Elizabethan literature.

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    • 8.3: Spirituality

      We often make general distinctions between the major, organized religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – which we associate with global identities and hierarchical social institutions, and the myriad rituals and ceremonies which are unique to smaller, diverse tribes or groups which trace their beliefs and practices back for millennia. Whether they are religious or spiritual in character, artworks that express this facet of human existence invoke questions about human nature and the nature of the cosmos.

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    • Unit 8 Assessment

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