What Is Beauty?

The Task: To write a discursive essay that attempts to answer the question “What is beauty?”

What you need to know: You are free to define beauty in any way you wish. It can be physical beauty, or (please pardon the phrase) “inner beauty”. You can talk about people, or you can talk about objects or places or maths calculations or nature. In short, you have a completely free and open choice for the subject matter you choose.

What you need to do: No matter what you choose to write about, you must use and acknowledge appropriate source material. No sources, no marks… Simples!

What you need to think about: There are several obvious sources where you will find information about what “beauty” is. I’d start with Wikipedia and any other easily accessible sources such as dictionaries or encyclopaedias. Start by finding out what others have called beautiful. You may agree with their definitions, or you may disagree… But be prepared to support or argue your own point-of-view either way.

What you can do to develop your ideas: You are encouraged to think beyond the obvious. If you decide to look at people who are considered “beautiful”, have you considered how much our perceptions can be and are manipulated by someone using Photoshop? If you choose to talk about art that is “beautiful” have you considered the cultural background and baggage that we bring to how we look at something beautiful?

Consider how much of what we consider beautiful is because of peer pressure, or accepted points-of-view… be strong, and consider that if we all had exactly the same opinions, then we would all be trying to go out with the same person.

Consider the lists you created in class. When you wrote down the names of 5 people and 5 places that you considered “beautiful” and the same again for people and places you considered “ugly”, you were basing you decisions on a set of criteria that you had chosen. How well can you explain or defend these decisions?

Finally: Is there any value in considering the impact the “beauty” has on the person experiencing or enjoying it. Is it a truly personal response according to a set of rules that cannot be shared… or are there some truly beautiful people or objects or places that we can all agree on? And the obvious extension of this is can we ever separate the physical from the essence of that we call beautiful โ€” how do we reconcile a physically beautiful person with an ugly personality?

Starting Points

To get you started, here are the slides I used in class, and also some links to the YouTube video(s) I referred to. Please use the comments to ask questions and to get some discussion going. This is an interesting topic, and you do all have something to contribute… So get busy!

My Slides

Dove Evolution

Related Video(s)

DUE DATE: You are expected to hand in a redrafted essay on Monday 24th October. You are welcome and encouraged to submit early drafts during the October break using http://Dropitto.me/nwinton (I’ll remind you of the password if you ask me!). And as a last point to consider: you are welcome to include photographs and/or drawings in your submitted essay… In fact, given the nature of the task, I think you have no choice but to do so… in this case, DO NOT FORGET TO GIVE THE SOURCE OF ANY IMAGES YOU USE!


3 thoughts on “What Is Beauty?

  1. I LOVE this question!!!

    Permission to write about Springsteen? ๐Ÿ˜‰ (In 800 words or less, of course).

    Also, I know I am still to hand in my essay on Corporal/The Iolaire, is that the only current essay which you are wanting in other than this new one?


  2. LOL! I can hardly say no can I… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Yep, Iolaire/Corporal are the only ones you have outstanding. This essay is due after the break, though you can submit works in progress using the usual means until then.

    Other thing you need to do is get Little Brother read as we will be hitting it big time after the break. That means we should have a good combination of Brautigan, Crichton Smith and Doctorow ready in plenty of time for the prelim in Feb. Next comes a concerted focus on Close Reading. If you’re lucky, we might let you get some sleep fitted in there somewhere!

  3. Just wrote a comment which deleted between typing and posting! So flaming annoying!

    I of course will be writing about Springsteen’s “inner beauty” etc! Just to clarify! Haha.

    Cool, thanks. I will get those essays into you over the October break.

    Really enjoying Little Brother, and am close to finishing it. I actually picked up Sunset Song the other day, reading the notes which I wrote brought back a few memories from last year. How time flies…

    P.S – thoughts on the iPhone 4S? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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