Department of Politics
John Holzwarth's current research focuses upon historical approaches to the relationship between cultural attachments and the arts, as a way to help assess current funding trends within the National Endowment for the Arts. By looking at aesthetic theories of Enlightenment-era thinkers such as Goethe, Kant and Herder, he explores conflicting notions about the purposes of art. Some thinkers have stressed the idea that art serves to support broader cultures and reinforce their foundations; others have stressed more transcendent purposes, which aim to elevate individuals out of their immediate surroundings and lead them to question the foundation of their societies. These arguments have taken on new policy significance in recent years, as the NEA has shifted its funding toward folk art and the preservation of cultural heritage. Holzwarth's project aims to bring historical perspective to this and related policy issues. It is also a piece of a larger project in which he undertakes an aesthetic defense of a conception of cultural pluralism.