Zones of Contention

Essays on Art, Institutions, Gender, and Anxiety

By Carol Becker

Subjects: Cultural Critique
Series: SUNY series, INTERRUPTIONS: Border Testimony(ies) and Critical Discourse/s
Paperback : 9780791429389, 268 pages, July 1996
Hardcover : 9780791429372, 268 pages, July 1996

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Table of contents




1. Art Thrust into the Public Sphere

2. When Cultures Come into Contention

3. Social Responsibility and the Place of the Artist in Society

4. Herbert Marcuse and the Subversive Potential of Art


5. The Education of Young Artists and the Issue of Audience

6. Private Fantasies Shape Public Events and Public Events Invade and Shape Our Dreams

7. Reimagining Art Schools


8. Imaginative Geography

9. Goat Island's We Got a Date

10. From Tantrums to Prayer

11. Drawing from the Subtle Body

12. Lineaments of Desire

13. The Prodigal Daughter


14. Women, Anxiety, Creativity

15. Male Anxiety and the Fear of Female Authority

16. Men in Suits

17. The Institution as Dysfunctional Family

Notes on Chapters


Addresses the questions: What might be the role of the artist in the 21st century? How essential is art to the psychic and political well-being of American society?


This collection of essays by cultural critic Carol Becker plumbs particular areas of controversy to understand what information these "zones of contention" might yield about the multifarious culture wars taking place within American society today.

In the process she addresses the place of art and artists in society, the difficulties facing women in the workplace, why male bonding exists, why women experience anxiety in relationship to creative endeavors, and why artists are misunderstood within American society. She positions art and artists, as well as institutional dynamics within a philosophical framework.

Carol Becker is a cultural critic, Professor of Liberal Arts and Dean of Faculty at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of The Invisible Drama: Women and the Anxiety of Change and editor of The Subversive Imagination: Artists, Society, and Social Responsibility.


"Becker's analysis ranges across a broad spectrum of interests and concerns in the field of art. Larger issues, such as the role of art in society, are analyzed with the same focus and attention to the specific as are essays on individual artists and/or works of art. This book addresses perhaps the single most important area of concern in the arts at the present time. It is a really brilliant book, tremendously helpful and stimulating. " -- Marcia Tucker, Director, The New Museum of Contemporary Art

"The richness of Becker's experience and her journey as a thinker and educator provide inspiration to those wanting a better world and caution as to how to get there. Becker's history of study, position in the art and academic structures, and seasoning as a writer give her a unique voice that is vital and informative. " -- Arlene Raven, author of Art in the Public Interest

"What is so remarkable about Carol Becker's book is that it imaginatively rewrites the role of the artist as a public intellectual. For Becker, understanding the complexity of the art process and its relationship with multiple publics is a pedagogical process that deepens our understanding of how industries are formed, artwork produced, and responsibilities engaged so as to enable the possibilities of democratic public life. " -- from the Foreword by series editor, Henry A. Giroux