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Esoteric subjects?


Legenda
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Hello everyone, 

I'm new but have been lurking around this wonderful forum for a while and learning a grand deal.

I'm a new MA Art History student but hoping to continue to a PhD one day....I always end up choosing subjects for research that leave me struggling but fascinated.

My current edivsor thinks I can research any topic I want- but I would like to get a larger perspective of opinions. I'm very concerned about my future and that I'm making a mistake.

My question is twofold:

1. Is choosing an esoteric subject for my thesis a good idea? For example, writing about an unknown artist or subject no one cares about. 

Would that have a bad impact when I try and get into a good graduate program?

2. I studied/am interested in Western esotericism and would love to continue researching art with that in mind.

Is that something you think is possible to do? Do you know Art Historians who do that? Good graduate programs?

 

Anything at all related to my questions could prove helpful.

Thank you! 

L

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1.  Writing about an unknown artist or subject no one cares about is fine as long as you can articulate why people in your field and the discipline at large should care about your artist/subject. Whatever you write about, you have to a clear sense of the stakes: what is the historical and theoretical importance? Now, you can go out and chase trendy topics and that might give you a slight advantage but I do believe you'll have an easier time answering those questions and your work will be more meaningful if you're actually passionate about your subject. 

2. I guess it depends what specifically you want to study. It would be tricky to write about the entire esoteric tradition. You'll have to pick a time period: antique, medieval, early modern, modern. After that, you might look for someone with an interest in the history of science, but certainly you don't need to study with someone who works on the same thing as you. You may want to look at schools with strong history of science programs 

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Writing about an unknown artist or subject no one cares about is fine as long as you can articulate why people in your field and the discipline at large should care about your artist/subject. Whatever you write about, you have to a clear sense of the stakes: what is the historical and theoretical importance? Now, you can go out and chase trendy topics and that might give you a slight advantage but I do believe you'll have an easier time answering those questions and your work will be more meaningful if you're actually passionate about your subject.

Thank you Bronte1985.

1. Good advice about choosing what I'm passionate about. Luckily, I find many things interesting and if my topic is not just "untrendy" but will hinder getting in a good graduate program.I can do something about it. People seem to run away the second western estoresicm is mentioned? 

And of course, although the artists or topics I'm interested in are not well known or researched  they are simply case studies that relate to the enlightenment. 

2. My specialty is early modern art in Britain-France and  philosophy during the enlightenment :) . I know that is still very wide..

Do good universities care if the topics at hand are trendy? Don't trends change?

 

 

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5 hours ago, Legenda said:

 

 

Thank you Bronte1985.

1. Good advice about choosing what I'm passionate about. Luckily, I find many things interesting and if my topic is not just "untrendy" but will hinder getting in a good graduate program.I can do something about it. People seem to run away the second western estoresicm is mentioned? 

And of course, although the artists or topics I'm interested in are not well known or researched  they are simply case studies that relate to the enlightenment. 

2. My specialty is early modern art in Britain-France and  philosophy during the enlightenment :) . I know that is still very wide..

Do good universities care if the topics at hand are trendy? Don't trends change?

Then it sounds like you're in a good position. There are plenty of scholars who are interested in the Enlightenment, so what I would do, if I were you, is frame your project in terms of the Enlightenment, or rather in terms of the question you want to ask. Why have the artists and objects you study been largely overlooked? How does your project reshape our understanding of the Enlightenment and its relationship to art? Your project is not, or shouldn't be, so much esotericism for its own sake as what you want to do with it.

As for the problem with "esotericism," why not simply deemphasize  the word? Focus on what you're interested specifically, whether that be alchemy, astrology, hermeticism, mesmerism, palm reading... People you're speaking with might be blanching because esotericism suggests a unified tradition or field--who knows? 

Some people care if topics are trendy, some don't. And certainly trends change. I would worry about it. Worry about how you can articulate why your topic is relevant to scholarly discussions happening today and why it matters.

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