9 May 2022

Grace as an Aesthetic Concept

Following Ephesians 2:8, grace is, for Christians, a free gift of salvation bestowed on humankind by God regardless of human merit. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” As the means by which humans participate in God’s plan for humanity, grace is a central theological concept in all forms of Christianity. 

In the history of Western aesthetics, the term "grace" is also of considerable importance. Generically it indicates beauty in movement and expresses the lightness, spontaneity, and naturalness of this movement together with the charm it exerts. By the 18th century, parallel to the birth of modern aesthetics, the achievement of grace in art was routinely considered art’s highest ideal, the “je ne sais quoi” - the inexplicable something extra - that guarantees artistic success. 

At first glance, these two meanings for this one term seem very far from one another. One attempts to account for the quality of God’s interaction with humanity, while the other seeks to describe the surface effects of expressly material goods. It is thus not surprising that these two understandings of grace are rarely thought to intersect, a state of affairs compounded by the fact that the academic study of grace has traditionally only taken place in discrete fields of research. Because of doctrinal differences in the theology of grace, the teaching of grace in Christian seminaries is often part of systematics. Among  historiographers of the arts, the historical concept of grace is often reduced to a matter of style. 

By contrast, this interdisciplinary seminar style course will exam the concept of grace within its theological, philosophical, literary, and art theoretical contexts in an effort to more fully understand its historical significance, the points of intersection between its contemporary uses,  and its potential usefulness for the philosophy and theology of art today. We will look at a variety of texts (e.g. from Plato, Cicero, Augustine, John Calvin, Alexander Pope, Friedrich Schiller, Martin Heidegger, Karl Rahner) as well as works of art and literature for which grace is an important and defining aesthetic concept.

Dr. Rebekah Smick
ICS 120103 / 220103 F22
ICH3758HS / ICH6758HS L0101*
Remote (Online Synchronous)
Thursdays, 10:00am - 1:00pm ET

(MWS, MA, PhD)

Enrolment Notes:
To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register September 16, 2022. Maximum enrolment of nine (9) students. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations.

*Attention TST students: you have to contact the ICS Registrar to complete your registration.