How to Write in Response to Other Art Forms

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  • 0:02 Writing in Response to…
  • 0:36 Qualities of a Good Response
  • 2:46 Approaches
  • 4:54 Examples of Responses
  • 7:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jacob Erickson

Jacob has his master's in English and has taught multiple levels of literature and composition, including junior high, college, and graduate students.

In this lesson, we'll look at the similarities and differences between writing about literature and writing about other art forms. We'll consider some of the qualities of good responses and some approaches to take when writing a response.

Writing in Response to Other Art Forms

You probably have some experience writing about novels or poems. But what all do you have to say about a photograph or a sculpture or a film? The good news is that while there are some differences between writing about literature and writing about some other forms of art, for the most part, the central components of these types of responses are the same.

In this lesson, we'll outline the qualities of a good response, consider some approaches to writing responses to other art forms, and give some examples of art that you can use these approaches to write about.

Qualities of a Good Response

So, getting started writing a response to a form of art other than literature might be a bit intimidating; with that said, it's really helpful to begin by considering how much responses to other art forms have in common with literary responses. Just like writing about literature:

1. Good responses provide specific, clear details.

Whenever writing about a work of art, it's critical that the details you provide in your response be as descriptive as possible. While it's important to cover the basic facts of the sculpture or film or play, such as where it takes place, it's also important to provide specific details.

If, for example, you're writing about a sculpture of a woman that seems sad, you need to tell the reader why. You need to show the reader that she seems sad because of the angle of her head or because of her posture or because of the look in her eyes.

2. Good responses prove the author has thought about the piece.

Keep in mind that one of the main things most teachers are looking for is that you understand and have reflected on what you're responding to. So while it's important to address the who, what, when, where, and why in your response, it's critical that you show that you've developed your own opinion, as well - which brings us to the next quality of good responses.

3. Good responses include descriptive explanations of the reasons behind your opinion.

One of the most common problems that students encounter when writing responses is offering vague, simple statements, such as 'I liked it,' or 'It was interesting;' yes, your teacher or the reader wants to know about your experience of it, but when responding to any art form, you shouldn't just tell us your opinion; you should tell us why you have that opinion.

One of the best ways to do this is to really think about your thesis. A thesis is the main argument or position that you take in a paper or essay. Now, there are different types of response papers, and not all require you to make a formal argument. But even if a formal thesis isn't required, thinking about your main position or positions regarding a piece of art is always a good idea when writing.


Now that we've seen some qualities of good responses, let's consider some approaches to starting your writing. One good place to begin is by asking yourself some relevant questions. Often, asking some pretty obvious questions is really helpful.

For example:

1. What is in the piece?

As we spoke before about being descriptive, it's important that you make sure to describe what the piece actually consists of. Look closely at what's in a work and really notice its details - this is critical. This might seem obvious, but it's easy and dangerous to overlook simple facts about a work.

2. What is the context of the piece?

In addition to stating what's in a work, consider the events that were taking place when the work was created, which we call the context of a piece of art. What was going on can really help you cover a lot of ground when writing about a work. Knowing, for example, if a piece is made during a time of war or if the author had just lost a loved one can really help you understand what it might mean.

Another question to ask yourself that might seem odd but can be very helpful is:

3. What is 'not' in the work of art?

This might seem like a strange question, but thinking about the things that might be missing from a piece of art other than literature can offer great insight into its meaning. This is really important in visual art, where a lot of power can be found in what is left out of an image or a film or a painting.

When you're watching a play, for example, 'Who or what is not on stage?' can be just as important of a question as 'Who or what is?'.


4. Begin prewriting

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