The Beauty of the Art of the Genius Next Door: Original Arts Research in the College Classroom

Dr. Dan Vaillancourt
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In my undergraduate, aesthetics philosophy course for non-majors, I partner with the 40 students to research, write, and publish in a scholarly venue a 3,000 word article on beauty in the works of an undiscovered artist the students select. I describe the process in four parts. First, I argue that all human beings engage in beauty activities daily, and many people become extraordinarily skilled in these beauty or artistic activities. I call them geniuses next door. Second, I describe how the 40 students in my aesthetics class select one genius next door and then divide the dozen or so initial research and writing tasks: interview of the genius, interview transcription, art works digitalized and burned on a CD, haiku to open the article, poem to conclude the article, history of the genre (like pop art) in which the genius creates, article introduction, biography of the genius, and six or more philosophical analyses of art pieces. The student writings, particularly the rewrites later in the course, stay organized via weekly postings on a class website. At the conclusion of the course, I devote about one month of full time work to expand the research and to rewrite the article so that it meets professional publishing standards. Third, I show a painting of a genius next door, present the beauty of the work as formulated by my students, and supply a web link to the complete articles in The Genius Next Door Beauty Series, Volume I. Fourth, I explain how all proceeds from the sale of the genius articles go to charitable causes. Student research and writing on beauty ultimately change our world.

Keywords: Beauty, Genius Next Door, Aesthetics, Philosophy, Undergraduate Teaching, Engagement Teaching, Writing and Research in the Classroom, Genius Next Door Beauty Series, Writing That Changes the World
Stream: Arts Education
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Dan Vaillancourt

Professor, Philosophy Department, Loyola University Chicago

Dr. Vaillancourt has served as chairman of humanities and graduate school dean, but he considers aesthetics his expertise and passion. He completed formal training in the field by majoring at the undergraduate level in philosophy and French literature and by specializing at the doctoral level in phenomenology and existentialism, with extensive study in the intersection of philosophy and literature. He won a French government scholarship, Fulbright grant, two Lilly grants, post-doctoral NEH grant, another NEH grant to serve as a Project Director, Title III grant, and 11 teacher of the year awards/commendations. He has created and taught six undergraduate and graduate courses in aesthetics, ranging from Philosophical Themes in Nobel Prize literature to Philosophy and Theatre, and, of course, Aesthetics. His publications include two books, dozens of articles, and three translations. He also edited a national magazine, Life Beat, for four years. Currently, he is writing for his website ( and completing two books, a philosophical novel (Aania) and Genius Next Door Beauty Series. He dances and plays the tenor recorder. Like Dostoevsky, he believes beauty changes the world.

Ref: A06P0136