11. Justificatory arguments in writing on art

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In The Uses of Argument (1958) Toulmin illustrated the concepts of field-invariant/dependent argumentation citing, among others, the discourse of art criticism, without specifying in detail how this instantiates the model there presented. This chapter tests the model’s applicability to aesthetic discourse by examining a small historical corpus of exhibition reviews. The analysis shows that, as prescribed by the model, claims are there supported by arguments whose relevance is underwritten by warrants, though mostly these are tacitly invoked. It further reveals synchronic and diachronic variation in the kind of warrant invoked, in apparent correspondence to a historical shift in the kind of statement prevalently used to make aesthetic claims.


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