Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities Responsible consumption and production

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course the student: moving from a critical review of classical and contemporary studies, is provided with a set of tools (concepts, models, theories and paradigms) useful for thinking sociologically the arts (visual, musical, performative ones); knows and is able to discuss art production and consumption, the social phenomenology of taste, art classifications, art evaluation, artistic movements, and the relationships between arts and social movements.

Course contents

Why a "sociology" of art (indeed, of the arts) and what can sociology do to art and with art? Is there a need for sociology to know and understand art? And which art or, rather, which arts? What relationships with other knowledge on art can sociology maintain in order not to lose its own identity? These are the questions the course will try to answer by proposing a path made of stories, concepts and images through a review of sociological approaches to studying the fine, popular, and folk arts. Integrating scholarly literature, theoretical models, and empirical studies, the course will cover a broad range of essential topics- enabling a deeper understanding of the field as a whole. Throughout the lessons, numerous case studies from a wide range of artistic expressions and genres illustrate key concepts encouraging students to discuss concretely abstract theoretical issues central to the relationship between art and society.
Exploring how art is created, evaluated, distributed, received, and consumed, the course features both classic work (e.g. Marx, Weber, Simmel, Adorno, Warburg, Kracauer, Gombrich, Hauser etc.) and new (e.g. Becker, Bourdieu, Dimaggio, Elias, Williams, Hall etc.) approaches in the sociology of the arts - including popular music, film, drama, romance novels, visual arts, and classical music. The course offers arguments for addressing with a sociological imagination the meaning of artistic objects and consider why interpretations of art vary intersecting with race, gender, sexuality, and class. The course ends with a symmetrical question: not only what sociology can do to and with art, but what art can do to and with sociology.


V. Alexander, Sociology of the Arts: Exploring Fine and Popular Forms, Oxford, Blackwell, 2020 (2nd ed.)

S. Thornton, Seven days in the art world, New York, Norton 2008.

Teaching methods

Lectures with moments of seminar discussion on topics of the course starting from the reading of selected texts

Assessment methods

Oral exam (usually 3 questions on topics of the course and in any case on the texts in the program)

Teaching tools

Texts in pdf format uploaded on the online platform of the course; teaching support videos; course slides (available at the end of the lessons)

Office hours

See the website of Marco Santoro