Dr. Larry Shiner

Larry ShinerDr. Larry Shiner
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, History, Visual Arts

Email:   shiner.larry@uis.edu
Phone: (217) 206-7194
Office: VPA 143

Teaching Concentration: philosophy of art, the Enlightenment, Greek philosophy, and philosophy of history

Research Interests: later French philosophy, especially the work of Paul Ricoeur and Michel Foucault

Dr. Shiner has taught philosophy and cultural history at UIS since 1971.

View Dr Shiner’s resume


Publications and Research

The Invention of Art: A Cultural History
ISBN: 0226753433
Format: Paperback, 362 pp
Pub. Date: April 2003
Publisher: University of Chicago Press

From The Critics:
“University of Illinois philosophy professor Shiner (The Secret Mirror, etc.) spent over a decade honing what he calls a “brief history of the idea of art.” This carefully prepared and given the extent and complexity of what he is discussing admirably concise, well-organized book is the result. Looking forward as much as backward, Shiner finds that “the category of fine art is a recent historical construction that could disappear in its turn.”

He plausibly traces the 18th-century division between “so-called polite and vulgar arts” from a time when music, for example, was played at home or for “religious and civic occasions” to when it started to be played in concerts with no other goal than artistic enjoyment in and of itself: “On this high cultural ground, noble and bourgeois could meet as a fine art public, rejecting both the frivolous diversions of the rich and highborn as well as the vulgar amusements of the populace.”

It was the beginning of art as we experience it today. Shiner cites examples from a wide range of forms, including Shakespeare’s plays, Greek drama, Cellini’s sculptures and Michelangelo’s paintings. He also discusses Asian art, pointing out how “the Japanese language had no collective noun for `art’ in our sense until the nineteenth century” and establishes that the phrase “Chinese art” is also a relatively recent invention, since before the 19th century no one in China “grouped painting, sculpture, ceramics, and calligraphy together as objects” with something determinate in common.

Essentially optimistic in tone, this book argues that people who complain about the “death of art” are really just failing to measure “the staying power of the established art system.” A must for larger art collections, Shiner’s text is scholarly but accessible, and should appeal to readers with even a dabbler’s interest in art theory.” Publishers Weekly.


Secret Mirror: Literary Form and History in Tocqueville’s “Recollections”
ISBN: 0801421500
Format: Hardcover, 248 pp
Pub. Date: August 1988
Publisher: Cornell University Press

From the Publisher:
“Shiner examines the ‘Recollections’ as a test case of the relation between form and content in historical writing. Drawing on current literary theory and semiotics, Shiner offers a close reading which at once confirms the inevitably literary character of historical writing and demonstrates how historical analysis of Tocqueville’s writings deepens our understanding of his political thought.”


The Secularization of History: An Introduction to the Theology of Friedrich Gogarten
ISBN: n/a
Format: Hardcover, 236 pp
Pub. Date: 1966
Publisher: Abingdon Press

A penetrating analysis of the thought of Friedrich Gogarten that provides a sound basis for grasping the important facets of his theology, especially those that contribute to the current interest in secular theology. In his introduction, Dr. Shiner sets the stage by pointing to the relevance of Gogarten and showing some of the lines of influence he generated. He then presents the core of Gogarten’s thought, the secularizing and historicizing influence of the Christian faith.

This book provides important background for those attempting to understand secular theology and the “God is dead” movement by developing the relation of Gogarten’s thought to such popular American theological writers as Harvey Cox, William Hamilton, and Paul van Buren.

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—C. Herman Prichett, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Shiner compares Gogarten’s response to the problems of secularization with other basic responses in his conclusion. An appendix gives a survey of Gogarten’s writings prior to and including the World War II period. This book should be a great help to those English-speaking theologians desiring to know more about this influential German thinker.


Dr. Shiner has also published a number of articles in French philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of history, philosophy of art, such as “Primitive Fakes, Tourist Art, and the Ideology of Authenticity,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 52, 1994).