Geist is a German word, which translates as “spirit of the time.” It was introduced into discussions on art in the 19th century to define the environmental factors that contribute to art's production. If you were to create a work of literature, art, or music, then it would inevitably incorporate elements of life in Maryland, or the U.S., at the beginning of the 21st century. You might incorporate into your work allusions to popular culture, hip-hop, celebrities, videos, movies, or economic and political issues. As you grew up in America at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, everything you do will reflect the virtues, morals, and political values of your family, neighborhood, city, state, and nation, to varied degrees.

For the purpose of this course, we will simplify the Geist into two realms: the religious and the political. Religious Geist would translate as the religion in which the artist was raised and whose ideals his values reflect. By looking at a work of art, it is possible to define how the artist as well as his society felt about contemporary religion. Political Geist would translate as society's perception of its governmental structure, leaders, and socio-political direction.