9619 - Chiaroscuro: the lights of theory - Călin Mihăilescu
This course will argue that the chiaroscuro is the locus of a creative thought whose light casts a large shadow. Combining critical theory, theories of vision and visuality, logic and sophistry, histories of painting, photography and film, this course will attempt to offer a broad reframing of contemporary theory.
As a pictorial technique the chiaroscurowas played with and perfected by Fra Angelico, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and others. By terminological extension, the chiaroscurois a technique of argumentation that stems out of the sophists’ efforts to avoid getting stuck in runaway trains of thought. As a crucial switch in thought, the chiaroscuro is the effect becoming cause, the category turning into an event, and the cauldron where this “alchemical” change takes place.
From Plato to Hubert Damisch and from Augustine to Jean-Luc Marion, the techniques and ideologies of clarity unabashedly dominated the history of Western thought, while ideas and idols – recognized and praised by the external or internal eye – have filled all theories of vision. Against the whims of “-isms,” chiaroscuro will be dealt with as more fundamental than the imp of the system.
Sessions (detailed bibliography to follow)
A – “More light!”
Plato, Augustine, Derrida on the verticality and ascent of light; Fioretos on grayness
B – “The origin is the goal of an obscure science.
(Critique of) myth in Plato, Kraus, Kafka, Benjamin, Borges, and Blumenberg
C – DogmAxioms
Chiaroscuro at the heart of logic: rash-mediated induction, lobby-enabled deduction & sheer abduction (Aristotle, Peirce, Wittgenstein, von Wright)
D – “What shadows do emerge when light is shed?”
Enlightenment and replacement (Kant, Adorno & Horkheimer, Foucault, Damisch, academic painting)
E – Chiaroscuro as a moment of transition. Lived experience in thought and imagination: Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Benjamin, Buber, Bataille,
F – Obscurity out of obscuring
Negative dialectics in Adorno and Blanchot, icon painting, Klee, Malevich, early photography
G – “My goal is to excuse my means”
Chiaroscuro, idols and cynicism with Machiavelli, Fr. Bacon, Marx, Schmitt, Sloterdijk, Marion
H – “Why the saints’ auras cast no shadows?”
Sacred art as a critique of the shadows (Benjamin, Stoichita, Baxandall, Gombrich, Hitchcock’s North by Northwest)
I – Mapping out the fields of war
Heraclitus, Sun Tzu, Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, Tarantino’s Kill Bill
J – Field agents and fields of visibility
Critique of intelligence and espionage in Derrida’s secrets and John LeCarré’s Smileys
K – The systematic steps of the esprit d’escalier
The usual clients: Aquinas, Descartes, Hegel
L – “Human nature is animal culture”
Onto-biology and the chiaroscuro (Nietzsche, Deleuze, Agamben)
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