Modernity and the work of art – Elias Polizoes
In the Critique of Judgment, Immanuel Kant argues that when we deal with “a product of fine art we must become conscious that it is art rather than nature, and yet the purposive-ness in its form must seem as free from all constraint of chosen rules as if it were a product of mere nature.” Were “academic form” to be thematized, and in that way brought out into the open, so the argument runs, the artwork would be exposed as “mechanical” (and, as such, become an example of non-art). Kant concludes: “there must be no hint that the rule was hovering before the artist’s eyes and putting fetters on his mental powers.”1 Writing in 1863, Charles Baudelaire argues in “The Painter of Modern Life” that the structural (and structurating) parallel that Kant draws between the purposiveness of Nature and that of fine art would seem only to account for that “half of art” held to be “eternal and immuta-ble.” Such a position, argues Baudelaire, has little or nothing to say about “modernity,” that other “half of art” made up of the “ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent.”2 Beginning with a consideration of the trajectory that leads from Kant to Baudelaire, this course will explore the manifold ways according to which such movements as Symbolism, Decadence, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, and Expressionism, have construed the work art from a for-mal perspective, and by doing so constituted it as a mechanism adequate to the vicissitudes of modernity.
Figures to be studied may include: Stéphane Mallarmé, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Paul Valéry, Tristan Tzara, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, André Breton, Mina Loy, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, August Strindberg, Luigi Pirandello, and Franz Kafka. From the critical / theo-retical side of things, in addition to texts by Kant, Schiller, etc., course readings may include some of the following: T. W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (selections), Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility,” Peter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, Matei Calinescu, Five Faces of Modernity, Astradur Eysteinsson, The Concept of Modernism, Martin Hei-degger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Georg Lukács, “The Ideology of Modernism,” and Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity.
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