Questioning Aesthetics [A]

Professor Julian J. Haladyn

For the last half of the Twentieth-century the term ‘aesthetics’ became a type of swearword within cultural theory. This stance is characterized in Hal Foster’s edited collection The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Post Modern Culture, in which the various authors argue for counter aesthetics through a variety of models. More recent scholarship, however, has shown an increasing interest in aesthetics both as an historical category and as a means of articulating new developments in contemporary culture through a re-articulation of this mode of visual inquiry. The most prominent example of this shift can be seen in the writings of Jacques Rancière, whose most recent book Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art continues to challenge the “bad reputation” of aesthetics – a description that opens his analysis in Aesthetics and Its Discontents – throughout late modernity. Such recent approaches, of which the texts included in the course are drawn from, attempt to locate the problems of the aesthetic within issues and discussions of contemporary artistic practices and discourses, particularly following feminist and postcolonial challenges to the predominant European model of aesthetics. This seminar will consider the history of aesthetics from Kant and Hegel up to Rancière, focusing on the question: what is the current understanding and relevance of aesthetics?

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