A new speculative ontology of aesthetics
In Aesthesis and Perceptronium, Alexander Wilson presents a theory of materialist and posthumanist aesthetics founded on an original speculative ontology that addresses the interconnections of experience, cognition, organism, and matter. Entering the active fields of contemporary thought known as the new materialisms and realisms, Wilson argues for a rigorous redefining of the criteria that allow us to discriminate between those materials and objects where aesthesis (perception, cognition) takes place and those where it doesn’t.
Aesthesis and Perceptronium negotiates between indiscriminately pluralist views that attribute mentation to all things and eliminative views that deny the existence of mentation even in humans. By recasting aesthetic questions within the framework of “epistemaesthetics,” which considers cognition and aesthetics as belonging to a single category that can neither be fully disentangled nor fully reduced to either of its terms, Wilson forges a theory of nonhuman experience that avoids this untenable dilemma.
Through a novel consideration of the evolutionary origins of cognition and its extension in technological developments, the investigation culminates in a rigorous reevaluation of the status of matter, information, computation, causality, and time in terms of their logical and causal engagement with the activities of human and nonhuman agents.
During the past twenty years, the world’s most renowned critical theorist—the scholar who defined the field of postcolonial studies—has experienced a radical reorientation in her thinking. Finding the neat polarities of tradition and modernity, colonial and postcolonial, no longer sufficient for interpreting the globalized present, she turns elsewhere to make her central argument: that aesthetic education is the last available instrument for implementing global justice and democracy.Spivak’s unwillingness to sacrifice the ethical in the name of the aesthetic, or to sacrifice the aesthetic in grappling with the political, makes her task formidable. As she wrestles with these fraught relationships, she rewrites Friedrich Schiller’s concept of play as double bind, reading Gregory Bateson with Gramsci as she negotiates Immanuel Kant, while in dialogue with her teacher Paul de Man. Among the concerns Spivak addresses is this: Are we ready to forfeit the wealth of the world’s languages in the name of global communication? “Even a good globalization (the failed dream of socialism) requires the uniformity which the diversity of mother-tongues must challenge,” Spivak writes. “The tower of Babel is our refuge.”In essays on theory, translation, Marxism, gender, and world literature, and on writers such as Assia Djebar, J. M. Coetzee, and Rabindranath Tagore, Spivak argues for the social urgency of the humanities and renews the case for literary studies, imprisoned in the corporate university. “Perhaps,” she writes, “the literary can still do something.”
For most of the twentieth century, the writings of aestheticians of the French Enlightenment were neglected by philosophers and students of the fine arts. Coleman has applied philosophical analysis to the writings of Diderot, Montesquieu, Dubos, Batteux, André, and Crousaz, among others, to reflect on the fine arts of the first two-thirds of the eighteenth century.
Aesthetics and Technology in Building: The Twenty-First-Century Edition introduces Nervi's ideas about architecture and engineering to a new generation of students and admirers. More than 200 photographs, details, drawings, and plans show how Nervi put his ideas into practice. Expanding on the seminal 1961 Norton Lectures at Harvard, Nervi analyzes various functional and construction problems. He also explains how precast and cast-in-place concrete can answer demands for economy, technical and functional soundness, and aesthetic perfection. Throughout, he uses his major projects to show how these now-iconic buildings emerged from structural truths and far-sighted construction processes.
This new edition features dozens of added images, a new introduction, and essays by Joseph Abram, Roberto Einaudi, Alberto Bologna, Gabriele Neri, and Hans-Christian Schink on Nervi's life, work, and legacy.
Architecture is often thought to be a diary of a society, filled with symbolic representations of specific cultural moments. However, as Craig L. Wilkins observes, that diary includes far too few narratives of the diverse cultures in U.S. society. Wilkins states that the discipline of architecture has a resistance to African Americans at every level, from the startlingly small number of architecture students to the paltry number of registered architects in the United States today.
Working to understand how ideologies are formed, transmitted, and embedded in the built environment, Wilkins deconstructs how the marginalization of African Americans is authorized within the field of architecture. He then outlines how activist forms of expression shape and sustain communities, fashioning an architectural theory around the site of environmental conflict constructed by hip-hop culture.
Wilkins places his concerns in a historical context, and also offers practical solutions to address them. In doing so, he reveals new possibilities for an architecture that acknowledges its current shortcomings and replies to the needs of multicultural constituencies.
Craig L. Wilkins, a registered architect, teaches architecture and urban planning at the University of Michigan.
Spanning the period from the late 1930s to World War II, this historical novel dramatizes antifascist resistance and the rise and fall of proletarian political parties in Europe. Living in Berlin in 1937, the unnamed narrator and his peers—sixteen- and seventeen-year-old working-class students—seek ways to express their hatred for the Nazi regime. They meet in museums and galleries, and in their discussions they explore the affinity between political resistance and art, the connection at the heart of Weiss’s novel. Weiss suggests that meaning lies in embracing resistance, no matter how intense the oppression, and that we must look to art for new models of political action and social understanding. The novel includes extended meditations on paintings, sculpture, and literature. Moving from the Berlin underground to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War and on to other parts of Europe, the story teems with characters, almost all of whom are based on historical figures. The Aesthetics of Resistance is one of the truly great works of postwar German literature and an essential resource for understanding twentieth-century German history.
In The Aesthetics of Service in Early Modern England, Elizabeth Rivlin explores the ways in which servant-master relationships reshaped literature. The early modern servant is enjoined to obey his or her master out of dutiful love, but the servant's duty actually amounts to standing in for the master, a move that opens the possibility of becoming master. Rivlin shows that service is fundamentally a representational practice, in which the servant who acts for a master merges with the servant who acts as a master.
Rivlin argues that in the early modern period, servants found new positions as subjects and authors found new forms of literature. Representations of servants and masters became a site of contact between pressing material concerns and evolving aesthetic ones. Offering readings of dramas by Shakespeare, Jonson, and Thomas Dekker and prose fictions by Thomas Deloney and Thomas Nashe, Rivlin suggests that these authors discovered their own exciting and unstable projects in the servants they created.
How aesthetic religious experiences can create solidarity in marginalized communities
Latine Catholics have used Our Lady of Guadalupe as a symbol in democratic campaigns ranging from the Chicano movement and United Farm Workers’ movements to contemporary calls for just immigration reform. In diverse ways, these groups have used Guadalupe’s symbol and narrative to critique society’s basic structures—including law, policy, and institutions—while seeking to inspire broader participation and representation among marginalized peoples in US democracy.
Yet, from the outside, Guadalupe’s symbol is illegible within a liberal political framework that seeks to protect society’s basic structures from religious encroachment by relegating religious speech, practices, and symbols to the background.
The Aesthetics of Solidarity argues for the capacity of Our Lady of Guadalupe—and similar religious symbols—to make democratic claims. Author Nichole M. Flores exposes the limitations of political liberalism’s aesthetic responses to religious difference, turning instead to Latine theological aesthetics and Catholic social thought to build a framework for interpreting religious symbols in our contemporary pluralistic and participatory democratic life. By offering a lived theology of Chicanx Catholics in Denver, Colorado, and their use of Guadalupe in the pursuit of justice in response to their neighborhood’s gentrification, this book provides an important framework for a community of interpretation where members stand in solidarity to respond to justice claims made from diverse religious and cultural communities.
The well-known Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco discloses for the first time to English-speaking readers the unsuspected richness, breadth, complexity, and originality of the aesthetic theories advanced by the influential medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas, heretofore known principally as a scholastic theologian. Inheriting his basic ideas and conceptions of art and beauty from the classical world, Aquinas transformed or modified these ideas in the light of Christian theology and of developments in metaphysics and optics during the thirteenth century.Setting the stage with an account of the vivid aesthetic and artistic sensibility that flourished in medieval times, Eco examines Aquinas's conception of transcendental beauty, his theory of aesthetic perception or visio, and his account of the three conditions of beauty--integrity, proportion, and clarity--that, centuries later, emerged again in the writings of the young James Joyce. He examines the concrete application of these theories in Aquinas's reflections on God, mankind, music, poetry, and scripture. He discusses Aquinas's views on art and compares his poetics with Dante's. In a final chapter added to the second Italian edition, Eco examines how Aquinas's aesthetics came to be absorbed and superseded in late medieval times and draws instructive parallels between Thomistic methodology and contemporary structuralism. As the only book-length treatment of Aquinas's aesthetics available in English, this volume should interest philosophers, medievalists, historians, critics, and anyone involved in poetics, aesthetics, or the history of ideas.
After Testimony: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Holocaust Narrative for the Future collects sixteen essays written with the awareness that we are on the verge of a historical shift in our relation to the Third Reich’s programmatic genocide. Soon there will be no living survivors of the Holocaust, and therefore people not directly connected to the event must assume the full responsibility for representing it. The contributors believe that this shift has broad consequences for narratives of the Holocaust. By virtue of being “after” the accounts of survivors, storytellers must find their own ways of coming to terms with the historical reality that those testimonies have tried to communicate. The ethical and aesthetic dimensions of these stories will be especially crucial to their effectiveness. Guided by these principles and employing the tools of contemporary narrative theory, the contributors analyze a wide range of Holocaust narratives—fictional and nonfictional, literary and filmic—for the dual purpose of offering fresh insights and identifying issues and strategies likely to be significant in the future. In addition to the editors, the contributors are Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Anniken Greve, Jeremy Hawthorn, Marianne Hirsch, Irene Kacandes, Phillipe Mesnard, J. Hillis Miller, Michael Rothberg, Beatrice Sandberg, Anette H. Storeide, Anne Thelle, and Janet Walker.
Reconsiders exceptionalism between aesthetics and politics
Here, Arne De Boever proposes the notion of aesthetic exceptionalism to describe the widespread belief that art and artists are exceptional. Against Aesthetic Exceptionalism challenges that belief by focusing on the sovereign artist as genius, as well as the original artwork as the foundation of the art market. Engaging with sculpture, conceptual artwork, and painting by emerging and established artists, De Boever proposes a worldly, democratic notion of unexceptional art as an antidote to the problems of aesthetic exceptionalism.
Forerunners: Ideas First
Short books of thought-in-process scholarship, where intense analysis, questioning, and speculation take the lead
One of the country's most enduringly successful composers, Aaron Copland created a distinctively American style and aesthetic in works for a diversity of genres and mediums, including ballet, opera, and film. Also active as a critic, mentor, advocate, and concert organizer, he played a decisive role in the growth of serious music in the Americas in the twentieth century.
In The American Stravinsky, Gayle Murchison closely analyzes selected works to discern the specific compositional techniques Copland used, and to understand the degree to which they derived from European models, particularly the influence of Igor Stravinsky. Murchison examines how Copland both Americanized these models and made them his own, thereby finding his own compositional voice. Murchison also discusses Copland's aesthetics of music and his ideas about its purpose and social function.
Our image of the Roman world is shaped by the writings of Roman statesmen and upper class intellectuals. Yet most of the material evidence we have from Roman times—art, architecture, and household artifacts from Pompeii and elsewhere—belonged to, and was made for, artisans, merchants, and professionals. Roman culture as we have seen it with our own eyes, Emanuel Mayer boldly argues, turns out to be distinctly middle class and requires a radically new framework of analysis.Starting in the first century bce, ancient communities, largely shaped by farmers living within city walls, were transformed into vibrant urban centers where wealth could be quickly acquired through commercial success. From 100 bce to 250 ce, the archaeological record details the growth of a cosmopolitan empire and a prosperous new class rising along with it. Not as keen as statesmen and intellectuals to show off their status and refinement, members of this new middle class found novel ways to create pleasure and meaning. In the décor of their houses and tombs, Mayer finds evidence that middle-class Romans took pride in their work and commemorated familial love and affection in ways that departed from the tastes and practices of social elites.
Vittorio Gregotti—the architect of Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium, Milan’s Arcimboldi Opera Theater, and Lisbon’s Centro Cultural de Belém, among many other noted constructions—is not only a designer of international repute but an acclaimed theorist and critic. Architecture, Means and Ends is his practical and imaginative reflection on the role of the technical aspects of architectural design, both as part of the larger process of innovation and in relation to the mythic opposition between vision and construction.
Interweaving the seemingly irreconcilable concerns of aesthetics, meaning, and construction, Architecture, Means and Ends reflects Gregotti’s overarching claim that buildings always have a symbolic, cultural content. In this book, he argues that by making symbolic expression a primary objective in the design of a project, the designer will produce a practical aesthetic as well as an ethical solution. Architecture, Means and Ends embraces that philosophy and will appeal to those, like Gregotti, working at the intersections of the history of design, art criticism, and architectural theory.
To illuminate Dorfman’s thematic concerns, McClennen chronicles the writer’s life, including his experiences working with Salvador Allende and his exile from Chile during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and she provides a careful account of his literary and cultural influences. Tracing his literary career chronologically, McClennen interprets Dorfman’s less-known texts alongside his most well-known works, which include How to Read Donald Duck, the pioneering critique of Western ideology and media culture co-authored with Armand Mattelart, and the award-winning play Death and the Maiden. In addition, McClennen provides two valuable appendices: a chronology documenting important dates and events in Dorfman’s life, and a full bibliography of his work in English and in Spanish.
Aristotle's much-translated On Poetics is the earliest and arguably the best treatment that we possess of tragedy as a literary form. Seth Benardete and Michael Davis have translated it anew with a view to rendering Aristotle’s text into English as precisely as possible. A literal translation has long been needed, for in order to excavate the argument of On Poetics one has to attend not simply to what is said on the surface but also to the various puzzles, questions, and peculiarities that emerge only on the level of how Aristotle says what he says and thereby leads one to revise and deepen one’s initial understanding of the intent of the argument. As On Poetics is about how tragedy ought to be composed, it should not be surprising that it turns out to be a rather artful piece of literature in its own right.
Benardete and Davis supplement their edition of On Poetics with extensive notes and appendices. They explain nuances of the original that elude translation, and they provide translations of passages found elsewhere in Aristotle’s works as well as in those of other ancient authors that prove useful in thinking through the argument of On Poetics both in terms of its treatment of tragedy and in terms of its broader concerns. By following the connections Aristotle plots between On Poetics and his other works, readers will be in a position to appreciate the centrality of this little book for his thought on the whole.
In an introduction that sketches the overall interpretation of On Poetics presented in his The Poetry of Philosophy (St. Augustine’s Press, 1999), Davis argues that, while On Poetics is certainly about tragedy, it has a further concern extending beyond poetry to the very structure of the human soul in its relation to what is, and that Aristotle reveals in the form of his argument the true character of human action.
Art and Answerability contains three of Mikhail Bakhtin's early essays from the years following the Russian Revolution, when Bakhtin and other intellectuals eagerly participated in the debates, lectures, demonstrations, and manifesto writing of the period. Because they predate works that have already been translated, these essays—"Art and Answerability," "Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity," and "The Problem of Content, Material, and Form in Verbal Art"—are essential to a comprehensive understanding of Bakhtin's later works. A superb introduction by Michael Holquist sets out the major themes and concerns of the three essays and identifies their place in the canon of Bakhtin's work and in intellectual history. The introduction, together with Vadim Liapunov's scholarly gloss, makes these essays accessible to students as well as scholars.
In this book Arnold Berleant develops a bold alternative to the eighteenth-century aesthetic of disinterestedness. Centering on the notion of participatory engagement in the appreciation of art, he explores its appearance in art and in aesthetic perception, especially during the past century. Aesthetic engagement becomes a key, both on historical and theoretical grounds, to making intelligible our experiences with both contemporary and classical arts. In place of the traditional aesthetic that enjoins the appreciator to adopt a contemplative attitude, distancing the art object in order to ensure its removal from practical uses, Art and Engagement examines the ways in which art entices us into intimate participation in its workings.
Beginning with the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the idea of engagement, Berleant focuses on how engagement works as a force in different arts. Successive chapters pursue its influence in landscape painting, architecture and environmental design, literature, music, dance, and film.
Art and Engagement argues forcefully for the originality and power of aesthetic perception. Demolishing the conceptual barriers erected by the Western world’s limiting tradition, the book discloses the condition of engagement that has always been present when our aesthetic encounters have been most effective and suggests a new direction for aesthetic inquiry.
Although it is widely acknowledged that St. Augustine was a consummate artist as well as a great philosopher, and that he was deeply concerned with art, beauty and human values, relatively little attention has been paid to his theory of aesthetics. Now a distinguished Augustine scholar turns to this important subject and offers a book that is at once engaging, comprehensive and complete.Father O'Connell begins with a paradox: how could so dedicated a literary artist propose, at times, a theory of art that amounts to the banishment of art? In attempting to answer this and other important questions, the author's purpose is not merely to recount but to retrieve St. Augustine's views. He suggests that Augustine's need to understand, and by understanding to exorcise, art's spell on him provides a key to all the philosophical and theological questions that absorbed him. Seen in this light, St. Augustine's aesthetic may lie at the very heart of his philosophy.
In the face of a great work of art, we so often stand mute, struck dumb. Is this a function—perhaps the first and foremost—of aesthetic experience? Or do we lack the words to say what we feel? Countering current assumptions that art is valued only according to taste or ideology, Peter de Bolla gives a voice—and vocabulary—to the wonder art can inspire. Working toward a better understanding of what it is to be profoundly moved by a work of art, he forces us to reconsider the importance of art works and the singular nature and value of our experience of them.In many ways a "practical aesthetics," Art Matters proceeds by way of example. Through chapters attending to three works of art—Barnett Newman's painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis, pianist Glenn Gould's second recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations, and William Wordsworth's poem "We Are Seven"—de Bolla plots a personal history of aesthetic experience that opens up the general forms of art appreciation. His book invites us to a closer encounter with art, and to a deeper appreciation and clearer expression of what such an encounter might hold.
Maria Cristina Fava explores the rich creative milieu shaped by artists dedicated to using music and theater to advance the promotion, circulation, and acceptance of leftist ideas in 1930s New York City. Despite tensions between aesthetic and pragmatic goals, the people and groups produced works at the center of the decade’s sociopolitical and cultural life. Fava looks at the Composers’ Collective of New York and its work on proletarian music and workers’ songs before turning to the blend of experimentation and vernacular idioms that shaped the political use of music within the American Worker’s Theater Movement. Fava then reveals how composers and theater practitioners from these two groups achieved prominence within endeavors promoted by the Works Project Administration.
Fava’s history teases out fascinating details from performances and offstage activity attached to works by composers such as Marc Blitzstein, Charles Seeger, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Elie Siegmeister, and Harold Rome. Endeavors encouraged avant-garde experimentation while nurturing innovations friendly to modernist approaches and an interest in non-western music. Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock offered a memorable example that found popular success, but while the piece achieved its goals, it became so wrapped up in myths surrounding workers’ theater that critics overlooked Blitzstein’s musical ingenuity.
Provocative and original, Art Music Activism considers how innovative classical composers of the 1930s balanced creative aims with experimentation, accessible content, and a sociopolitical message to create socially meaningful works.
The Art of Being is a powerful account of how the literary form of the novel reorients philosophy toward the meaning of existence. Yi-Ping Ong shows that for Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Beauvoir, the form of the novel in its classic phase yields the conditions for reconceptualizing the nature of self-knowledge, freedom, and the world. Their discovery gives rise to a radically new poetics of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century realist novel.For the existentialists, a paradox lies at the heart of the novel. As a work of art, the novel exists as a given totality. At the same time, the capacity of the novel to compel belief in the free and independent existence of its characters depends on the absence of any perspective from which their lives may be viewed as a consummated whole. At stake in the poetics of the novel are the conditions under which knowledge of existence is possible. Ong’s reframing of foundational debates in novel theory takes us beyond old dichotomies of mind and world, interiority and totality, and form and mimesis. It illuminates existential dimensions of novelistic realism overlooked by empirical and sociological approaches.Bringing together philosophy, novel theory, and intellectual history with groundbreaking readings of Tolstoy, Eliot, Austen, James, Flaubert, and Zola, The Art of Being reveals how the novel engages in its very form with philosophically rich notions of self-knowledge, freedom, authority, world, and the unfinished character of human life.
People all over the world make art and take pleasure in it, and they have done so for millennia. But acknowledging that art is a universal part of human experience leads us to some big questions: Why does it exist? Why do we enjoy it? And how do the world’s different art traditions relate to art and to each other?
Art Without Borders is an extraordinary exploration of those questions, a profound and personal meditation on the human hunger for art and a dazzling synthesis of the whole range of inquiry into its significance. Esteemed thinker Ben-Ami Scharfstein’s encyclopedic erudition is here brought to bear on the full breadth of the world of art. He draws on neuroscience and psychology to understand the way we both perceive and conceive of art, including its resistance to verbal exposition. Through examples of work by Indian, Chinese, European, African, and Australianartists, Art Without Borders probes the distinction between accepting a tradition and defying it through innovation, which leads to a consideration of the notion of artistic genius. Continuing in this comparative vein, Scharfstein examines the mutual influence of European and non-European artists. Then, through a comprehensive evaluation of the world’s major art cultures, he shows how all of these individual traditions are gradually, but haltingly, conjoining into a single current of universal art. Finally, he concludes by looking at the ways empathy and intuition can allow members of one culture to appreciate the art of another.
Lucid, learned, and incomparably rich in thought and detail, Art Without Borders is a monumental accomplishment, on par with the artistic achievements Scharfstein writes about so lovingly in its pages.
Artificial Mythologies was first published in 1997. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Cultural critics teach us that myths are artificial. Cultural innovators use the artificial to make something new. In this exhilarating guide, Craig J. Saper takes us on an eye-opening tour of the process of cultural invention-willfully entertaining foolish, absurd, even fake, solutions as a way of reaching new perspectives on cultural problems. Saper deploys this method to reveal unsuspected connections among major cultural issues, such as urban decay, the dangers of television's power, family values, and conservative criticism of higher education.
The model Saper uses builds on the later works of the revered French cultural critic Roland Barthes. These works, Saper argues, suggest poignant, playful, and productive ways of engaging dominant methodologies and mythologies. Artificial Mythologies shows us how, by allowing the artificial-our received ideas, common responses, and cultural mythologies-full play, we can arrive at provocative new solutions. The book demonstrates that the very conceptions of media and sociocultural issues that stymie innovation can be made to serve the cause of invention.
Craig J. Saper is assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
“How almost true they sometimes almost ring!” Samuel Beckett’s character rues his words. “How wanting in inanity!” A person could almost understand them! Why taunt and flout us, as Beckett’s writing does? Why discourage us from seeing, as Mark Rothko’s paintings often can? Why immobilize and daze us, as Alain Resnais’s films sometimes will? Why, Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit ask, would three acknowledged masters of their media make work deliberately opaque and inhospitable to an audience? This book shows us how such crippling moves may signal a profoundly original—and profoundly anti-modernist—renunciation of art’s authority.Our culture, while paying little attention to art, puts great faith in its edifying and enlightening value. Yet Beckett’s threadbare plays Company and Worstward Ho, so insistent on their poverty of meaning; Rothko’s nearly monochromatic paintings in the Houston Chapel; Resnais’s intensely self-contained, self-referential films Night and Fog and Muriel all seem to say, “I have little to show you, little to tell you, nothing to teach you.” Bersani and Dutoit consider these works as acts of resistance; by inhibiting our movement toward them, they purposely frustrate our faith in art as a way of appropriating and ultimately mastering reality.As this book demonstrates, these artists train us in new modes of mobility, which differ from the moves of an appropriating consciousness. As a form of cultural resistance, a rejection of a view of reality—both objects and human subjects—as simply there for the taking, this training may even give birth to a new kind of political power, one paradoxically consistent with the renunciation of authority. In its movement among these three artists, Arts of Impoverishment traces a new form of movement within art.
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