Aesthetics as Critique

Aesthetics as Critique: From the Critique of Aesthetics to a Decolonial Perspective

This course departs from a broad conception of aesthetics as the realm in which, through our senses, perceptions and desires, sense is (re)framed, (re)distributed, and either made intelligible or rendered imperceptible (invisible, inaudible, untouchable). That is, aesthetics is understood as always already political and, if taken up critically, as a political task. The seminar will begin by focusing on some of the philosophical foundations of aesthetics at the end of 18th century in Germany and the important turn, at the beginning of the 19th century, from aesthetics to philosophy of art. Special attention will be paid to F. Schiller as a thinker who, starting from Kant’s critique of aesthetics, will move towards a conception of aesthetics as critique. As we will see, such a conception will prove influential for G.W.F. Hegel’s approach to the philosophical and historical role of art, as well as for later aesthetical-political approaches to critique (and the critical potential of art) such as those of the Frankfurt School in the first half of 20th century. Examining some of these more contemporary approaches (with particular attention to W. Benjamin and H. Marcuse), we will then turn to their interpellations, critiques and creative appropriations by Latin American and Caribbean thinkers, in order to explore the possible (dis)connections between aesthetics understood as a historical-political critical task and a decolonial perspective. The reading list for this section will include readings by Eduard Glissant, Sylvia Wynter, Nelly Richard and Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, accompanied by concrete examples of Latin American artistic and cultural interventions.

Please see below the key readings for this seminar. Additional readings will be announced here on the “announcements” page and will be made available to participants via GoogleDrive.

Main readings:

Kant, I. Critique of the Power of Judgment, tr. Paul Guyer (Cambridge : Cambridge U.P, 2000).

Schiller, F. “Kallias or Concerning Beauty : Letters to Körner”, in Classic and Romantics German Aesthetics, ed. Jay M. Bernstein (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2003) : 145-184 and “Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Humankind,” in Essays, ed. Walter Hinderer and Daniel Dahlstrom (New York : Continuum, 2001) : 86-178.

Hegel, G.W.F., Lectures on Fine Art, tr. T.M. Knox (Oxford : Claredon Press, 1925), Introduction.

Benjamin, W. “Critique of Violence” (SW1, 236-252) and “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproductibility” (Third Version) (SW 4, 251-270).

Marcuse, H. “The Aesthetic Dimension” in Eros and Civilization : a Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston : Beacon Press, 1955) : 172-196.

Glissant, E. Poetics of Relation (Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1997) and Caribbean Discourse : Selected Essays (Charlottesville : University of Virginia Press, 1999) (selection).

Wynter, S. “Rethinking ‘Aesthetics’ : Notes towards a Deciphering Practice,” in Ex-hiles : Essays on Caribbean Cinema (Trenton : Africa World Press, 1992), 237-280.

Richard, N. “Ruptures, Memory and Discontinuities” in The Insubordination of Signs : Political Change, Cultural Transformation, and Poetics of the Crisis, Duke University Press, 2004, 1-21.

Rivera Cusicanqui, S. “Palabras mágicas : reflexiones sobre la crisis presente” y “Oralidad, mirada y memoria del cuerpo en los Andes”, Un mundo ch’ixi es posible (Buenos Aires : Tinta limón, 2018) 93-134. (No translation available, we’ll read in English “Sociology of the Image : A View from Colonial Andean History” in Ch’ixinakax utxiwa : On Decolonising Practices and Discourses, tr. Molly Geidel (Cambridge : Polity, 2020) : 12-45.

For any questions, please contact:

Professor María del Rosario Acosta López

María del Rosario Acosta López is Full Professor at the Department of Hispanic Studies in UC Riverside since 2019. She obtained her PhD in Philosophy in the National University in Colombia and was Associate Professor of Philosophy at Los Andes University in Bogota before moving to the United States as Associate Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University. She conducts research on Aesthetics, Critical Theory, Political Philosophy, and more recently on Decolonial studies, with emphasis on questions of memory and trauma in the Americas. Acosta also conducts workshops on liberatory memory, is involved with historical memory issues in transitional justice contexts, and has worked with survivors of political violence, in Colombia with communities surviving paramilitary violence, and more recently in Chicago with police torture survivors. Her most recent publications are devoted to F. Schiller’s aesthetics, aesthetics of resistance in Latin American art, decolonial perspectives on memory and history, and epistemic injustice and epistemic violence. She is currently working on the final revisions of her next book, Gramáticas de lo inaudito : pensar la memoria después del trauma (Herder, 2022), and on the final editions of two forthcoming books, one in Spanish on community in Hegel, Nancy, Esposito and Agamben (Narrativas de la comunidad : de Hegel a los pensadores impolíticos), and one in English, The Unstoppable Murmur of Being-Together, co-authored with Jean-Luc Nancy and the Group on Law and Violence. A book on Schiller’s aesthetical-political project, provisionally titled Aesthetics as Critique, is also in preparation.

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