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ARTH 804 - Writings on Art: Readings in Continental Aesthetics

  • J - 13:00-16:00
  • EV 3.760

Writing about art often assumes familiarity with a broad range of philosophers, but art history students have comparatively few opportunities to encounter such texts first hand. This reading-based course will explore a broad spectrum of writings by major figures in continental aesthetics, from Kant to Rancière. The aim is to develop a familiarity with philosophers who have been particularly influential on understandings of art and experience. Following the lead of Clive Cazeaux in the Continental Aesthetics Reader, the class engages less with questions about the nature of art and beauty than with issues about the relations between ‘subjective experience and the condition of belonging to the world’ (Cazeaux, xvi). Student presentations will contribute to the development of an introductory context for each reading. 

By participating in this course, you will have the opportunity to:

- Gain a broad-ranging frame of reference for the philosophical underpinnings of art writing.
- Encounter philosophical texts first-hand, rather than through secondary explanations.
- Develop techniques of close reading.
- Gain experience positioning your own voice in relation to theory.

Please note that the language of instruction for this seminar is English but that students are welcome to contribute to discussion in either language. 


CAZEAUX, Clive. The Continental Aesthetics Reader. 2nd edition. New York: Routledge 2011.

The Continental Aesthetic Reader is an anthology of philosophical texts. Because the class centres on close reading and discussion of the texts, all participants are asked to use this book as a common point of reference for page numbers, but all the texts are also available in French to supplement the textbook.

The specific selections of texts will be made collectively on the first day of class.  Examples of readings that have been chosen in previous years include:

ADORNO, Theodor. Extracts from Minima Moralia : Reflections from Damaged Life. 1951.

BADIOU, Alain. “Art and Philosophy.” Handbook of Inaesthetics. 1998.

DELEUZE, Gilles and GUATTARI, Felix. “Percept, Affect and Concept.’ What is Philosophy? 1991.

DERRIDA, Jacques. “The Parergon.” The Truth in Painting. 1978.

FREUD, Sigmund. “The Unconscious.” 1915.

GADAMER, Hans-George. “Aesthetics and Hermeneutics.” Philosophical Hermeneutics. 1964.

HEGEL, G.W.F. Extracts from Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art. 1835.

HEIDEGGER, Martin. The Origin of the Work of Art. 1950.

IRIGARAY, Luce. “Cosi fan tutti.” This Sex Which is Not One. 1977.

KANT, Immanuel.  Extracts from “Analytic of Aesthetic Judgment’ and ‘Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgement’, Critique of Judgment. 1790.

LACAN, Jacques. ‘Of the Gaze as Objet Petit a’. Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. 1973.

MARX, Karl. “Private Property and Communism.” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts 1844.

MERLEAU-PONTY, Maurice. “The Intertwining -- The Chiasm.” The Visible and the Invisible. 1964.

NIETZSCHE, Friedrich. On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense. 1873.

RANCIÈRE, Jacques. “Aesthetics as Politics.” Aesthetics and its Discontents. 2004.

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