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1997-1998 Seminar: The Aesthetic

How may the category of the aesthetic best be rethought in our contemporary moment? Under the pressure of intellectual and political movements that have revised hierarchies of value, that have challenged current disciplinary practices of knowledge production, or that have sought to historicize and contextualize all objects of study, the aesthetic as a category of analysis has become problematic at best, and at worst has been ignored or disdained. The CCACC therefore proposes in 1997-98 to focus on the history of the concept, to examine the function of the aesthetic in a wide variety of cultural and historical contexts, and to investigate the values and limitations of a cultural analysis of aesthetics.

What are the various ways the aesthetic has been constituted and understood --philosophically, historically, psychologically, culturally? In what ways have these various definitions (and others) been adequate or inadequate? How has the aesthetic been aligned with or distinguished from other categories of thought and analysis --the political, for example, or the economic? What is at stake in these various definitions of the field?

How has the function of the aesthetic changed over time? And what are its specifically current manifestations? How and in what ways does the aesthetic actually operate in its various cultural contexts? And how does the attempt to refigure cultural study as a global endeavor affect the analysis of aesthetic issues? In order to pursue this last question, we will be particularly interested in projects that approach this broad topic from a global, non-Western, or cross-cultural perspective. But we will welcome proposals that explore the aesthetic in any of its possible meanings and manifestations, empirically or theoretically, and from any disciplinary perspective. Possible topics might include, but will by no means be limited to, the following:

The history of aesthetics, and of the concept of the aesthetic
The psychology of perception
Formal vs. transformational aesthetics
Aesthetics and epistemology
The aesthetic in scientific discovery
The place of literature
Description and evaluation
The aesthetics in politics, political aesthetics
Conservative and progressive aesthetics
High and popular culture, the middlebrow
Questions of ethics
The media and genres of art
Media and technology
Ritual and dramatic enactments
Aesthetics and the marketplace
The aesthetic and cultural difference

Director
George Levine (English)

Faculty Fellows
Derek Attridge (English), Nina Cornyetz (East Asian Languages and Cultures), Marianne DeKoven (English), Meredith McGill (English), Louisa Schein (Anthropology), Subramanian Shankar (English), Xudong Zhang (East Asian Languages and Cultures), Dennis K. Mumby (Communications)

Graduate Fellows
Anthony Alessandrini (English), Craig Eliason (Art History), Amy Wiese Forbes (Philosophy), Aaron Meskin (Philosophy), Madhuri Mukherjee (French), Alexander Weheliye (English)

Postdoctoral Associates
Joan Copjec (English and Comparative Literature, SUNY Buffalo), Peter Osborne (Philosophy, Middlesex U.)

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15 Seminary Place
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