“Arts” and “aesthetics” have been integrally linked since the eighteenth century, but this was not always the case. Aesthetics, originally denoting knowledge through sense perception, only later became concerned with taste and judgment, or value and beauty, and integral over time to what we now call “criticism.” Art, initially describing craft, practical skill or technique with matter, language and sound, later migrated to embrace formalism and individual as well as cultural expression.
The 2016-17 CCA Seminar “Arts and Aesthetics” will explore the divergences and convergences of these related but fundamentally different ideas, approaching them from the perspectives of philosophy, literary history, art history, the fine arts, the history of science, and political and cultural theory. Topics are likely to include form and formalism; the history of criticism and critique; theories of perception; and questions of representation ranging from photography, painting, sculpture, and music to architecture, performance, literature, and conceptual as well as outsider art. Throughout, the idea of the “liberal arts” and their status in 2016—what will be Rutgers University’s 250th year—will be an abiding concern.