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Modern Aesthetics, Modernist Art

(7136; GPHI 6728)


Fall 2018
J.M. Bernstein

Wednesday, 8–10PM
Location: 6 E. 16th Street, Room 1009

This course will trace the development of modern aesthetics from Schiller’s On the
Aesthetic Education of Man, which I will argue is the origin of a modernist critical theory
of art, to Gilles Deleuze’s Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation – itself an emphatic
defense of artistic modernism. Among the other works to be studied are: the
Introduction to Hegel’s Aesthetics, focusing on his thought of the end of art; Nietzsche’s
The Birth of Tragedy; Heidegger’s The Origin of the Work of Art; as well as readings from
Walter Benjamin, Merleau-Ponty, Stanley Cavell, and Arthur Danto. A constant theme
of the course will be the interrogation of how these works converge or depart from the
dominant trends of artistic modernism.

Required Texts (listed in syllabus order):

 Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, trans. Wilkinson and


Willoughby (Oxford UP)

 Hegel, Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics, trans. Bosanquet (Penguin) (if you


already have the Knox translation, that is even better!)

 Robert Pippin, After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial
Modernism (University of Chicago Press)

 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, ed. Geuss (Cambridge UP)

 Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” appears in different volumes: Basic
Writings; Poetry, Language, and Thought; or Off the Beaten Track. Available
online too (copy also on Canvas).

 Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon and the Logic of Sensation (Minnesota UP)

 Arthur Danto, The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art (Open Court
Publishing)

Required Texts Available on Canvas:


 Merleau-Ponty, “Cezanne’s Doubt” (Canvas) and “Eye and Mind” (Canvas); other
essays TBD, but all relevant materials and more can be found in The Merleau-
Ponty Aesthetics Reader (Northwestern UP)

Modern Aesthetics syllabus: Fall 2018 (Page 1 of 4)


Other Texts I will be drawing on:

 T.J. Clark, Picasso and Truth (Princeton UP), esp. Chapter 3

 Yves-Alain Bois, Painting as Model (MIT Press), especially essays on Mondrian


and Ryman

Syllabus

29 Aug, Week 1: Introduction

NOTE: In this lecture I will make reference to my essay “Wax, Brick, and Bread:
Apotheoses of Matter and Meaning in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy and Painting”
(Canvas).

5 Sept, Week 2: Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, Letters 1-15

12 Sept, Week 3: Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, Letters 16-27

NOTE: The best book on Schiller in English is Schiller as Philosopher by Frederick


Beiser; The Letters are discussed in Chapter 4, with a variety of surrounding issues
addressed in the following three chapters. My own reading of Schiller has been
influenced by Gregg M. Horowitz, “The Residue of History: Dark Play in Schiller and
Hegel” (Canvas). And my reading: “Significant Stone: Medium and Sense in Schiller”
(Canvas).

19 Sept: NO CLASSES, YOM KIPPUR

26 Sept, Week 4: Hegel, Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics (= the Introduction to


Lectures on Fine Art). Our focus will be the end of art thesis.

NOTE: For a critical evaluation of the text of the Aesthetics together with an excellent
overview of Hegel’s argument see Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert’s Introduction (pp. 1-
176) to Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Art: The Hotho Transcript of the 1823
Lectures. For helpful interventions: S. Houlgate (ed.), Hegel and the Arts; Paul Kottman
& Michael Squire (eds.), The Art of Hegel’s Aesthetics. Pippin’s book has an extensive
bibliography.

3 Oct, Week 5: Robert Pippin, After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial
Modernism, Chapters 1-3, 5 (we will discuss Chapter 4, on Heidegger and Hegel, in Week
9), as well as “What Was Abstract Art? (From the Point of View of Hegel)” (latter article
on Canvas)

Modern Aesthetics syllabus: Fall 2018 (Page 2 of 4)


NOTE: For the opening of a sustained critique of Pippin, see Gregg Horowitz’s review
essay in Platypus Review (Vol. 71, Nov. 2014) available online:
https://platypus1917.org/2014/11/04/book-review-robert-b-pippin-beautiful-hegel-
philosophy-pictorial-modernism-chicago-university-chicago-press-2013/.
For Mondrian’s Hegelian end of art project, see Mondrian, “Blown by the Wind” (Canvas)
as well as Yves-Alain Bois, “Painting: The Task of Mourning” (Canvas) and “Piet
Mondrian, New York City” (Canvas).

10 Oct, Week 6: Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (I)

NOTE: Worth consulting are Julian Young, Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Art; David B.
Allison, Reading the New Nietzsche, Chapter 1. Of course, differently, is Volume 1 of
Heidegger’s Nietzsche: The Will to Power as Art.

17 Oct, Week 7: Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (II)

NOTE: We shall also consider Lecture 3 of T.J. Clark’s Picasso and Truth, his reading of
The Three Dancers (1925) (Canvas), and glance at his “Veronese’s Allegories of Love”
(Canvas) to get into view what Nietzschean art might actually be.

24 Oct, Week 8: Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art” (I)

NOTE: For an intense commentary, see Karsten Harries, Art Matters: A Critical
Commentary on Heidegger’s “The Origin of the Work of Art”; less ambitious is Chapter 1
of Julian Young’s Heidegger’s Philosophy of Art; ambitious in a different way is Michel
Haar’s The Song of the Earth: Heidegger and the Grounds of the History of Being; I tie
Heidegger back to Kant in The Fate of Art; for a contemporary assessment, see Iain
Thomson, Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity.

31 Oct, Week 9:
 Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art” (II)
 Robert Pippin, After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial
Modernism, Chapter 4

7 Nov, Week 10: Merleau-Ponty, “Cézanne’s Doubt” (Canvas) and “Eye and Mind”
(Canvas)

NOTE: These texts, plus a number of interesting secondary essays (including interesting
ones by Linda Singer, Jacques Taminaux, and Lyotard) can be found in Michael B. Smith
(ed.), The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader.

14 Nov, Week 11: Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon and the Logic of Sensation (I)

NOTE: I think Bacon does not deserve this focus – and suspect Deleuze would have
preferred to write on Cézanne but for the fact of Merleau-Ponty (to which this is a reply –

Modern Aesthetics syllabus: Fall 2018 (Page 3 of 4)


and thus have attempted a reconstruction: “In Praise of Pure Violence (Matisse’s War)”
(Canvas).

21 Nov: NO CLASSES, THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY

28 Nov, Week 12: Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon and the Logic of Sensation (II)

5 Dec, Week 13: Arthur Danto, “The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art” (Canvas)
and The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art

12 Dec, Week 14: Stanley Cavell, “Excursus: Some Modernist Painting” from The World
Viewed (Canvas), as well as “Aesthetic Problems of Modern Philosophy” and “Music
Discomposed” from Must We Mean What We Say (Canvas)

NOTE: I have had a go at clarifying this: “Cavell and Modernism” (Canvas).

18 Dec, Week 15 – TUESDAY (make-up class): (Maybe, time permitting): Walter


Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility” (Canvas) and
“The Author as Producer” (Canvas)

ASSIGNMENTS
All students are required to write a 15- to 20-page paper due on the last day of class.
Topic must be related to the course and must be approved by me prior to submission.

Final Paper Due Date: Tuesday, 18 December

Modern Aesthetics syllabus: Fall 2018 (Page 4 of 4)