The survival of William Shakespeare's plays continues to demonstrate that literature means different things to different people in different contexts. During the course of Hamlet, the attempted adaptation might be cast as an act of narration in which Hamlet the proto-intellectual will clarify the act of sovereign succession and rewrite the official history. Theatrical adaptation is arguably 'less constrained' than other modes of interpretation. The act of inheritance or witness, the aesthetic contract by which Hamlet and humanism seem bound, actually remarks nothing more or less than the inaugural aporia of intellectual life. Heiddeger's remarks on 'The origin of the work of art' offer us a more 'generalised thinking of the Kantian notion of genius', and in doing so help tease out the historical implications of exemplary artworks.
The interest in aesthetics in philosophy, literary and cultural studies is growing rapidly. This book contains exemplary essays by key practitioners in these fields which demonstrate the importance of this area of enquiry. New aestheticism remains a troubled term and in current parlance it already comes loaded with the baggage of the 'philistine controversy' which first emerged in an exchange that originally that took place in the New Left Review during the mid-1990s. A serious aesthetic education is necessary for resisting the advance of 'philistinism'. Contemporary aesthetic production may be decentred and belonging to the past, but that is not a reason to underestimate what great works do that nothing else can. Despite well-established feminist work in literary criticism, film theory and art history, feminist aesthetics 'is a relatively young discipline, dating from the early 1990s'. The book focuses on the critical interrogation of the historical status of mimesis in the context of a gendered and racial politics of modernity. Throughout the history of literary and art criticism the focus has fallen on the creation or reception of works and texts. The book also identifies a fragmentary Romantic residue in contemporary aesthetics. The Alexandrian aesthetic underlies the experience of the 'allegorical'. 'Cultural poetics' makes clear the expansion of 'poetics' into a domain that is no longer strictly associated with 'poetry'. The book also presents an account of a Kantian aesthetic criticism, discussing Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and Critique of Judgement.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book argues that the role of aesthetic experience in education is to extend the possibility of thinking otherwise: a form of critical thinking which remains 'eventful' insofar as it refuses to be prescribed by predetermined categories. It offers a genealogy of aesthetic humanism that was always already internally riven: fascinated with the possibility of an aesthetic vision that contravenes its own imperative. The book interrogates the recent history of feminist aesthetics and in a post-culturalist reading which draws upon advances within post-colonialism and feminism, including the theories of female masquerade and colonial mimicry of Joan Riviere, Frantz Fanon and Homi Bhabha. It offers a reformulation of Theodor Adorno's social history of mimesis in the context of a 'gendered and racial politics of modernity'.