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.
John J. Joughin and Simon Malpas
The newaestheticism: an introduction
The very notion of the ‘aesthetic’ could be said to have fallen victim to the success of
recent developments within literary theory. Undergraduates now pause before
rehearsing complacent aesthetic verities concerning truth, meaning and value, verities
that used to pass at one time for literary criticism. The rise of critical theory in disciplines across the humanities during the 1980s and 1990s has all but swept aesthetics
from the map – and, some would argue, rightly so. Critical theory, of
generat casum, the strong imagination creates the event. We might compare
here the great poet so beloved of aestheticists, Keats, in whose famous letter of 22
November 1817 to Benjamin Bailey we find that ‘The Imagination may be compared
to Adam’s dream – he awoke and found it truth’.22 Adam dreamt of companionship,
and I shall return to the centrality of such companionship to our ‘newaestheticism’
in what follows. Montaigne’s essay is about the strength of an imagination that can
realise things in material actuality. For example, Montaigne writes, when he is in the
, the ungrounding of adaptation aligns itself with the newaesthetic of a revolutionary theatre, which in its estrangement reactivates a ‘political consciousness of the present’ both in provoking an audience and in potentially transforming
established modes of cognition. Yet it would be wrong to speak in terms of the motive
or agenda or ‘aim of adaptation’, not least insofar as ‘the political eﬀects of such a theatre
cannot be foreseen’.67 Rather, in adaptation, as in Benjamin’s sense of Janzeit or time of
the now, we witness a teleology
Relational reflexivity in the ‘alternative’ food movement
Jonathan Murdoch and Mara Miele
A newaesthetic of food? Relational reflexivity in
the ‘alternative’ food movement
Jonathan Murdoch and Mara Miele
In recent times, an apparent contradiction between high levels of output and
improved food quality has arisen within the food sector. The development
of mass food markets, alongside ‘Fordist’ methods of production and their
associated economies of scale, has generated unprecedented abundance
(Montanari 1994). Yet, at the same time, industrialisation processes have
resulted, seemingly, in greater and
This chapter refers not just to the literary encounter with war, but the way wars in the last century compelled artists and intellectuals into rethinking the aesthetic its scope, its power and its dangers. The Second World War confirmed the bankruptcy of Enlightenment humanism. For Hermann Hesse and numerous others in earlier generations, the humanist aesthetic was a liberating expression of profoundly civilising sympathies. The chapter argues that modernists like W. B. Yeats and D. H. Lawrence, under the influence of F. Nietzsche, offer an exhilarating celebration of an amoral aesthetics of energy. The importance of Nietzsche contrasting the Dionysiac conception of art with the humanitarian is in terms of two distinct kinds of sufferer, those who suffer from a superabundance of life and those who suffer from an impoverishment of life.
Rita Felski associates the project of feminist aesthetics with a desire to ascribe immanent gendered meanings to literary forms and styles, and thus with a problematic conflation of literary and political values. The ambiguity of mimetic semblance is compounded by its subtext of racist fantasies. Like Theodor Adorno, Homi Bhabha argues that the contradictory political regulation of mimetic semblance is motivated by the fear and subjugation of alterity. The central figures of the political regulation are paranoid projection, Negrophobia and the abjection of the black body. By reading Adorno, Joan Riviere, Bhabha and Frantz Fanon together, the chapter shows that the new psychic economies and social regulations of mimetic semblance in modernity provide a dubious and ideologically suspect alternative to instrumental rationality. Riviere focuses on the case of the white, intellectual, ambiguously homosexual woman.
All art is situated in social contexts that involve links between cultural production and mechanisms of power. One of the assumptions of traditional literary or other artistic education is that its job is to promote the development of people's ability to judge well, a skill which is part of being able to live well. Culture thrives on critical judgement, and criticism needs models which, without becoming fetishised, can reveal the deficiencies of inferior cultural production. Immanuel Kant's aim of universality in aesthetic judgement depends on the freedom of the subject which seeks a community of agreement with others in relation to its affective and other responses to art and natural beauty. For T. W. Adorno universality is precisely likely to be the result of objective pressures for conformity of the kind which recent theory analyses in terms of the repression of the other.
This chapter aims to open a space for the investigation of the place of the aesthetic in the contemporary world. It takes as its object the notion of the artistic fragment that emerges within modernity, and considers the ways in which modern art functions as a fragmentary form. By tracing a genealogy of the fragmentation in the writings of Friedrich Schlegel and the critique launched against it by G. W. F. Hegel, the chapter identifies a fragmentary Romantic residue in contemporary aesthetics. The chapter argues that the issues that are at stake in the disagreement between these two key thinkers have not passed away into history but continue to provoke the most profound questions about the value and role that art holds. It explores the Schlegelian/Hegelian conflict in order to think art's relation to community.
Walter Benjamin's alignment of the allegorical aesthetic with the ascetic mortification of the body in the Origin of German Tragic Drama rehearses the Alexandrian origins of allegory. The parallels that Giuseppe Ungaretti draws between Alexandria and the landscape of modern warfare are most evident in the earlier versions of L'Allegria. The self-destructive movements of Christian allegory that Benjamin identified in the baroque prefigure the attempt to dissolve aisthesis into ascesis that informs modern aesthetics. Baumgarten introduced rational ascesis into modern aesthetics through the notion of the education of sensibility, a tendency advanced by Schiller in his Aesthetic Education. If Ungaretti's Alexandrian poems consummately explore the complex movements of exile, homelessness and return that are central to the Alexandrian aesthetic, those of his fellow Alexandrian C. P. Cavafy focus on the aspect of pleasure and its embalmment in art.