English 250

Research Seminar: Philosophical Idealizations of Art and Modernist Practices

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2019 Altieri, Charles F.
Thurs. 12:30-3:30 305 Wheeler

Book List

Bergson, Henri: Time and Free Will; Harrison and Wood: Art in Theory: 1900-2000; Hegel, Friedrich: Lectures in Aesthetics, selections; Heidegger, Martin: Introduction to Metaphysics; Kant, Emmanuel: Critique of Judgment; Moore , Marianne: Observations 1924; Nietzsche: Genealogy of Morals, selections; Nietzsche, Friedrich: Birth of Tragedy; Pater, Walter: Studies in the Renaissance; Pound, Ezra: Draft of Thirty Cantos; Yeats, W.B: selections from Collected Poems


This course stems from my fascination with how often major philosophers idealized art by attributing to it powers that could promise versions of redemption from practical life.  I want to read Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Pater, Bergson, Heidegger, and an anthology of statements by modernist paintings to get clear on what was argued and why people could believe or at least engage those arguments, as indeed most of the major modernist painters and poets did.  Then we will look at some paintings and essays by Picasso and Malevich along with the poetry of at least Yeats, Pound, and Marianne Moore.  In one sense I think teachers in the arts need to know well the best possible accounts of the powers that they can mediate in their professional lives. In another I am amazed by agreement about the roles of art in cultural life of these philosophers coming at the questions from many perspectives.  What cultural conditions led to their developing those perspectives?  And does knowledge of the cultural conditions breed skepticism for us or tilt us toward sympathy with such projects?  How can we make plausible counter arguments?  How do twentieth-century writers manage to elaborate and defend similar idealizations in an age usually seen as deeply ironic?  And can these perspectives make materialist arguments about the arts more difficult to make, even perhaps as they make them more necessary?

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