Module outline

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Modern Liberal Arts

University of Winchester

Semester 2 2015 - 6

LA 2006 Aesthetics


Tuesday, 12.00 – 2.00, HL6

Derek Bunyard

Module Learning Outcomes

Show engagement with primary sources

Show a knowledge of theoretical perspectives and/or works

Show an understanding of abstract concepts and ideas within theoretical perspectives

Show an ability to work with theorists and their concepts in various forms of assessment as appropriate

Show evidence of engagement with texts and ideas concerned with the study of aesthetics


The principal philosophical positions that structure our work in the first half of the module are those of Hume, Kant, and Hegel. However, our particular interests in this module are aesthetic, and so it will not always be the case that we focus upon the most famous of the books that each of these philosophers produced. Broadly speaking the study period runs from the early 1700s through to the mid-1800s, and as we work through the first six weeks we trace a path from a starting point in which beauty is understood to reside in the object through to one where it resides instead within the mind of the observer.

As the module moves into its second half we adopt a more experimental and individualistic approach in which selected examples of practice, together with extracts taken from their associated writings, will be featured and reviewed through group work and informal presentation where appropriate. An initial assortment of possible topics is given here for those weeks; nearer the time these will be ‘firmed up’ through your comments, suggestions, and reactions to the first half’s theory.
Some Useful PDFs
For a stimulating overview of aesthetics before the Enlightenment, the advice is to start with Eco, U. (2002) Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages Yale: Yale University Press, which is in our library. Here are some related websites:

Programme of lecture-seminars. More detailed notes for each week will be sent to you, and depending on the nature of your responses, this programme will be subject a little content adjustment in the first half, but more so in the second half.

Weeks 1 & 2: Sentimental Journeys in an Empire of Taste

Philosophic/aesthetic sources: Addison – The Pleasures of the Imagination; Edmund Burke – Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful; Hutcheson - Inquiry concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony and Design; David Hume – Of the Standard of Taste, Treatise on Human Understanding, Enquiries concerning the Human Understanding and the Principles of Morals; William Hogarth – The Analysis of Beauty; Rousseau – Julie – or the New Heloise; Shaftesbury – ‘An enquiry concerning virtue or merit’; Winckelman – Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Art in Painting and Sculpture.

Weeks 3 & 4: Non-sensuous subjectivity – Kant’s critical freedom – a famous work aimed at reconciling Romantic subjectivity with Enlightenment rationality.

Principal philosophic sources: Immanuel Kant – Observations on the Feelings of the Beautiful and Sublime, selections from The Critique of Judgement with a review of some responses to this.

Week 5 & 6: The collapse of the Romantic balance of rationality and subjectivity, leading to the hegemony of subjective knowledge.

Principal aesthetic/philosophic sources: Hegel – Lessons in Aesthetics, The Phenomenology of Spirit; F. W. J. Schelling – System of Transcendental idealism; Friedrich Schiller – On Tragic Art, On the Sublime, On the Aesthetic Education of Man; leading to the purest subjectivity.

Week 7: Review point for the first half: planning point for the second half. More details will be given nearer the time.
Possible topics/themes to be featured during week eight through to twelve:-

Realism and Nature painting.

The archive, the fragment, the ruin.

Abstraction and Conception.

The abject, the limnal, the unformed.

History painting, the painting of Modern life.

Appropriation, allegory, and montage

Fantasy, dream, and play.

The simulacral and the multiple.

Chance and contingency.

Optical, kinetic, and System Art

Clearly we cannot do all of these, and there may be other topics that you would like to promote, therefore an online forum will be set up nearer the time to arrive at a final selection.

General Bibliography

(Once our planning decisions have been reached further guidance about suitable sources will be given).

Adorno, T. (1997) Aesthetic Theory, London: Continuum.

Barthes, R. (1977) Image Music Text London: Fontana.

Barthes, R. (1993) Camera Lucida London: Vintage.

Berger, J., (1982) Another Way of Telling London: Writers and Readers.

Baudrillard, J. (1997) Simulacra and Simulation, trans. S. F. Glaser, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press

Bernasconi, R. ed. (1988) The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays: Hans-Georg Gadamer Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Bryson, N., Holly, M-A, Moxey, K. (eds.) (1994) Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations New Hampshire, Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.

Buck-Morss, S. (1991) The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, Camb., Mass., MIT Press.

Bürger, P. (1984) Theory of the Avant-Garde Manchester University Press.

Cahn, S.M. & Meskin, A. (2008) (eds) Aesthetics A comprehensive Anthology, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Crary, J. (1996) Techniques of the Observer Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press.

Crimp, D. (1995) On The Museum’s Ruins Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press.

Crow, T. (1996) Modern Art in the Common Culture New Haven: Yale University Press.

Danto, A.C. (1986) The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art, New York: Columbia University Press.

Feagin, S. & Maynard, P. (eds) (1997) Aesthetics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fineberg, J. (1995) Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being London: Lawrence King.

Forty, A. & Kuchler, S. (eds.) (1999) The Art of Forgetting Oxford: Berg.

Gadamer, H-G. (1977) The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (eds.) (1992) Art in Theory Oxford: Blackwell.

Hegel, G. W. F. (1993) Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics, trans. Bernard Bosanquet, London: Penguin

Hegel, G. W. F. (1977) Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hooks, B. (1995) Art on my Mind: Visual Politics New York: New Press.

Kelly, M. (1996) Imaging Desire Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Jenks, C. (ed.) (1995) Visual Culture London: Routledge.

Kant, I. (1996) Critique of Practical Reason, trans. T. K. Abbott, New York: Prometheus

Kant, I. (1952) The Critique of Judgement, trans. J. C. Meredith, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Krauss, R. (1994) The Optical Unconscious Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.

Krauss, R. (1986) The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.

Langer, S. (1953) Feeling and Form London: Routledge & Keegan Paul.

Leighten, P. (1989) Re-ordering the Universe: Picasso and Anarchism 1897 – 1914 Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Leppert, R. (1996) Art & the Committed Eye: the cultural functions of imagery Oxford: Westview Press

Luhmann, N. (2000) Art as a Social System, trans. Eva Knodt, Stanford: Stanford University Press

Marin, L. (1995) To Destroy Painting, trans. Mette Hjort, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Marin, L. (2001) On Representation, trans. C. Porter Stanford, CAL.: Stanford University Press

Maritain, J. (1977 ) Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, Surrey: Princeton University Press

McQuire, S. (1998) Visions of Modernity: Representation, Memory, Time and Space in the Age of the Camera London: Sage.

Melville, S. & Readings, B. (eds.) (1995) Vision and Textuality London: Macmillan.

Owens, C. (1994) Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pillow, K. (2000) Sublime understanding: aesthetic reflection in Kant and Hegel, London: MIT Press

Pollock, G., (ed.) (1996) Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts: Feminist Readings London: Routledge.

Sherman, D. & Rogoff, I. (eds.) (1994) Museum/Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles London: Routledge.

Tagg, J. (1988) The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories Basingstoke: Macmillan.

More specific treatments – isms and others

Adamowicz, E. (1998) Surrealist Collage in Text and Image: Dissecting the Exquisite Corpse, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press .

Ades, D., et al. (1996), Art & Power: Europe under the Dictators 1930 - 45, Hayward Gallery, London.

Bann, S. (1990) The Inventions of History: Essays on the Representation of the Past, Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Barron, S. & Dube, W-D. (1997) German Expressionism: Art and Society 1909 - 1923, London: Thames & Hudson.

Barron, S. (1991) Degenerate Art’: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, New York: Los Angeles County Museum of Art in assoc. Harry N. Abrams.

Bryson, N. (1995) Looking at the Overlooked: four essays on Still Life painting London: Reaktion.

Caygill, H. (1998) Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience, London, Routledge.

Cork, R. (1994) A Bitter Truth: Avant-Garde Art and the Great War New haven: Yale University Press.

Cullerne-Bown, M. (1991) Art under Stalin Oxford: Phaidon.

Dubin, S.C. (1992) Arresting Images: Impolitic Art and Uncivil Actions London: Routledge.

Fer, B. (1997) On Abstract Art New Haven: Yale University Press.

Foster, H. (1996) The Return of the Real Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Foster, H. .(ed.) (1991) The Anti-aesthetic Seattle: Bay Press.

Foster, H. (1993) Compulsive Beauty Cambridge, Mass.: October Books.

Freedberg, D. (1992) Play of the Unmentionable, Installation by Joseph Kosuth at the Brooklyn Museum London: Thames & Hudson.

Green, C. (1987) Cubism and its Enemies New Haven: Yale University Press.

Grundberg, A. and McCarthy Gauss, K., (1987) Photography and Art, New York, Abbeville.

Hiller, S.,(ed.) (1991) The Myth of Primitivism London: Routledge.

Krauss, R., & Livingston, J. (1985) L’amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism New York: Abbeville Press in association with Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Poggi, C. (1992) In Defiance of Painting: Cubism, Futurism, and the Invention of Collage New Haven: Yale University Press.

Polcari, S. (1991) Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nead, L. (1992) The Female Nude: Art, Obscenity and Sexuality London: Routledge.

Price, M. (1994) The Photograph: A Strange, Confined Space Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Rabinowitz, P. (1994) They Must be Represented: The Politics of Documentary London: Verso.

Ranciere, J. (2013) Aisthesis: scenes from the aesthetic regime of art, trans. Zakir Paul New York: Verso.

Roberts, J. (1998) The Art of Interruption: realism, photography and the everyday Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Rudenstein, A. Z.(ed.) (1981) Russian Avant-Garde Art: The George Costakis Collection London: Thames & Hudson.

Sontag, S. (1979) On Photography London: Penguin.

Spence, J. (1995) Cultural Sniping: The Art of Transgression London: Routledge.

Spence, J. (1986) Putting Myself in the Picture: a Political, Personal, and Photographic Autobiography London: Camden.

Taylor, B. (2014) After Constructivism London: Yale University Press

Teitelbaum, M. ed. (1993) Montage and Modern Life, 1919-1942 London: MIT Press.

Tupitsyn, M. (1996) The Soviet Photograph, 1924 - 1937 New Haven: Yale University Press.

Wolin, J. (1997) Written in Memory: Portraits of the Holocaust San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Assessment 1: (50%) …. (2000-2250 words; deadline: (week 7) given to Catherine in the Office by 3.30pm).

Describe the pivotal philosophical position Kant represents between Hume’s scepticism and Hegel’s idealism. In the last third of your assignment explain the position within this range that you favour, and identify an appropriate illustration.

Assessment 2: (50%) ….. (2000-2250 words; deadline (week 13) given to Catherine in the Office by 3.30pm).


Select two different conceptions of beauty, identifying one example from each. Indicate what you consider to have been at stake in their differing a) conditions of possibility, and b) conditions of visibility. In the last third of your essay discuss the appropriateness of using the term ‘progress’ to describe the transition from one conception to the other.


Select one artwork that you think is philosophically interesting. Discuss the philosophical and aesthetic assumptions and understandings you used in reaching your judgement.

Use Harvard Referencing

We attempt always to return work within 3 working weeks (15 days working days).


We want you to be very clear about how we will mark your work and that means you must know with each assessment what you are expected to do. We hope that this does not mean you will feel that you have to write to a formula. We are trying to build in considerable freedom to your assessments; but as the term ‘liberal arts’ conveys, in every freedom there is a discipline, and in every discipline there is a freedom; together, we hope, they constitute the struggle of learning.
There are (often but not always) two types of essays in MLA: the first assessment title in a module will most often be set by the tutor and will be restricted to texts explored in the first weeks. The second assessment title can be tutor-led, or chosen from a list of titles, or can be negotiated individually; this varies according to the tutor and the module. This assignment can explore wider issues, employ wider reading, or explore a single issue in depth. Students will bear some responsibility for the references consulted in the second essay, increasing through years 1, 2 and 3.

Tutor-set assessments (disciplina)

Student/tutor-set assessments (libertas)

1st module essay
Marks for

  • depth of understanding specialist terminology

  • depth of understanding of set texts

  • depth of understanding of ideas/concepts

  • evidence by quotation

  • answering the question

  • correct referencing

  • word limit

2nd module essay
Marks for

  • depth of understanding of texts

  • depth of understanding and application of ideas/concepts

  • evidence-based critical arguments

  • depth/breadth of reading (depending on the question)

  • answering your own question

  • correct referencing

  • word limit

Note the difference between essays 1 and 2: the first one is marked only on your understanding of texts; the second one is marked on understanding, on your own reading, and your emerging critical voice. Be careful here; being critical does not mean just giving your opinions. It means making a case based on evidence from your reading, using ideas and concepts from texts. It does not mean you have to fight for one side of an argument or another… ambivalence will be treated with great respect. But for every essay, remember this: if we (and you) get the title right, then by answering the question you will be doing exactly what is required. Over years 1, 2 and 3 the levels of your work are raised by using increasingly challenging texts, ideas, concepts and writers, and by the way you are able to employ ideas, concepts and writers from other modules across the degree in increasingly sophisticated ways.

For all essays, then

Depending on the question you will need to

  • Demonstrate reflection on module material and the wider contexts from across the degree which might impact upon it

  • Communicate experiences of texts and ideas as appropriate

  • Show knowledge and understanding of specialist terminology

  • Demonstrate requisite research skills in gathering, summarizing and presenting evidence including proficiency in referencing and academic conventions.

For essay 1

Depending on the question you will need to

  • Show careful reading of primary sources

  • Show a knowledge of theoretical perspectives and/or works

  • Show an understanding of abstract concepts and ideas within theoretical perspectives

  • Show an ability to work with theorists and their concepts in various forms of assessment as appropriate

  • Show evidence of engagement with texts and ideas concerned with issues raised in the module.

For essay 2

Depending on the question you will need to

  • Show an ability to employ theorists critically in relation to issues

  • Show an ability to use concepts as critical tools in discussing issues and questions as appropriate

  • Show an ability to employ theoretical perspectives as critical tools

  • Therein, to develop a critical voice informed and deepened by appropriate use of theory as critique.

  • Sustain a critical relationship to ideas related to the module

It is often hard to explain in generic terms how any particular essay could have been improved. But, cautiously, we can say the following:

In general,

a 3rd (40-49%) may have ignored the question, may have not given much evidence of reading, may have clumsy sentence structure, but will still have made a bona fide attempt at the work.

a 2.2 (50-59%) will have provided evidence of reading, quotations where appropriate, clear sentence structure, attended to the question or title, but not related the material in ways which synthesise more developed and complex thinking.

a 2.1 (60-69%) will have evidence of reading through effective selection of quotation, being able to make specific points, and to relate material together to make broader and/or deeper and more complex observations. At the higher end, it may have been able to relate material from across modules, or across the degree as a whole, to synthesise separate ideas and issues into more holistic comments, ideas and problems. The questions addressed will be getting ever more difficult and important, including those that are asked without being answered.

a 1st (70-100%) will make a little go a long way. Quotations may carry implications beyond their precise content; sentences will be clear but able to refine complex ideas succinctly; most importantly, it will be able to combine the microcosm of its subject matter with the macrocosm of its place in the wider context, and these contexts will be drawn form the overall, experience of the degree, growing obviously from years 1 to 3. No inaccuracies of grammar or sentence construction, and no referencing mistakes are expected here. The voice of the essay will be in control of difficult material throughout. Above all the questions asked and addressed will be compelling in their difficulty and import.

Catalogue summary

This module offers an introduction to the study of aesthetics. Within the liberal arts this most often means looking at the fine arts – painting, sculpture, music, poetry – and we will look at these from within a selection of historical periods. The module will also introduce students to key philosophical texts that underpin the study of aesthetics, giving particular attention to the period of German idealism in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The module is intended to provide students working at level 5 with a central reference point for any future aesthetic theorising they may wish to pursue. Theory will be inter-leaved with a study of selected art forms that either correspond to, or seem to refute, certain forms of aesthetic theorising. The theoretical and philosophical studies are intended to provide a broad, historical sweep, but one which has contemporary relevance. The same holds true for the range of selected illustrative contents.

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