Uses and Abuses of Aesthetics Today (Feb 18-19; abstracts due Jan 5)

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Graduate students in German Studies, Cornell University
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Graduate Student Conference in German Studies
Cornell University
February 18-19, 2011
Keynote Speaker: Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Stanford University
Plenary Speaker: Peter Gilgen, Cornell University

Recent years have seen several attempts to redefine aesthetics as a discipline and rehabilitate it as a mode of inquiry in literary studies. Sometimes pronounced a movement, these attempts found their common credo in the title of Jonathan Loesberg’s book A Return to Aesthetics (2005). The justificatory rhetoric of calls for such a return reflects the poor standing aesthetics had in literary theory for some years. Charged with supporting ideological constructs by theorists as divergent as Terry Eagleton and Paul de Man, aesthetics came under criticism for its claim to autonomy as well as for the metaphysical presuppositions associated with its mediating function between the sensible and the intelligible in the systems of classical German philosophy. Conversely, it is precisely this ‘impurity’ or ‘confusion’ of aesthetics as a field between sense (as meaning) and the senses that has attracted recent reflections on its political, ethical, and experiential import. Other aesthetic returns have called for renewed inquiry into the perennial topics of connections between art, truth, and knowledge.

Questions we hope to address include: What are the (political, ethical, cognitive) uses and abuses of aesthetics? Can aesthetic approaches provide a framework for thinking about the experiences art affords us or do we have to move ‘beyond aesthetics’ to theorize relations between art and thought today? Have returns to aesthetics given satisfactory answers to the charges directed against it? What becomes of aesthetics once it is stripped of its function in the philosophical systems to which it owes its constitution as a discipline? What is the status of aesthetics in literary studies, and how should we understand the relations between aesthetics and cultural studies in contemporary approaches to the humanities? What is the potential for critical aesthetics across the disciplines today? And what can disciplines in which aesthetics has not been configured in constellations of crisis contribute to the discussion?

Suggested topics:
Aesthetics as a mode of perception
The materiality of aesthetic experience, and aesthetics of materialism
The literary absolute
Aesthetic sensibility and theorizations of the body
Phenomenological approaches to aesthetic experience
Art, truth, and power
Aesthetics and ideology
Autonomy and heteronomy of/through aesthetics
Ethics and politics of aesthetics
Taste, aesthetic experience and aesthetic properties
The content of aesthetic judgments
The beautiful and the sublime
Aesthetics and/vs. aestheticism and ‘new formalism’
Aesthetic and cultural studies approaches to literature and art
Global aesthetics
Aesthetics and popular culture
Aesthetics and digital arts
Art and technology
Aesthetics and related fields: stylistics, poetics, sound studies, cognitive studies
The classical German tradition of aesthetics: Kant, Schiller, Schelling, Hegel and beyond
Adornian and Post-Adornian Aesthetics
Aesthetics ‘beyond aesthetics:’ inaesthetics, para-aesthetics, anti-aesthetics

Please submit an abstract of 250 words or less no later than January 5, 2011 to conference organizers Ana-Maria Andrei and Johannes Wankhammer at Abstracts must include a cover letter with the author’s name, paper title, affiliation, telephone number and email address, and be in the form of *.doc or *.docx files. Presentations are to last 20 minutes and must be in English. Submissions are accepted from graduate students only. Current information is available at Submissions from all fields relevant to the topic are welcome.

cfp categories: 
modernist studies