Absorption and the Arts: Assessing Michael Fried's Legacy (Due September 15th)

full name / name of organization: 
American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies

Absorption and the Arts: Assessing Michael Fried's Legacy
American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, April 4-7, 2013

Hector Reyes, Adjunct Lecturer in Art History, UCLA and Michael Thomas Taylor, Assistant Professor of German, University of Calgary
hreyes@humnet.ucla.edu and mttaylor@ucalgary.ca

In 1980, the art historian Michael Fried identified "absorption," a particular mode of authenticity and interiority, as a central concern of both eighteenth-century French art and criticism. This panel seeks to assess the legacy of "absorption" from an interdisciplinary perspective. We invite scholars from a broad range of disciplines to consider the impact of Fried's theory in the context of the eighteenth century and its contemporary reception. Questions may include: To what extent does absorption help to explain the form of eighteenth-century theater? Is absorption meaningful in the context of literature and print cultures? Are there aspects or instances of absorption that have been overlooked in Fried's narrative of painting's development? What are the eighteenth-century intellectual roots of Fried's own philosophical investments? Does Fried's paradigm support a philosophical account of subjectivity that contrasts with crucial points of reference, such as German Idealism, from which Fried distinguishes his arguments? What historical conditions or intellectual shifts made absorption a useful paradigm for the arts in the eighteenth century? What implications does Fried's account have for wider social and political histories of the eighteenth century, especially given his reluctance to follow this path of inquiry? The motivation for this seminar is the thesis that developments in eighteenth-century studies since 1980 call for a re-evaluation of Fried's seminal work, and that this re-evaluation might prove fruitful for modes of thought beyond his aesthetic history of eighteenth-century absorption.