This course takes its point of departure from two interrelated claims, the first from Walter Benjamin and the second from Michel Foucault. In The Arcades Project, Benjamin declared that aesthetics now occupies the terrain once given to religion, such that aesthetics takes on a quasi-religious hue in modernity. From a slightly altered vantage, Foucault argued some years later that after the death of God, it is the regime of sexuality that comes to prominence, such that discourses of the erotic organize human lives in modernity. After a brief consideration of these two claims, we make a foray into antiquity with a reading of Plato's Symposium, a text in which the pleasures and burdens of beauty, sexuality, divinity, and the ethical life intermingle in an exemplary way. Following that reading, we'll turn to several Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment figures who set the parameters for aesthetics in modernity (Baumgarten, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche). The course will conclude with a sequence of texts of more recent vintage, all of which bring aesthetics and eros into considerations of pressing ethical issues: class analysis and politics (Marcuse, Ranciere), queer life (Halberstam), black radicalism (Moten), and postcolonial critique (Spivak). In addition, visual and sound artifacts representative of the various aesthetic perspectives will be considered. Throughout the semester, we shall pay particular attention to the ways religion, or its absence, has shaped aesthetic and erotic experiences in modernity and beyond, testing the limits of Benjamin's and Foucault's critical insights.
Enrollment Limited: No
Open to BTI Students: Yes
Course location to be announced.
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