Languages of the Aesthetic: Art and Finitude from Baumgarten to Badiou

Seminar Organizers: Robert S. Lehman, Cornell U, Matthew Anderson, SUNY 

When Alexander Baumgarten isolated a specifically sensible form of 
knoweldge, “aesthetics,” he secured as a corollary to this knowledge a world 
that had “no existence except for man,” a world limited to those creatures 
condemned to spatio-temporal finitude. If this world could only be approached 
in a discourse on art — in Baumgarten’s case, in a series of meditations on 
poetry — it was because art insisted most strongly on the irreducibility of the 
sensible to any abstract concept. At the origin of philosophical aesthetics, 
then, we discover a constellation that brings together art, the sensible world, 
and the finite subject. The legacy of this constellation is indissociable from 
some of the most innovative and influential work in the history of the 
humanities, most notably the line of critical thought that stretches from 
Immanuel Kant to Jacques Derrida.

In this seminar, we propose to examine modernity’s attempts to come to terms 
with the singularity and irreducibility of aesthetic experience. Though we 
encourage participants to draw upon material throughout the period in 
question, we are particularly interested in proposals that address the ways in 
which twentieth-century thinkers have tried to recuperate or reimagine the 
intersection of art, finitude, and sensibility. 

Possible topics could include:

Aesthetics, Inaesthetics, Anti-Aesthetics 
Aesthetics and Temporality 
Singularity and the Aesthetic Experience 
Physis and Techne, or, Art as Nature and Nature as Art 
Art and Death

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor:  Megan McKinstry
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
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