Contemporary Aesthetics does not publish book reviews.
However, to inform our readers of new publications of interest, we do
publish brief descriptions extracted from information provided by the
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information about books they think will interest other readers of CA.
Black Sabbath and
Philosophy: Mastering Reality,
edited by William Irwin (New Jersey:
Wiley Publishing, November, 2012), 280 pp.
Ear-splittingly loud, for some, and with lyrics that speak
of apocalypse, death, and destruction, listening to Black Sabbath is not for
everyone. In fact, some would tell you
that the band worships Satan and that their songs promote violence and even try
to convince teenagers to commit suicide. But is that really true, or could it be that
those who tune into the masters of heavy metal know something about themselves
and life that those of us who find it a terrifying experience are missing out
on? In his new book, William Irwin
(die-hard Sabbath fan and philosopher) and his team of fellow contributors
travel deep into the heart of the band's music and lyrics to reveal that
there's plenty more to the dark masters of reality than a whole lot of noise.
Drawing on the works of philosophers, including Plato,
Aristotle, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, each chapter discusses and debates the
range of thought-provoking topics and themes that tell us more about who Black
Sabbath is, why they created the sound they did, and what lies hidden in the
music and lyrics of their songs. Whether
it's an analysis of war, pollution, poverty, drug abuse, or dealing with the
problems of modernity, what emerges is that each song, like philosophy itself,
is a quest to discover truth and a means of facing up to reality.
The Critical Pulse, eds. Jeffrey J. Williams
and Heather Steffen, (New York: Columbia
University Press, 2012), 276 pp.
anthology asks thirty-six literary and cultural critics to elaborate on the
nature of their profession. Essays
address literature and politics, with some focusing on the state of higher
education and others concentrating on teaching and the fate of the
humanities. All reflect the critics’
personal, particular experiences. Reflecting on the past, looking forward to the
future, and committed to the power of productive critical thought, this volume
proves the value of criticism for today’s skeptical audiences. These credos defend the function of criticism
in contemporary society and exhibit its vitality in the era after theory.
Berleant, Aesthetics beyond the
Arts: New and Recent Essays
(Ashgate, 2012), 222 pp.
Taking the view that aesthetics is a study grounded in perception, the essays in this volume exhibit many sides of the perceptual complex that is the aesthetic field and develop them in different ways. The essays reinvigorate our understanding of such arts as music and architecture; they range across the natural landscape to the urban one; they reassess the place of beauty in the modern environment and reassess the significance of the contributions to aesthetic theory of Kant and Dewey; and they broach the kinds of meanings and the larger understanding that aesthetic engagement with the human environment can offer. Written over the past decade, these original and innovative essays lead to a fresh encounter with the possibilities of aesthetic experience, one that has constantly evolved, moving in recent years in the direction of what Berleant terms "social aesthetics," which enhances human-environmental integration and sociality.
David Boersema, Philosophy of Art: Aesthetic Theory and Practice (Westview
Press, 2013), 360 pp.
This volume offers a range of mostly contemporary
readings with introductions around three broad areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, and value
theory. Concerns are raised about what
is expressed, how it is expressed, and why it is expressed. Chapters on the artist, the audience, and the
artwork are applied to the final chapters on the specific types of art. The differences between art and science as
well as the relationship of art and society provide a refreshing discussion of
overlooked areas in philosophy of art.
and the Senses,” eds. Cynthia Freeland and David Boersema, (Essays in
Philosophy, Vol. 13, Issue 2, Article 1, July 2012.
This special issue of Essays in Philosophy reflects the intersection of recent
epistemological and neuroscientific studies with more traditional areas of
aesthetics, such as the nature of interpretation, definitions of beauty,
audience responses to art, and art made in non-traditional media. The art forms mentioned in the discussions
vary from installation art to dance, and from musical experimentation and modern
literature to film. The subjects covered
range from some of the “big questions” such as how to interpret meaning in art and
the nature of beauty to more specific
studies of the interaction among our senses or cross-modal perception. The issue closes with two articles focusing on
the artistic medium of film, exploring, first, our vestibular responses to
film, and second, how stereoscopic vision is employed and affected in viewing
3D films. Also included are some brief
critical reflections on the preceding papers.
A. McMahon, “Aesthetic Autonomy and Praxis:
Art and Language in Adorno and Habermas,” (International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Vol. 19(2), 2011),
Aesthetic autonomy has
been given a variety of interpretations, which in many cases involve a number
of claims. Key among them are: (i) art
eludes conventional conceptual frameworks and their inherent incompatibility with
invention and creativity; and (ii)
art can communicate aspects of experience too fine-grained for discursive
language. To accommodate such claims one
can adopt either a convention-based account or a natural-kind account. A natural-kind theory can explain the first
but requires some special scaffolding in order to support the second, while a
convention-based account accommodates the second but is incompatible with the
first. Theodor W. Adorno attempts to
incorporate both claims within his aesthetic theory, but arguably each is
cancelled out by the other. Art’s
independence of entrenched conceptual frameworks needs to be made compatible with
its communicative role. Jürgen Habermas,
in contrast, provides a solution by way of this theory of language. McMahon draws upon the art practice of the
contemporary Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson in order to demonstrate
Ferrell, Sacred Exchanges: Images in Global Context (Columbia
University Press, March 2012), 192 pp.
international art market globalizes the indigenous image, it changes its
identity, status, value, and purpose in local and larger contexts. Focusing on a school of Australian Aboriginal
painting that has become popular in the contemporary art world, Robyn Ferrell
traces the influence of cultural exchanges on art, the self, and attitudes
toward the other.
Aboriginal acrylic painting, produced by indigenous women artists of the
Australian Desert, bears a superficial resemblance to abstract expressionism
and is often read as such by viewers. Yet
to see this art only through a Western lens is to miss its unique ontology,
logics of sensation, and rich politics and religion. Ferrell explores the culture that produces
these paintings and connects its aesthetic to the brutal environmental and
economic realities of its people. From
here, she travels to urban locales, observing museums and department stores as
they traffic interchangeably in art and commodities.
Ferrell ties the history of these desert works to global acts of genocide and
dispossession. Rethinking the value of
the artistic image in the global market and different interpretations of the
sacred, she considers photojournalism, ecotourism, and other sacred sites of
the western subject, investigating the intersection of modern art and
postmodern culture. She ultimately
challenges the primacy of the "European gaze" and its fascination
with sacred cultures, constructing a more balanced intercultural dialogue that
deemphasizes the aesthetic of the real championed by western philosophy.
Ruth Illman, Art and Belief, Artists Engaged in
Interreligious Dialogue (Equinox Publishing, Ltd., 2012), 235 pp.
and Belief explores
communication between faiths through an examination of contemporary artistic
practice. The book discusses how a range
of artists, all active, formulate their worldview and what motivates them to
engage in dialogue. The artists
interviewed include Jordi Savall, Susanne Levin, Marita Liulia, Chokri Mensi,
Cecilia Parsberg, and Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt.
Together, these artists are engaged in a wide range of artistic forms
and practice and come to dialogue from diverse religious positions. The aim of this book is to question the
assumptions of interreligious dialogue as a largely intellectual exercise in defining
the religious “other” and to explore dialogue as a manifestation of
Paul Crowther, The Phenomenology of
Modern Art Exploding Deleuze, Illuminating Style (Imprint: Continuum, July
2012), 296 pp.
philosophical approach, phenomenology is concerned with structure in how
phenomena are experienced. The
Phenomenology of Modern Art uses phenomenological insights to explain the
significance of style in modern art, most notably in Impressionism,
Expressionism, Cezanne and Cubism, Duchampian conceptualism and abstract art. Paul Crowther explores this thematic
approach in a new way, addressing specific visual artworks and tendencies
in detail and introduces a new methodology - post-analytic phenomenology. It is this more critical, post-analytic
orientation that allows the book to utilize some unexpected phenomenological
resources. Gilles Deleuze, rarely
associated with phenomenology, in fact employs an overriding phenomenological
orientation in his focus on modern art. Crowther
uses Deleuze's important phenomenological insights as a starting point and goes
on to develop arguments found in two other thinkers, Nietzsche and
Merleau-Ponty, as well as addressing those figures and tendencies in relation
to whom twentieth-century critical appropriations of Kant have been most
influential. Accompanied by illustrations,
the book offers the first sustained phenomenological approach to modern art.
Diana Boros, Creative Rebellion for the Twenty-First Century: The
Importance of Public and Interactive Art to Political Life in America (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2012), 222 pp.
ISBN-10: 0230338798 ISBN-13: 978-0230338791
Employing political philosophy to argue the need
for social and public art projects to be a part of the everyday lives of
Americans, Boros creates a new synthesis of philosophical ideas to support the
political value of public art. The
author endeavors to add to the ongoing discussions regarding the foundations of
democracy, engages in groundbreaking new ways the works of key political
philosophers, and promotes public art as a way to re-invigorate our everyday
public experiences, and to re-engage people in their communities
Amelia Jones, Seeing Differently-
A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts (Routledge, March 2012), 258 pp.
ISBN 9780415543835 ISBN 9780415543828
offers a history and theory of ideas about identity in relation to visual arts
discourses and practices in Euro-American culture, from early modern beliefs
that art is an expression of an individual, the painted image a "world
picture" expressing a comprehensive and coherent point of view, to the
rise of identity politics after WWII in the art world and beyond. The book is both a history of these ideas
(for example, tracing the dominance of a binary model of self and other from
Hegel through classic 1970s identity politics) and a political response to the
common claim in art and popular political discourse that we are
"beyond" or "post-" identity. In challenging this latter claim, Seeing
Differently critically examines how and why we "identify" works
of art with an expressive subjectivity, noting the impossibility of claiming we
are "post-identity" given the persistence of beliefs in art discourse
and broader visual culture about who the subject "is," and offers a
new theory of how to think this kind of identification in a more thoughtful and
Differently offers a mode of thinking identification as a "queer
feminist durational" process that can never be fully resolved but must be
accounted for in thinking about art and visual culture. Queer feminist durationality is a mode of
relational interpretation that affects both "art" and
"interpreter," potentially making us more aware of how we evaluate
and give value to art and other kinds of visual culture.
Jarmo Valkola, Thoughts
on Images: A Philosophical Evaluation
(ZetaBooks, March 2012), 374 pp.
ISBN 9786068266220 ISBN 9786068266237
Assuming that images are not merely our projections
onto the world, what are they? First of
all, we are living in an era in which visual images and the visualizing of
things that are not necessarily visual has accelerated so dramatically that the
global circulation of images has become an end itself, especially through
Internet. Related to this, the context
of the images is now wide and open for new forms of interpretation. Nowadays images are more prone to circulation,
changed contexts, and remaking. An image
can slip nimbly between the realms of desire and the everyday, dream and
wakefulness, subjective and collective memory, but also an image can be a world
whose experience of the real is, in actuality, constantly and imperceptibly
shifting between these categories.
Thoughts on Images is a
metatheoretical, and in some sense also metapractical account of how we can
approach the role of the image in our contemporary visual and media culture. We are living in a visual and pictorial
culture and the contemporary culture is deeply immersed in changing cultural
and technological forms. The important question
is raised as how far new media and communication techniques do actually
determine he culture they actually exist within. The significance of the images in today’s
world is greater than ever. Consequently,
images have to be studied in a variety of ways and using a wide range of
methods and approaches. Images are
everywhere around us. In front of the
images we have to make choices between the surface of the image and the virtual
world it refers to. The perception of
the images is not just the processing of the information but also a psychic
experience and not straight comparative with the information contained in the
J. E. Gracia, Painting Borges, Philosophy
Interpreting Art Interpreting Literature (SUNY Press, 2012), 322 pp.
Borges, Jorge J. E. Gracia explores the artistic interpretation of fiction
from a philosophical perspective. Focusing
on the work of Jorge Luis Borges, one of the most celebrated literary figures
of Latin America, Gracia offers original interpretations of twelve of Borges’s
most famous stories about identity and memory, freedom and destiny, and faith
and divinity. He also examines
twenty-four artistic interpretations of these stories—two for each—by
contemporary Argentinean and Cuban artists such as Carlos Estévez, León
Ferrari, Mirta Kupferminc, Nicolás Menza, and Estela Pereda. This philosophical exploration of how artists
have interpreted literature contributes to both aesthetics and hermeneutics,
makes new inroads into the understanding of Borges’s work, and introduces
readers to two of the most vibrant artistic currents today. Color images of the artworks discussed are
Carroll, Living in an Artworld
(Evanston Publishing, ), 388 pp.
Living in an Artworld is a collection of
reviews, overviews, and theoretical essays on dance, performance art, theater,
and visual art. Written mostly between the
mid-nineteen seventies and the eighties in publications such as Artforum, The Soho Weekly, and Dance
Magazine, the essays cover the avant-garde arts in New York during that
period as a complex, interrelated artworld.
Carroll analyzes and describes the works on their own terms, but also
places them within the context of larger movements, including artistic and cultural
tendencies that influenced choreographers, performance artists, and painters
Davies, Musical Understandings
(Oxford University Press, 2011), 221 pp.
Musical Understandings presents an engaging
collection of essays on the philosophy of music, including how music expresses
emotion and what is distinctive to the listener’s response to this
expressiveness; the modes of perception and understanding that can be expected
of skilled listeners, performers, analysts, and composers, and the various
manners in which these understandings can be manifest; the manner in which
musical works exist and their relation to their instances or performances; and
musical profundity. As well as reviewing
the work of philosophers of music, a number of the chapters both draw on and
critically reflect on current work by psychologists concerning music. The collection includes new material, a
number of adapted articles which allow for a more comprehensive, unified treatment
of the issues at stake, and work published in English for the first time.