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
publishers. These notices do not necessarily represent the views or
judgment of this journal. Readers are invited to send us such
information about books they think will interest other readers of CA.
Jos de Mul, Destiny
Domesticated. The Rebirth of Tragedy out
of the Spirit of Technology (SUNY Press, 2014), 358 pp.
analyzes contemporary technological society through the lens of Greek tragedy
and investigates three ways Western civilization has tried to tame fate: the heroic affirmation of fate in the tragic
culture of the Greeks, the humble acceptance of divine providence in
Christianity, and the abolition of fate in modern technological society. Against this background, Jos de Mul argues
that the uncontrollability of technology introduces its own tragic dimension to
our culture. Considering a range of
literary texts and contemporary events, and drawing on twenty-five centuries of
tragedy interpretation from philosophers such as Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche,
and Heidegger, literary critics George Steiner and Terry Eagleton, and others,
de Mul articulates a contemporary perspective on the tragic, shedding new light
on philosophical topics such as free will, determinism, and the contingency of
Daniel Yacavone, Film
Worlds: A Philosophical Aesthetics of
Cinema (New York: Columbia
University Press, 2014),
unpacks the significance of the "worlds" that narrative film creates,
offering a new perspective on cinema as art.
Drawing on aesthetics and the philosophy of art in both the continental
and analytic traditions, as well as on classical and contemporary film theory,
it weaves together multiple strands of thought and analysis to provide new
understandings of filmic representation, fictionality, expression, self-reflexivity,
style, and the full range of cinema's affective and symbolic dimensions.
Arts and Terror,
edited by Vladimir L. Marchenkov (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), 155 pp.
This book examines the manifestations of terror in the arts.
From classical tragedy to post-9/11 responses, terror as an emotion, violent
act, and state of the world has been a preoccupation of artists in all genres.
Using philosophy, art history, film studies, interdisciplinary arts, theatre
studies, and musicology, the authors included here delve into this perennially
contemporary theme to produce insights articulated in a variety of idioms from
traditional philosophical humanism to phenomenology to feminism. Their
approaches may vary, but together they reinforce the notion that terror is a
thread in the fabric of artistic expression as much as it has always been and,
alas, remains a thread in the fabric of life.
Disagree. A New Magazine on Arts and Society (Many
Variations Publishers, 2014)
This magazine is a new proposition in the vast sea of
magazines, books, papers and online platforms that unleash texts and images. Yet this initiative has grown out of an
urgency: in times of growing populism,
right-wing sentiments, conservative reflexes and the famous TINA-statement ("there
is no alternative"), we need to create a multiplicity of texts that
critically respond to the current landscape and look for progressive
alternatives. Time to Disagree! The Disagree. magazine is a result of the
cooperation between a changing group of artists, curators, and theoreticians. They join forces under the name of the
Disagree. Art assembly. Those who write
for the Disagree. magazine automatically become part of the editing team and
thus of the assembly. The Disagree. Art
assembly operates fully independently and does not receive any support for its
activities from official, non-official, private, or public bodies. You can order the first (free) issue (one or
many) by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
. The editors of the first issue are
Jeff Poak, Jean Gotthard, Harald Pogel, Nazim Besikci, Jana Tupivic, Anna
Anthony Lack, Martin
Heidegger on Technology, Ecology, and the Arts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 110 pp.
This reading of Heidegger's work on technology, art, and
ethics provides unique angles on specific works of modern art and architecture.
Lack begins with a discussion of Max
Weber's analysis of the disenchantment of the world and proceeds to develop
Heidegger's philosophy in a way that suggests a "re-enchantment" of
the world that faces the modern condition squarely, without nostalgia. The relationships between Heidegger's
philosophical analyses of technology, art, and ethics are clearly articulated
and connected in a framework for analyzing the modern human condition.
Tallis with Julian Spalding, Summers of
Discontent: the Purpose of Arts Today
(London: Wilmington Square Books, Dec. 2014),
time of the ancient Greeks, philosophers have pondered on the nature and
purpose of the arts, but artists have gone on making them and philosophers and
audiences enjoy their work regardless of these musings. None of their theories has met with universal
or even popular acceptance. But here is
theory that places the arts—all the arts—firmly and squarely within everyone's
everyday experiences. Summers of Discontent is an examination
of why artists create art in the first place and why we all feel the need for art
in our lives. The author, Raymond Tallis,
writes that the arts spring from our inability as humans to fully process our
experiences and from our hunger for a more rounded, more complete sense of the
Tonino Griffero, Atmospheres: Aesthetics of Emotional Spaces
(Ashgate, 2014), 180 pp.
published in Italian in 2010, Atmospheres:
Aesthetics of Emotional Spaces examines the role of atmospheres in daily
life and defines their main characteristics. Outlining the typical phenomenological
situations in which we experience atmospheres, Torino Griffero assesses their
impact on contemporary aesthetics. Griffero
puts forward a philosophical approach which systematizes a constellation of
affects and climates, finds patterns in the emotional tones of different spaces
(affordances), and assesses their impact on the felt body. He also critically discusses the spatial turn
invoked by several of the social sciences, and argues that there is a need for
a non-psychologistic rethinking of the philosophy of emotions. This book provides a history of the term
'atmosphere' and of the concepts anticipating its meaning (genius loci, aura, Stimmung,
numinous, emotional design, and ambiance), and examines the main ontological
characteristics of atmospheres and their principal phenomenological
Atmospheres concludes by showing how atmospheres affect
our emotions, our bodies' reactions, our state of mind and, as a result, our behavior
and judgments. Griffero assesses how atmospheres
are more effective than we have been rationally willing to admit, and to what
extent traditional aesthetics, unilaterally oriented towards art, has
underestimated this truth.
Ben Blumson, Resemblance and Representation:
An Essay in the Philosophy of Pictures (OpenBook Publishers, 2014),
Whereas words are connected to what they
represent merely by arbitrary conventions, pictures are connected to what they
represent by resemblance. The most
important difference between my portrait and my name, for example, is that
whereas my portrait and I are connected by my portrait’s resemblance to me, my
name and I are connected merely by an arbitrary convention. The first aim of this book is to defend this
platitude from the apparently compelling objections raised against it, by analyzing
depiction in a way which reveals how it is mediated by resemblance.
It’s natural to contrast the platitude that
depiction is mediated by resemblance, which emphasizes the differences between
depictive and descriptive representation, with an extremely close analogy
between depiction and description, which emphasizes the similarities between depictive
and descriptive representation. Whereas
the platitude emphasizes that the connection between my portrait and me is
natural in a way the connection between my name and me is not, the analogy
emphasizes the contingency of the connection between my portrait and me.
Nevertheless, the second aim of this book is to defend an extremely close
analogy between depiction and description.
The book argues that the apparently compelling
objections raised against the platitude that depiction is mediated by
resemblance are manifestations of more general problems, which are familiar
from the philosophy of language. These
problems, it argues, can be resolved by answers analogous to their counterparts
in the philosophy of language without rejecting the platitude. So the combination of the platitude that
depiction is mediated by resemblance with a close analogy between depiction and
description turns out to be a compelling theory of depiction, which combines
the virtues of common sense with the insights of its detractors.
Journal of Performance and Art, 107, special issue: Performance Drawing (PAJ Publications,
A special issue devoted to performance and
drawing, PAJ 107 opens up new possibilities and ways of thinking for
performance. Each artist in the issue
has a four-page portfolio of performance drawings and text on artistic process.
Artists include: Morgan O’Hara, Tony
Orrico, Jonah Bokaer, Graeme Miller, Caroline Bergvall, Romeo Castellucci, Anne
Bean, Carolee Schneemann, Francisco-Fernando Granados, George Quasha, Kirsten
Justesen, Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly, Clifford Owens, Tim Etchells, Warren
Neidich, and Meredith Monk. Dick
Higgins’s fascinating “Graphis” scores are also published in the issue. The issue features a long interview with
visual artist Joan Jonas, who will be representing the U.S. in the 2015 Venice
Lutz Koepnick, On Slowness: toward an Aesthetic
of the Contemporary (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2014), 319 pp.
Speed is an obvious facet of contemporary
society, whereas slowness has often been dismissed as conservative and
antimodern. Challenging a long tradition
of thought, Lutz Koepnick instead proposes we understand slowness as a strategy
of the contemporary -- a decidedly modern practice that gazes firmly at and
into the present's velocity.
As he engages with late twentieth- and early
twenty-first-century art, photography, video, film, and literature, Koepnick
explores slowness as a critical medium to intensify our temporal and spatial
experiences. Slowness helps us register
the multiple layers of time, history, and motion that constitute our present. It offers a timely (and untimely) mode of
aesthetic perception and representation that emphasizes the openness of the
future and undermines any conception of the present as a mere replay of the
past. Discussing the photography and art
of Janet Cardiff, Olafur Eliasson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Michael Wesely; the
films of Peter Weir and Tom Tykwer; the video installations of Douglas Gordon,
Willie Doherty, and Bill Viola; and the fiction of Don DeLillo, Koepnick shows
how slowness can carve out spaces within processes of acceleration that allow
us to reflect on alternate temporalities and durations.
Intensities and Lines
of Flight: Deleuze/Guattari and the Arts,
edited by Antonio Calgano, Jim Vernon, and Steve G. Lofts (Rowman &
Littlefield International), 240 pp.
The writings of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari offer the
most enduring and controversial contributions to the theory and practice of art
in post-war Continental thought. However, these writings are both so
wide-ranging and so challenging that much of the synoptic work on
Deleuzo-Guattarian aesthetics has taken the form of sympathetic exegesis, rather
than critical appraisal. This collection of essays, authored by both major
Deleuzian scholars and practicing artists and curators, offers an important
critique of Deleuze and Guattari's legacy in relation to a multitude of art
forms, including painting, cinema, television, music, architecture, literature,
drawing, and installation art. Inspired by the implications of Deleuze and
Guattari's work on difference and multiplicity and with a focus on the intersection
of theory and practice, the book represents a major interdisciplinary
contribution to Deleuze-Guattarian aesthetics.
Peter Lamarque, The
Opacity of Narrative (Rowman & Littlefield International), 230 pp.
What is narrative? What is distinctive about the great
literary narratives? In virtue of what is a narrative fictional or
non-fictional? This book explores these and related questions to bring new
clarity and insight to debates about narrative in philosophy, critical theory,
and narratology. He highlights 'opacity' as a feature of literary narratives
and examines the implications for our understanding of fictional worlds and
fictional characters. He challenges received views about narrative, questioning
the indispensability of narrative in an individual's self-conception and the
importance of both truth and emotion as measures of literary greatness. He
reflects on the 'non-fiction' novel arguing that it does not weaken the
distinction between fiction and no-fiction.
Aesthetics: Crossing Divides and
Breaking Ground, edited by Martin Drenthen and Jozef Keulartz (New York:
Fordham University Press, 2014), 252 pp.
Environmental aesthetics crosses several commonly recognized
divides: between analytic and continental philosophy, Eastern and Western
traditions, universalizing and historicizing approaches, and theoretical and
practical concerns. This volume sets out to show how these perspectives can be
brought into conversation with one another.
The first part surveys the development of the field and discusses future
directions. The second part explains how widening the scope of environmental
aesthetics demands a continual rethinking of the relationship between
aesthetics and other fields. How does environmental aesthetics relate to
ethics? Does aesthetic appreciation of the environment entail an attitude of
respect? What is the relationship between the theory and practice of
environmental aesthetics? The third part is devoted to the relationship between
the aesthetics of nature and the aesthetics of art. Can art help "save the
Earth"? The final part illustrates the emergence of practical applications
from theoretical studies by focusing on concrete case studies.
Doris Berger, Projected Art History: Biopics,
Celebrity Culture, and the Popularizing of American Art (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), 350 pp.
Biopics on artists influence the
popular perception of artists’ lives and work. Projected
Art History highlights the narrative structure and images created in the
film genre of biopics, in which an artist's life is being dramatized and
embodied by an actor. Concentrating on
two case studies, Basquiat (1996) and
Pollock (2000), the book also
discusses larger issues at play, such as how postwar American art history is
being mediated for mass consumption. This
book bridges a gap between art history, film studies, and popular culture by
investigating how the film genre of biopics adapts written biographies. It identifies the functionality of the biopic
genre and explores its implication for a popular art history that is projected
on the big screen for a mass audience.
Ruth Ronen, Art before the Law: Aesthetics
and Ethics (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2004),
Ever since Plato expelled the poets
from his ideal state, the ethics of art has had to confront philosophy’s denial
of art’s morality. In Art before the Law, Ruth Ronen proposes
a new outlook on the ethics of art by arguing that art insists on this
tradition of denial, affirming its singular ethics through negativity. Ronen treats the mechanism of negation as the
basis for the relationship between art and ethics. She shows how, through moves of denial,
resistance, and denouncement, art exploits its negative relation to morality. While deception, fiction, and transgression
allegedly locate art outside morality and ethics, Ronen argues they enable art
to reveal the significance of the moral law, its origins, and the idea of the
good. By employing the thought of Freud
and Lacan, Ronen reconsiders the aesthetic tradition from Plato through Kant
and later philosophers of art in order to establish an ethics of art.
Anne Emmanuelle Berger, The Queer Turn in Feminism: Identities, Sexualities, and the Theater of
Gender, trans. by Catherine Porter (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014), 228 pp.
More than any other area of
late-twentieth-century thinking, gender theory and its avatars have been to a
large extent a Franco-American invention. In this book, a leading Franco-American
scholar traces differences and intersections in the development of gender and
queer theories on both sides of the Atlantic. Looking at these theories through lenses that
are both "American" and "French," thus simultaneously
retrospective and anticipatory, she tries to account for their alleged
exhaustion and currency on the two sides of the Atlantic.
The book is divided into four parts. In the first, the author examines two
specifically "American" features of gender theories since their
earliest formulations: on the one hand,
an emphasis on the theatricality of gender; on the other, the early adoption of
a "queer" perspective on gender issues. In the second part, the author reflects on a
shift in the rhetoric concerning sexual minorities and politics that is prevalent
today. Noting a shift from efforts by
oppressed or marginalized segments of the population to make themselves
"heard" to an emphasis on rendering themselves "visible,"
she demonstrates the formative role of the American civil rights movement in
this new drive to visibility. The third
part deals with the travels back and forth across the Atlantic of "sexual
difference" ever since its elevation to the status of quasi-concept by
psychoanalysis. Tracing the
"queering" of sexual difference, the author reflects on both the
modalities and the effects of this development.
The last section addresses the vexing relationship between Western
feminism and capitalism. Without trying
either to commend or to decry this relationship, the author shows its long-lasting
political and cultural effects on current feminist and post-feminist struggles
and discourses. To that end, she focuses
on one of the intense debates within feminist and post-feminist circles, the
controversy over prostitution.
Practicing Pragmatist Aesthetics: Critical Perspectives on the Arts, editied by Malecki
Wojciech (Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi,
2014), 224 pp.
This is the
first English collection of works devoted exclusively to pragmatist
aesthetics. Its main aim is to employ
the resources of this
tradition in studying artistic phenomena such as film, sculpture, bio-art,
poetry, the novel, cuisine, and various body arts. It also attempts to provide a broader
background for such studies by sketching the history of pragmatist reflection on the aesthetic and by discussing the aesthetic conceptions of C.S.
Pierce, William James, John Dewey, Joseph Margolis, Richard Shusterman
(somaesthetics in particular), and others.
The Analysis of Beauty (London, U.K.: Strange
Attraction, 2003), 50 pp.
Featuring a critical essay by Richard Humphreys, The Analysis of Beauty is an illustrated paperback that documents the activities of the installation art and electronic music project called, "Disinformation." The book focuses on the evolution of
Disinformation's content and strategies, including numerous concerts, gallery
installations, and solo
Falk Heinrich, Performing
Beauty in Participatory Art and Culture (Routledge, 2014), 220 pp.
This book investigates the notion of beauty in participatory
art, an interdisciplinary form that necessitates the audience’s agential
participation and that is often seen in interactive art and technology-driven
After considering established theories of beauty, for
example, Plato, Alison, Hume, Kant, Gadamer and Santayana through to McMahon
and Sartwell, Heinrich argues that the experience of beauty in participatory
art demands a revised notion of beauty; a conception that accounts for the
performative and ludic turn within various art forms and which is, in a broader
sense, a notion of beauty suited to a participatory and technology-saturated
Through case studies of participatory art, he provides an
art-theoretical approach to the concept of performative beauty; an approach
that is then applied to the wider context of media and design artefacts.
Discourses of Space,
edited by Judit Pieldner and Zsuzsanna Ajtony (United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), 331 pp.
Ever since the emergence of the spatial turn in several
scientific discourses, special attention has been paid to the surrounding space
conceived as a construct created by the dynamics of human activity. The notion of space assists us in describing
the most varied spheres of human existence.
We can speak of various physical, metaphysical, social and cultural, and
communicative spaces as structuring components providing access to various
literary, linguistic, social and cultural phenomena, thus promoting the
initiation of a cross-disciplinary dialogue.
The essays selected in this volume cover a wide range of topics related
to space: intercultural and inter-ethnic
spaces; linguistic, textual space formation; the narratology of space,
spatial-temporal relationships, space construction in literature and film;
space in contemporary art; inter-art relations and intermediality; spaces of
cultural memory; nature and culture; cultural geography; cross-cultural
connections between the East and the West; Central and Eastern European
geocultural paradigms; the relationship between geographical space and
cyberspace; and relational spaces. The
approaches used in this volume range across various discursive practices
related to space, outlining the shifts and displacements concerning existence
and identity in the continuously changing, restructuring, always transitory,
The Curatorial: A Philosophy of Curating, edited by
Jean-Paul Martinon (London, England:
Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), 255 pp.
This book starts from a simple premise: thinking the activity of curating. To achieve this it distinguishes between
'curating' and 'the curatorial.' If
'curating' is a gamut of professional practices for setting up exhibitions,
then 'the curatorial' explores what takes place on the stage set up, both intentionally
and unintentionally, by the curator. It
therefore refers, not to the staging of an event, but to the event of knowledge itself. In order to start thinking about curating,
this book takes a new approach to the topic.
Instead of relying on conventional art historical narratives (for
example, identifying the moments when artistic and curatorial practices merged
or when the global curator-author was first identified), this book puts forward
a multiplicity of perspectives that range from the anecdotal to the theoretical
and from the personal to the philosophical.
Forest Pyle, Art's
Undoing: In the Wake of a Radical
Aestheticism (Bronx, New York:
Fordham University Press, 2014), 312 pp.
Radical aestheticism describes a recurring event in some
nineteenth-century British literature, offering us a way to reckon with what
takes place at certain moments in texts by Shelley, Keats, Dickinson, Hopkins,
Rossetti, and Wilde. This book explores
what happens when these writers, deeply committed to certain versions of
ethics, politics, or theology, nonetheless produce an encounter with a radical
aestheticism that subjects the authors' projects to a fundamental crisis.
A radical aestheticism offers no positive claims for art,
whether on ethical or political grounds or on aesthetics grounds, as in
"art for art's sake." The
radical aestheticism encountered in these writers, in its very extremity, takes
us to the constitutive elements, the figures, the images, the semblances, that
are at the root of any aestheticism, an encounter registered as evaporation,
combustion, or undoing. It is,
therefore, an undoing by and of art and aesthetic experience, one that leaves
this important literary tradition in its wake.
Art's Undoing embraces diverse
theoretical projects, from Walter Benjamin to Jacques Derrida. These become something of a parallel text to
its literary readings, revealing how some of the significant theoretical and
philosophical projects of our time remain within the wake of a radical
Jennifer A. McMahon, Art
and Ethics in a Material World: Kant's
Pragmatist Legacy (New York:
Routledge, 2014), 234 pp.
McMahon argues that a reading of Kant's body of work in the
light of a pragmatist theory of meaning and language (which arguably is a
Kantian legacy) leads one to put community reception ahead of individual
reception in the order of aesthetic relations. A premise of the book is that neo-pragmatism
draws attention to an otherwise overlooked aspect of Kant's "Critique of
Aesthetic Judgment," and this is
the conception of community that it sets forth.
While offering an interpretation of Kant's aesthetic theory, the book
focuses on the implications of Kant's third critique for contemporary art. McMahon draws upon Kant and his legacy in
pragmatist theories of meaning and language to argue that aesthetic judgment is
a version of moral judgment: a way to
cultivate attitudes conducive to community, which plays a pivotal role in the
evolution of language, meaning, and knowledge.
Dr. Gregory Victor
Loewen, The Use of Art in the
Construction of Personal Identity: A
Phenomenology of Aesthetic Self-Consciousness (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2012), 180 pp.
This book combines
research in philosophy, sociology, art theory and psychology to create the
concept of human aesthetic self-consciousness.
Topics include construction of aesthetic selfhood, art as projection,
art as memorialization, art as the uncanny, and art as identity.
Gimme Shelter: Global Discourses in Aesthetics, edited
by Jos de Mul and Renée van de Vall (Amsterdam:
Amsterdam University Press, 2013), 217 pp.
Gimme Shelter: Global Discourses in Aesthetics contains
a series of reflections on the impact of globalization on the arts and the
aesthetic reflection on the arts. The
authors, fifteen aestheticians from all over the world, discuss a variety of
aesthetic questions brought forth by the process of globalization. How do artistic practices and aesthetic
experiences change in response to these developments? How should we articulate these changes on the
theoretical level? When reflections on
the significance of art and aesthetic experiences can no longer pretend to be
universal, is it still possible to lay claim to a wider validity than merely
that of one's own particular culture?
What type of vocabulary allows for mutual exchanges and understandings
when different traditions meet, without obliterating local differences? Is there a possibility for a creative
re-description of globalization? And is
there a meaning of 'the global' that cannot be reduced to universalism and
unification? Can we seek shelter in a
Tiger C. Roholt, Key
Terms in Philosophy of Art (London:
Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), 147 pp.
Tiger C. Roholt provides detailed summaries of core concepts
in the philosophy of art. An
introductory chapter provides context and background, while the following
chapters offer detailed definitions of key terms and concepts, introductions to
the work of key thinkers, summaries of key texts, overviews of philosophy's
approach to the major art forms, and advice on further reading. Designed specifically to meet the needs of
students and assuming no prior knowledge of the subject, this is a useful reference tool for those coming to philosophy of art for the first time.
Policarp Hortolà, The aesthetics of haemotaphonomy (Alicante, Spain: Editorial Club Universitario, 2013), 92 pp.
Knowing the aesthetics of a science plays a key role in deciphering its underlying cultural
Haemotaphonomy is the science that deals with the morphology of the
blood cells in bloodstains, which is revealed when a blood smear is
examined under a scanning electron microscope. This essay intends to provide
insight into the aesthetics of haemotaphonomy by identifying its
stylistic parallels with literature and the visual arts. An additional interest
of this work is to serve as an example of a procedure for approaching the
aesthetics of other sciences. Moreover, this work focuses the aesthetics of science from a novel
perspective. It is
from a neutral point of view, unbound
from the compulsive search for a supposed ideal of
beauty. Hence, this essay does not consider beauty but rather aesthetic
movements: those that have been found to be self-evidently significant and
analytically productive in explaining the aesthetics of the science under
A previsualization of
this book can be found at:
Monique Roelofs, The
Cultural Promise of the Aesthetic (Continuum, March 2014), 224 pp.
Aesthetic desire and distaste prime everyday life in
surprising ways. Monique Roelofs casts a
much-needed light on the complex mix of meanings our aesthetic activities weave
into cultural existence.
Anchoring aesthetic experience in our relationships with
persons, places, and things, this book explores aesthetic life as a multimodal,
socially embedded, corporeal endeavor. Highlighting
notions of relationality, address, and promising, this study shows these
concepts at work in visions of beauty, ugliness, detail, nation, ignorance, and
cultural boundary. Unexpected aesthetic
pleasures and pains crop up in sites where passion, perception, rationality,
and imagination go together but also are in conflict. Bonds between aesthetics and politics are
forged and reforged.
Cross-disciplinary in outlook, and engaging the work of
theorists and artists ranging from David Hume to Theodor W. Adorno, Frantz
Fanon, Clarice Lispector, and Barbara Johnson, The Cultural Promise of the Aesthetic lays open the interpretive
web that gives aesthetic agency its vast reach.
Analyzing Art and
Aesthetics, eds. Anne Collins Goodyear and Margaret A. Weitekamp
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2013), 297 pp.
This ninth volume of the Artefacts
series explores how artists have responded to developments in science and
technology, past and present. Rather
than limiting the discussion to art alone, editors Anne Collins Goodyear and
Margaret Weitekamp also asked contributors to consider aesthetics: the scholarly consideration of sensory
responses to cultural objects. When
considered as aesthetic objects, how do scientific instruments or technological
innovations reflect and embody culturally grounded assessments about
appearance, feel, and use? And when
these objects become museum artifacts, what aesthetic factors affect their
exhibition? Contributors found answers
in the material objects themselves. This
volume reconsiders how science, technology, art, and aesthetics impact one
The Pursuit of
Comparative Aesthetics. An Interface
between the East and West, eds. Mazhar Hussain and Robert Wilkinson (Aldershot,
England: Ashgate, 2013), 264 pp.
Comparative aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that
compares the aesthetic concepts and practices of different cultures. The way in which cultures conceive of the
aesthetic dimension of life in general and art in particular reveals profound
attitudes and beliefs which themselves make up an important part of the culture
This anthology of essays by internationally recognized
scholars in this field brings into one volume important research in comparative
aesthetics, from classic early essays to previously unpublished contemporary
pieces. Ranging across cultures and time
periods as diverse as ancient Greece, India, China, Japan, and the modern West,
the essays reveal both similarities and deep differences among the aesthetic
traditions concerned. In the course of
these expositions and comparisons, there emerges the general conclusion that no
culture can be fully grasped if its aesthetic ideas are not understood.
Aesthetics in Poland. Masters and Their
Followers, ed., Krystyna Wilkoszewska (Warszawa: Semper, 2013), 292 pp.
Aesthetics understood as the philosophy of the fine arts has
always been an object of lively interest in Poland. Although the beginnings of academic aesthetics
in Poland date back to the first half of the 19th century, it flourished in the
period between the World Wars in the 20th century. This was when the giants of aesthetics –
Władysław Tatarkiewicz, Roman Ingarden, Stanisław Ossowski, and Henryk
Elzenberg – appeared and continued to
pursue their interest in aesthetics after the Second World War.
Moreover, a lively interest in the problems of aesthetics
was manifested by art and literary critics as well as by artists who combined
their artistic practice with theoretical reflection. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz Jr. – called
Witkacy – and Władysław Strzemiński were outstanding artists of the first half
of the 20th century representing the formalist current, and were the authors of
original theories of art – the theory of Pure Form and the theory of Unism,
respectively. Leon Chwistek, a
mathematician, an artist, and a philosopher, was the author of the conception
of the plurality of realities in art. Through
their works and lectures, they were all teachers of subsequent generations of
Polish aestheticians. Their followers
include Stefan Morawski and Tadeusz Pawłowski who reached high positions in
aesthetics. Aesthetic theories were
assimilated and further developed within their related domains: in the theory of music (Zofia Lissa), in
architecture (Julian Żórawski), in pedagogy (Stefan Szuman), and in the history
of art – Jan Białostocki. What is more,
this contribution does deserve attention. In the 20th century, Władysław Tatarkiewicz,
Roman Ingarden, and later Stefan Morawski enjoyed great fame. Some of their works were published abroad and
translated into various languages. The
output of other authors, however, is also important enough to be preserved from
oblivion. Polish aesthetics is
characterized by the fact that it was the artists themselves who formulated the
theories. This book is a collection of
essays on these and other central figures in 20th century Polish aesthetics.
Ethics, Design and Planning of the Built Environment, eds.
Claudia Basta and Stefano Moroni (Springer, 2013), 224 pp.
Ethics, Design and Planning of the Built Environment consists of original contributions in research
areas shared by planning theory, architectural research, design and ethical
inquiry. The contributors gathered in
2010 at the Ethics of the Built Environment seminar organized by the editors at
Delft University of Technology. Both
prominent and emerging scholars presented their researches in the areas of
aesthetics, technological risks, planning theory and architecture. The scope of the seminar was highlighting
shared lines of ethical inquiry among the themes discussed, in order to
identify perspectives of innovative interdisciplinary research. After the seminar all seminar participants
have elaborated their proposed contributions. Some of the most prominent international
authors in the field were subsequently invited to join in with this inquiry.
bridges these disciplinary domains without privileging any normative
perspective, in doing so offering broad yet essential critical instruments to a
wide audience. It establishes new lines
of inquiry for, in particular, investigating values as design factors in a
domain in which this theme has found less rigorous definition in comparison to
others (e.g. IT technology and industrial design). It offers a set of rigorous theoretical
perspectives on urgent topics with regards to planning (risks, aesthetics,
duties and rights of users, etcetera) through which both scholars and
practitioners can gain valid critical instruments to approach real planning
Thomas M. Alexander, The
Human Eros (New York: Fordham
University Press, 2013), 436 pp.
The Human Eros
explores themes in classical American philosophy, primarily the thought of John
Dewey but also that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Santayana, and Native
American traditions. Alexander's primary
claim is that human beings have an inherent need to experience meaning and
value, a "Human Eros." Our
various cultures are symbolic environments or "spiritual ecologies"
within which the Human Eros seeks to thrive.
This is how we inhabit the earth.
Encircling and sustaining our cultural existence is nature,
yet Western philosophy has not provided adequate conceptual models for thinking
ecologically. Alexander introduces the
idea of "eco-ontology" to explore ways in which this might be done,
beginning with the primacy of Nature over Being and including the recognition
of possibility and potentiality as inherent aspects of existence. He argues for the centrality of Dewey's
thought to an effective ecological philosophy. Both "pragmatism" and
"naturalism," he shows, need to be contextualized within an emergentist,
relational, nonreductive view of nature and an aesthetic, imaginative,
nonreductive view of intelligence.