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.
Omid Tofighian, Myth
and Philosophy in Platonic Dialogues (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2016), 250 pp.
This book rethinks Plato’s creation and use of myth by
drawing on theories and methods from myth studies, religious studies, literary theory,
and related fields. Individual myths function differently depending on cultural
practice, religious context, or literary tradition, and this interdisciplinary
study merges new perspectives in Plato studies with recent scholarship and
theories pertaining to myth. Significant overlaps exist between prominent
modern theories of myth and attitudes and approaches in studies of Plato’s
myths. Considering recent developments in myth studies, this book asks new
questions about the evaluation of myth in Plato. Its appreciation of the
historical conditions shaping and directing the study of Plato’s myths opens
deeper philosophical questions about the relationship between philosophy and
myth and the relevance of myth studies to philosophical debates. It also extends
the discussion to address philosophical questions and perspectives on the
distinction between argument and narrative.
Sensory Arts and
Design, edited by Ian Heywood (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), 280 pp.
Artists, designers and researchers are increasingly seeking
new ways to understand and explore the creative and practical significance of
the senses. Sensory Arts and Design
brings art and design into the field of sensory studies providing a clear
introduction to the field and outlining important developments and new
An exploration of both theory and practice, Sensory Arts and Design
brings together a wide variety of examples from contemporary art and design
that share a sensory dimension in their development or user experience. Divided
into three parts, the book examines the design applications of new technology
with sensing capacities; the role of the senses in creating new imaginative
environments; and the significance of the senses within different cultural
practices. Thirteen chapters cover a diverse range of issues – from the urban
environment, architecture, and soundscapes to gustatory art, multisensory
perception in painting, music and drawing, and the relationship between vision
Rudi van Etteger, Beyond
the Visible: Prolegomenon to an Aesthetics of Designed Landscapes (PhD
Thesis, Wageningen, NL: Wageningen University, 2016), 250 pp.
The topic of this research is the evaluation of works of
landscape architecture, in particular designed regional landscapes. The quality
of a work of landscape architecture can be evaluated against a number of
different criteria, such as functionality, sustainability and beauty. However, the aesthetic evaluation of a design
is the most elusive. To obtain a wider perspective on the aesthetic evaluation
of works of landscape architecture one should also study philosophy, focusing
on the question of aesthetics. In
Chapter 2 of his book The Principles of
Art, R. Collingwood makes a distinction between two types of aestheticians:
the artist aestheticians and the philosopher aestheticians. The artist, says
Collingwood, "knows what he is talking about," but does not know how
to talk about art and "talks nonsense." The philosophers write about
art and know how to write, but "there is no security that they will know
what they are talking about."
The author draws on both architecture and philosophy in
writing this book in the hope of bridging this gap between the artist and the
philosopher. The reader is invited, from whichever direction he or she
approaches the bridge, not just to look across, but to walk across and engage
with the other side. In this book tentative answers to some of the questions
concerning the aesthetic evaluation of landscapes are provided. This is a first
step, a prolegomenon, a first foray into the territory of the aesthetic
evaluation of works of landscape architecture.
Owen Hulatt, Adorno's
Theory of Philosophical and Aesthetic Truth (New York: Columbia University
Press, 2016), 245 pp.
In Adorno's Theory of
Philosophical and Aesthetic Truth, Owen Hulatt undertakes a reading of
Theodor W. Adorno's epistemology and its material underpinnings, deepening our
understanding of his theories of truth, art, and the non-identical. Hulatt's interpretation
casts Adorno's theory of philosophical and aesthetic truth as substantially
unified, supporting the thinker's claim that both philosophy and art are
capable of being true.
For Adorno, truth is produced when rhetorical
"texture" combines with cognitive "performance," leading to
the breakdown of concepts that mediate the experience of consciousness. Both
philosophy and art manifest these features, although philosophy enacts these
conceptual issues directly, while art does so obliquely. Hulatt builds an argument
for Adorno's claim that concepts ineluctably misconstrue their objects. He also
puts the still influential thinker into conversation with Hegel, Husserl,
Frazer, Sohn-Rethel, Benjamin, Strawson, Dahlhaus, Habermas, and Caillois,
among many others.
Museums in a Digital
Culture: How Art and Heritage Become Meaningful, edited by Chiel van den
Akker and Susan Legêne (Amsterdam University Press, 2016), 142 pp.
The experience of engaging with art and history has been
utterly transformed by information and communications technology in recent
decades. We now have virtual, mediated access to countless heritage collections
and assemblages of artworks, which we intuitively browse and navigate in a way
that wasn't possible until very recently. This collection of essays takes up
the question of the cultural meaning of the information and communications
technology that makes these new engagements possible, asking questions like:
How should we theorize the sensory experience of art and heritage? What does
information technology mean for the authority and ownership of heritage?
Keith Kenney, Philosophy for Multisensory Communication
and Media (Peter Lang, 2016), 249 pp. ISBN-13:
Perception and communication are
multisensory. We express and perceive cognitive feelings via all of the senses
simultaneously. In addition, each sense influences the others, so the fields of
visual studies and auditory studies only emphasize one part of a multisensory
experience. Media are also beginning to enable the sharing of sensory
experiences with people at a distance. We can use smartphones and computers to
send scents, flavors, and vibrations/forces, as well as sounds, photos, and
videos. In addition, ubiquitous media are collecting sub-sensory data and then
sharing these data with humans. But we lack research methods and theory to
study multisensory perception, communication, and media. Philosophy for Multisensory Communication and Media lays the
foundation for multisensory media theory by synthesizing the ideas of
philosophers of phenomenology, perception, and aesthetics. Scholars interested
in communication theory, media theory, and multimodality will discover new
ideas by current philosophers writing about painting, photography, film, music,
dance, and interactive artworks. Sensory studies scholars will learn how their
field can be extended to communication and media. Designers of multisensory
experiences, such as videogame developers, will find practical suggestions for
creating richer and more meaningful experiences. A dozen sidebars apply
philosophical ideas to common experiences.
Cognition, and the Common Sense, edited by Caroline A. Jones, David Mather,
and Rebecca Uchill (MIT Press, 2016), 352 pp.
a reading experience that approaches its subject through multiple
modes. A heat-sensitive cover by Olafur Eliasson reveals words, colors, and a
drawing when touched by human hands. Endpapers, designed by Carsten Höller, are
printed in ink containing carefully calibrated quantities of the synthesized
human pheromones estratetraenol and androstadienone, evoking the suggestibility
of human desire. The margins and edges of the book are designed by Tauba
Auerbach in complementary colors that create a dynamically shifting effect when
the book is shifted or closed. When the book is opened bookmarks cascade from
the center, emerging from spider web prints by Tomás Saraceno. Experience produces experience while
bringing the concept itself into relief as an object of contemplation. The
sensory experience of the book as a physical object resonates with the
intellectual experience of the book as a container of ideas.
convenes a conversation with artists, musicians, philosophers, anthropologists,
historians, and neuroscientists, each of whom explores aspects of sensorial and
cultural realms of experience. The texts include new essays written for this
volume and classic texts by such figures as William James and Michel Foucault.
Emmanouil Aretoulakis, Forbidden
Aesthetics, Ethical Justice, and Terror in Modern Western Culture
(Lexington Books, 2016), 182 pp.
Ethical Justice, and Terror in Modern Western Culture explores the
potential links between terror and aesthetics in modern Western society,
specifically the affinity between terrorism and the possibility of an aesthetic
appreciation of terrorist phenomena and events. But can we actually have an
aesthetic appreciation of terror or terrorism? And if we can, is it ethical or
Emmanouil Aretoulakis proposes that Western spectators and
subjects from the eighteenth century onwards have always felt, unconsciously or
not, a certain kind of fascination or even exhilaration before scenes of
tragedy and natural or manmade disaster. Owing to their immorality, such
“forbidden” feelings go unacknowledged. It would definitely seem callous as
well as politically incorrect to acknowledge the existence of aesthetics in
witnessing or representing human misery. Still, as Aretoulakis insists, our
aesthetic faculties or even our appreciation of the beautiful are already
inherent in how we view, appraise, and pass judgment upon phenomena of
terrorism and disaster. Paradoxically, such a “forbidden aesthetics” is ethical
despite its utter immorality.
Einav Katan-Schmid, Embodied
Philosophy in Dance; Gaga and Ohad Naharin’s Movement Research (Palgrave
Macmillan UK, 2016), 228 pp.
Representing the first comprehensive analysis of Gaga and Ohad Naharin's
aesthetic approach, this book follows the sensual and mental emphases of the
movement research practiced by dancers of the Batsheva Dance Company.
Considering the body as a means of expression, Embodied Philosophy in Dance deciphers forms of meaning in dance as
a medium for perception and realization within the body. In doing so, the book
addresses embodied philosophies of mind, hermeneutics, pragmatism, and social
theories in order to illuminate the perceptual experience of dancing. It also reveals
the interconnections between physical and mental processes of reasoning and
explores the nature of physical intelligence.
Mark Lewis, Im/Possible
Films, François Bovier & Hamid Taieb, eds. (MētisPresses, 2016), 122 pp.
Mark Lewis works at the boundaries of the white cube and the
black box, exploring the limits and the potentialities of cinema. He
investigates, for example, standardized film conventions such as credits, end
sequences and scenes between actions, as well as elementary film devices,
including camera movements, zooms, and pans. Starting from a deconstructionist
perspective, Lewis has developed his own formal language reminiscent of early
cinema in a post-conceptual age.
This volume includes a portfolio by Mark Lewis, an interview
with the artist, and a series of essays which draw on tools forged I nth fields
of art history, philosophy and film studies. The publication gives access, on
the internet, to a selection of films by Mark Lewis representative of his
wide-ranging and conceptual approach, from his first "impossible"
films to his later "possible" works.
Harry Underwood, The
Experience of Beauty: Seven Essays and a Dialogue (Canada: McGill-Queen's
University Press, 2016), 184 pp.
The notion of beauty as a point of transit between the sensuous and the ideal
is well-established in the history of Western philosophy. Describing this
transition and seeking to rethink the ways in which humans understand the
things they find beautiful in life, The
Experience of Beauty approaches the notion of beauty through the insights
of major but distinctly different philosophers and artists. The author considers the principal instances
of beauty as it reveals itself in everyday experience, as a concept in the mind
of the philosopher, as the artist's vision, and as the shining image of the
ideal. A meditation on the mystery of
beauty, this collection of essays contends that beauty serves life as an
inspiration, not merely as an ornament.
Thomas E. Wartenberg, Mel
Bochner: Illustrating Philosophy (University Press of New England, 2016),
Thomas E. Wartenberg curated Mel Bochner's Wittgenstien Illustrations for the
exhibition Mel Bochner: Illustrating
Philosophy, July 21- December 20, 2015, at the Mount Holyoke College Art
"Can works of philosophy be illustrated? What would a visual
illustration of a philosophical idea look like? Take, for example, Plato's
metaphysical claim that the objects possessing complete reality are not those
we can perceive through the senses. Like many philosophical theses, isn't
Plato's by its very nature something that cannot be given a visual
representation? In fact, aren't philosophical ideas and theories, by virtue of
their very abstractness, incapable of being rendered purely visually? These are
some of the questions raised by Mel Bochner's project of illustrating the work
of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. (p. 11)
Like many works characterized as conceptual art, the ones by
Bochner that were inspired by Wittgenstein make significant demands on the
viewer, who cannot approach them passively, hoping to be drawn in by such
traditional aesthetic properties as beauty. In this respect, as philosopher
Arthur Danto noted, these works resemble Wittgenstein's philosophizing, which
makes similar demands on the reader. Neither Bochner nor Wittgenstein presents
a message explicitly, thereby sparing the audience the serious effort of
decoding its meaning. Sustained study and attention are required to understand
the achievements of both the artist and the philosopher." (pp. 11-12)
Theory Matters: The Place of Theory in Literary and Cultural
Studies Today, Martin Middeke & Christoph Reinfandt, eds. (Palgrave
Macmillan UK, 2016), 362 pp.
Theory Matters attempts
to demonstrate that theory in literary and cultural studies has moved beyond
overarching master theories towards a greater awareness of particularity and
contingency, including its own. What is the place of literary and cultural
theory after the Age of Theory has ended?
Grouping its chapters into rubrics of metatheory, cultural
theory, critical theory, and textual theory, this collection demonstrates that
the practice of “doing theory” has neither lost its vitality, nor can it be in
any way dispensable. Current directions covered include the renewed interest in
phenomenology, the increased acknowledgement of the importance of media history
for all cultural practices and formations, complexity studies, new narratology,
literary ethics, cultural ecology, and an intensified interest in textual as
well as cultural matter.
Colloquium: Sound Art
and Music, eds. Thomas Gardner & Salomé Voegelin (Zero Books, 2016).
In 2012, Thomas
Gardner and Salomé Voegelin hosted a colloquium entitled "Music - Sound
Art: Historical Continuum and Mimetic Fissures," at the London College of
Communication, University of the Arts London. This colloquium dealt with the
current debate concerning the relationship between sound art and music. This
book proposes opening the colloquium to a wider readership through the
publication of a decisive range of the material that defined the event.
Rasa Reader: Classical Indian Aesthetics, translated
and edited by Sheldon Pollock (Columbia University Press, 2016), 472 pp.
From the early years of the Common Era to 1700, Indian
intellectuals explored with unparalleled subtlety the place of emotion in art.
Their investigations led to the deconstruction of art's formal structures and
broader inquiries into the pleasure of tragic tales. Rasa, or taste, was the word they chose to describe art's aesthetic
appeal, and their effort to pin down these phenomena became its own remarkable
act of creation.
This book follows the evolution of rasa from its origins in dramaturgical thought—a concept for the
stage—to its flourishing in literary thought—a concept for the page. A Rasa Reader incorporates primary texts
by every significant thinker on classical Indian aesthetics, many never
translated before. Headnotes explain the meaning and significance of each text,
a comprehensive introduction summarizes major threads in
intellectual-historical terms, and critical endnotes and an extensive
bibliography add further depth to the selections. The Sanskrit theory of
emotion in art is one of the most sophisticated in the ancient world, a
precursor of the work being done today by critics and philosophers of
aesthetics. A Rasa Reader's conceptual
detail, historical precision, and clarity will appeal to scholars interested in
global intellectual development.
Agon Hamza, Athusser
and Pasolini: Philosphy, Marxism, and Film (Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016),
Althusser and Pasolini
offers an in-depth analysis of the main thesis of Louis Althusser’s
philosophical enterprise alongside a dissection of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s most
important films. It claims that there is a philosophical, religious, and
political relationship between Althusser’s philosophy and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s
films, placing specific focus on critiques of ideology, religion, ideological
state apparatuses, and the class struggle. The discussion, however, does not
address Althusser and Pasolini alone but also draws on Spinoza, Hegel, Marx,
and Žižek to complete the study. Althusser and Pasolini provides a creative
reconstruction of Althusserian philosophy, as well as a novel examination of
Pasolini’s films from the perspective of the filmmaker’s own thought and
Steve Choe, Soverign
Violence: Ethics and South Korean Cinema in the New Millennium (Amsterdam
University Press, 2016), 326 pp.
ISBN 978 90 8964 638 5
South Korea is home to one of the
most vibrant film industries in the world today, producing movies for a strong
domestic market that are also drawing the attention of audiences worldwide.
This book presents a comprehensive analysis of some of the most well-known and
incendiary South Korean films of the millennial decade from eight major
directors. Building his analysis on contemporary film theory and philosophy, as
well as on interviews and other primary sources, the author makes a case that
these often violent films pose urgent ethical dilemmas central to life in the
age of neoliberal globalization.
Kimberly Mair, Guerilla
Aesthetics: Art, Memory, and the West
German Urban Guerrilla (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016), 384 pp.
The violent operations performed in the 1970s by West German
urban guerrillas, such as the Red Army Faction (RAF), were so vivid and
incomprehensible that it seemed to be more urgent to produce spectacle than to
be politically successful. Guerrilla
Aesthetics challenges the assumption that these guerrillas sought to
realize specific political goals. Instead, it tracks the guerrilla fighters’
plunge into an avant-garde-inspired negativity that rejected rationality and
provoked the state. Focusing on the Red
Decade of 1967 to 1977, which was characterized not only by terrorism and
police brutality but also by counterculture aesthetics, Mair draws from
archives, grey literatures, popular culture, art, and memorial and curatorial
practices to explore the sensorial aspects of guerrilla communications
performed by the RAF, as well as the 2nd of June Movement and the Socialist
Patients' Collective. Turning to cultural and artistic responses to the decade
and its legacy of raw public feelings, Mair also examines works by Eleanor
Antin, Erin Cosgrove, Christoph Draeger, Bruce LaBruce, Gerhard Richter, and
others. Reconsidering an enigmatic period in the history of terrorism, Guerrilla Aesthetics engages with the
inherent connections between violence, performance, the senses, and memory.
Exposing the Film
Apparatus: The Film Archive as a Research Laboratory, eds. Giovanna Fossati
and Annie van den Oever (Amsterdam University Press, March 2016), 480 pp.
ISBN 978 90 8964 718 4
Film archives have long been dedicated to preserving movies,
and in recent years they have been adapting to the changing formats and
technologies through which cinema is now created and presented. This collection
of essays makes the case for a further step: the need to see media technologies
themselves as objects of conservation, restoration, presentation, and research
in both film archives and film studies. Contributors with a wide range of
expertise in the film and media world consider the practical and theoretical
challenges posed by such conservation efforts and consider their potential to
generate new possibilities in research and education in the field.
Ernst, Sonic Time Machines: Explicit
Sound, Sirenic Voices, and Implicit Sonicity (Amsterdam University Press,
2016), 184 pp.
studies of aesthetics and knowledge have long tended to privilege the visual,
Wolfgang Ernst argues, at the expense of the aural. Sonic Time Machines
aims to correct that, presenting a new approach to theorizing sound that
investigates its split existence: as a temporal effect in a techno-cultural
context and as a source of knowledge and information. Ernst creates a new term
for the concept at the heart of the book, "sonicity," a flexible term
that allows him to consider sound with all its many physical, philosophical,
and cultural valences.
Cultural History of the Senses, ed. Constance Classen
(London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 6 volumes.
What did the past sound like, taste like, smell like? How did it look and
feel? How did people make sense of the world through their senses?
These are questions that are increasingly capturing the interest of
historians. A Cultural History of the Senses delves into the
sensory foundations of Western civilization, taking a comprehensive
period-by-period approach, which provides a broad understanding of the life of
the senses from antiquity to the modern day. Each volume contains a
chapter on the senses in art, literature, media, religion,
medicine, philosophy and science, the marketplace, the city and social life
generally over a span of 2500 years.
Vol. 1 A Cultural History of the Senses in Antiquity, 500 BCE-500 CE
edited by Jerry Toner (University of Cambridge, UK)
Vol. 2 A Cultural History of the Senses in the Middle Ages, 500-1450
edited by Richard Newhauser (Arizona State University, USA)
Vol. 3 A Cultural History of the Senses in the Renaissance, 1450-1650
edited by Herman Roodenburg (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Vol. 4 A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Enlightenment,
1650-1800 edited by Anne Vila (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
Vol. 5 A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Empire, 1800-1920
edited by Constance Classen (McGill University, Canada)
Vol. 6 A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age, 1920-2000
edited by David Howes (Concordia University, Canada)
Consciously: Somatic Transformations through Dance, Yoga, and Touch, edited
by Jondra Fraleigh (University of Illinois Press, 2015), 288 pp.
The popularity of yoga and Zen
meditation has heightened awareness of somatic practices. Individuals develop
the conscious embodiment central to somatics work via movement and dance or
through touch from a skilled teacher or therapist often called a somatic
bodyworker. Methods of touch and movement foster generative processes of
consciousness in order to create a fluid interconnection between sensation,
thought, movement, and expression. In Moving
Consciously, Sondra Fraleigh gathers
essays that probe ideas surrounding embodied knowledge and the conscious
embodiment of movement and dance. Using a variety of perspectives on movement
and dance somatics, Fraleigh and other contributors draw on scholarship and
personal practice to participate in a multifaceted investigation of a thriving
worldwide phenomenon. Their goal is to present the mental and physical health
benefits of experiencing one's inner world through sensory awareness and
movement integration. Moving Consciously incorporates concepts from
East and West into a timely look at life-changing, intertwined practices that
involve dance, movement, performance studies, and education.
Stephen Lee Naish, Create
or Die: Essays on the Artistry of Dennis
Hopper (Amsterdam University Press, 2016), 110 pp.
ISBN 978 90 8964 858 7
Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) was one of most charismatic and
protean figures to emerge from the American independent film movement of the
1960s and '70s, a compelling screen presence who helped give cult classics like
Easy Rider and Blue Velvet their off-kilter appeal. But his
artistic interests went far beyond acting, and this collection of essays is the
first major work to take in Hopper as a creative artist in all his fields of
endeavor, from acting and directing to photography, sculpture, and expressionist
painting. Stephen Naish doesn't skimp on covering Hopper's best-known work, but
he breaks new ground in putting it in context with his other creative
enterprises, showing how one medium informs another, and how they offer a
portrait of an artist who was restless, even flawed at times, but always aiming
to live up to his motto: create or die.
Bruce W. Wilshire, The
Much-at-Once: Music, Science, Ecstasy,
The Body (New York: Fordham
University Press, 2016),
In The Much-at-Once,
the late Bruce Wilshire seeks to rediscover the fullness of life in the world
by way of a more complete activation of the body's potentials. Wilshire builds on James's concept of the
much-at-once to name the superabundance of the world that surrounds, nourishes,
holds, and stimulates us; that pummels and provokes us; that responds to our
deepest need--to feel ecstatically real.
Appealing to our powers of hearing and feeling, with a special emphasis
on music, he engages a rich array of composers, writers, and thinkers ranging
from Beethoven and Mahler to Emerson and William James.
Can Architecture Be an
Emancipatory Project? Dialogues on
Architecture and the Left, edited by Nadir Z. Lahiji (Zero Books, 2016), 216
Can architectural discourse rethink itself in terms of a
radical emancipatory project? And if so, what would be the contours of such a
discourse? These are the questions
Lahiji asks of his interlocutors - Andreotti, Cunningham, Deamer, Swyngedouw
and Ockman. Can Architecture be an Emancipatory Project? provides a platform to
ask searching questions of architecture, the Left, and each other. The arguments and exchanges presented in this
book cover issues of autonomy and activism, the relationship between the
political and the economic, and form and abstraction.
Liam Gillick, Industry
and Intelligence- Contemporary Art since 1820 (Columbia University Press,
2016), 208 pp.
The history of modern art is often told through aesthetic
breakthroughs that sync well with cultural and political change. From Courbet
to Picasso, from Malevich to Warhol, it is accepted that art tracks the
disruptions of industrialization, fascism, revolution, and war. Yet filtering
the history of modern art only through catastrophic events cannot account for
the subtle developments that lead to the profound confusion at the heart of
contemporary art. Liam Gillick writes a genealogy
to help us appreciate contemporary art's engagement with history even when it
seems apathetic or blind to current events. Taking a broad view of artistic
creation from 1820 to today, Gillick follows the response of artists to
incremental developments in science, politics, and technology. The great
innovations and dislocations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have
their place in this timeline, but their traces are alternately amplified and
diminished as Gillick moves through artistic reactions to liberalism, mass
manufacturing, psychology, nuclear physics, automobiles, and a host of other
advances. Industry and Intelligence ties
the origins of contemporary art to the social and technological adjustments of
modern life, which artists struggled to incorporate truthfully into their
Marta Jecu, Architecture
and the Virtual (The University of Chicago Press, 2016), 176 pp.
Architecture and the
Virtual is a study of architecture as it is reflected in the work of seven
contemporary artists working with the tools of our post-digital age. The book maps the convergence of virtual space
and contemporary conceptual art and is an anthropological exploration of
artists who deal with transformable space and work through analog means of
image production. Marta Jecu builds her
inquiry around interviews with artists and curators in order to explore how
these works create the experience of the virtual in architecture. Performativity and neo-conceptualism play
important roles in this process and in the efficiency with which these works
act in the social space.
Charles Nussbaum & Ronald Millar, Understanding Pornographic Fiction:
Sex, Violence, and Self-Deception (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015), 187
This work defends two main theses. First, modern Western pornographic fiction
functions as a self-deceptive vehicle for sexual or blood-lustful arousal; and
second, that its emergence owes as much to Puritan Protestantism and its inner-
or this-worldly asceticism as does the emergence of modern rationalized
Silvia Jonas, Ineffability
and its Metaphysics: The Unspeakable in
Art, Religion, and Philosophy (Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016), 304 pp.
Can art, religion, or philosophy afford ineffable insights? If so, what are they? The idea of ineffability has puzzled
philosophers from Laozi to Wittgenstein. Ineffability
and its Metaphysics examines different ways of thinking about what
ineffable insights might involve metaphysically, and shows which of these are
in fact incoherent. Jonas discusses the
concepts of ineffable properties and objects, ineffable propositions, ineffable
content, and ineffable knowledge, examining the metaphysical pitfalls involved
in these concepts. Ultimately, she
defends the idea that ineffable insights as found in aesthetic, religious, and
philosophical contexts are best understood in terms of self-acquaintance, a
particular kind of non-propositional knowledge.
Ineffability as a philosophical topic is as old as the history of
philosophy itself, but contributions to the exploration of ineffability have
been sparse. The theory developed by
Jonas aims to make the concept tangible and usable in many different
Patricia Pisters, Filming
for the Future: the Work of Louis van
Gasteren (Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press, 2015), 324 pp.
ISBN 978 94 6298 031 0
This is the first monograph on the work of one of the
Netherlands' most prolific filmmakers spanning sixty years of cultural history,
ranging from the Second World War to the rebellious sixties and eighties, from
Dutch water management to modern architecture, and from Europe to global consciousness.
This book presents a journey in the audio-visual and artistic sources in the
world of a filmmaker who, over the last sixty years, always had his camera on
standby. Pisters presents the most salient features of a wide-ranging and vital
oeuvre that becomes more amazing and important as time goes by.
l'Environment- Appréciation, Connaissance
et Devoir, edited and translated by H.-S. Afeissa and Y. Lafolie
(Paris: Librarie Philsophique J. Vrin,
2015), 366 pp.
This new collection of well-known essays originally
published in English on environmental aesthetics is the first to appear in
French translation. It reflects a
growing interest in that country in environmental aesthetics. A Preface introduces the work, which is
grouped in three sections, each of which is preceded by an introduction: Foundational Texts (Hepburn, Carlson, and
Berleant), Alternative Models (Carrol, Godlovitch, Saito, and Brady), and
Ethical and Aesthetic Issues in Evironment (Rolston, Hettinger).
Janet Wolff, The
Aesthetics of Uncertainty (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2015), 184 pp.
Feminism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and Marxism,
among other critical approaches have undermined traditional notions of
aesthetics in recent decades. But questions of aesthetic judgment and pleasure
persist, and many critics now seek a "return to aesthetics" or a
"return to beauty."
Janet Wolff advances a "postcritical" aesthetics
grounded in shared values that are negotiated in the context of community. She
relates this approach to contemporary debates about a committed politics
similarly founded on the abandonment of certainty. Neither universalist nor
relativist, The Aesthetics of Uncertainty
provides a discourse on beauty that contemporary critics can engage with and
offers a basis for judgment that is committed to assigning value to works of
Wolff explores her position through a range of topics: the
question of beauty in relation to feminist critique; the problematic status of
twentieth-century English art, visual representations of the Holocaust, Jewish
identity as portrayed by the artist R. B. Kitaj, refugee artists and modernism
in 1940s Britain, and the nature and appeal of imagistic thinking in sociology.
She addresses the desire for certainty and the timeliness of doubt, and
concludes with a meditation on the intersection of aesthetics and ethics,
arguing that ethical issues are very much implicated in aesthetic discourse.
Numbers and Nerves,
eds. Scott Slovic & Paul Slovic (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University
Press, 2015), 238 pp.
Numbers and Nerves explores a wide range of
psychological phenomena and communication strategies. These include fast and slow thinking, psychic
numbing, pseudoinefficacy, the prominence effect, the asymmetry of trust,
contextualized anecdotes, multifaceted mosaics of prose, and experimental digital
compositions, among others, and it places these in real-world contexts. In the
past two decades, cognitive science has increasingly come to understand that
we, as a species, think best when we allow numbers and nerves, abstract
information and experiential discourse, to work together. This book provides a
roadmap to guide that collaboration.
Mauro Carbone, The
Flesh of Images: Merleau-Ponty between Painting and Cinema, trans. Marta
Nijhuis (Albany, NY: SUNY Press Books,
2015), 128 pp.
In The Flesh of Images, Mauro
Carbone begins with the point that Merleau-Ponty’s often misunderstood notion of
“flesh” was another way to signify what he also called “Visibility.”
Considering vision as creative voyance, in the visionary sense of
creating as a particular presence something which, as such, had not been
present before, Carbone proposes connections between Merleau-Ponty and Paul
Gauguin, and articulates his own further development of the “new idea of light”
that the French philosopher was beginning to elaborate at the time of his
sudden death. Carbone connects these ideas to Merleau-Ponty’s continuous
interest in cinema—an interest that has been traditionally neglected or
circumscribed. Focusing on Merleau-Ponty’s later writings, including
unpublished course notes and documents not yet available in English, Carbone
demonstrates both that Merleau-Ponty’s interest in film was sustained and
philosophically crucial, and also that his thinking provides an important
resource for illuminating our contemporary relationship to images, with
profound implications for the future of philosophy and aesthetics. Building on
his earlier work on Marcel Proust and considering ongoing developments in
optical and media technologies, Carbone adds his own philosophical insight into
understanding the visual today.
Sonia Keravel, Passeurs
de Paysages: Le Projet de Paysage comme
Art Relationnel (MētisPresses,
2015), 144 pp. In French.
In environmental practices, the question of reception
remains under-studied. Leaning on the analysis of several contemporary
achievements, this work seeks to understand how landscape designers conceive
their plans by anticipating the way they will be understood by future users.
These analyses show that if the process of landscape design varies considerably;
it is in every case an art that relates the landscape to its user in a relation
of exchange of person and environment. In reconstructing the process of conceiving
new projects, Keravel distinguishes between landscapes to be read that are
founded on a narrative; and landscapes to be lived, where the visitor is in a state
of immersion and where landscapes constantly evolving and invite the visitor's
Karl Rosenkranz, Aesthetics
of Ugliness: A Critical Edition, trans. Andrei Pop & Mechtild Widrich
(Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 335 pp.
In this text, Karl Rosenkranz shows ugliness to be the
negation of beauty without being reducible to evil, materiality, or other
negative terms used in its conventional condemnation. This insistence on the specificity of
ugliness, and on its dynamic status as a process afflicting aesthetic canons,
reflects Rosenkranz's interest in the metropolis. Like Walter Benjamin, he wrote on Paris and
Berlin, and possessed a voracious appetite for collecting caricature and
popular prints. Living and teaching,
like Kant, in remote Königsberg, Rosenkranz reflects on phenomena of modern
urban life, from the sublime to the comic, at a distance that results in
critical illumination. The struggle with
modernization and idealist aesthetics makes Aesthetics
of Ugliness, published four years before Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal, relevant to modernist experiment as well as to the
twenty-first century theoretical revival of beauty. Aesthetics
of Ugliness reworks conceptual understandings of what it means for a thing
to be ugly.
Cecilia Sjöholm, Doing
Aesthetics with Arendt: How to See Things (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015),
Cecilia Sjöholm reads Hannah Arendt as a philosopher of the
senses, grappling with questions of vision, hearing, and touch even in her
political work. Constructing an Arendtian
theory of aesthetics from the philosopher's fragmentary writings on art and perception,
Sjöholm begins a new chapter in Arendt scholarship that expands her relevance
for contemporary philosophers.
Arendt wrote thoughtfully about the role of sensibility and
aesthetic judgment in political life and on the power of art to enrich human
experience. Sjöholm draws a clear line
from Arendt's consideration of these subjects to her reflections on aesthetic
encounters and works of art mentioned in her published writings and stored among
her memorabilia. This effort allows
Sjöholm to revisit Arendt's political concepts of freedom, plurality, and
judgment from an aesthetic point of view and to incorporate Arendt's insight
into current discussions of literature, music, theater, and visual art. Though Arendt did not explicitly outline an
aesthetics, Sjöholm's work substantively incorporates her perspective into
contemporary reckonings with radical politics and their relationship to
Alva Noë, Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (New York: Hill and Wang, 2015), 285 pp.
What is art? Why does it matter to us? What does it tell us
about ourselves? Normally, we look to works of art in order to answer these
fundamental questions. But what if the
objects themselves are not what matter?
In Strange Tools: Art and Human
Nature, Alva Noë argues that our
obsession with works of art has gotten in the way of understanding how art
works on us.
For Noë, art isn't
a phenomenon in need of an explanation but a mode of research, a method of
investigating what makes us human--a strange tool. Art isn't just something to look at or listen
to; it is a challenge, a dare to try to make sense of what it is all about. Art aims not for satisfaction but for
confrontation, intervention, and subversion.
Through diverse and provocative examples from the history of art-making,
Noë reveals the transformative power of artistic production. By staging a dance, choreographers cast light
on the way bodily movement organizes us.
Painting goes beyond depiction and representation to call into question
the role of pictures in our lives.
Accordingly, we cannot reduce art to some natural aesthetic sense or
trigger; recent efforts to frame questions of art in terms of neurobiology and
evolutionary theory alone are doomed to fail.
By engaging with art, we are able to study ourselves in
profoundly novel ways. In fact, art and philosophy have much more in common than
you might think.
Eva Kit Wah Man, Issues
of Contemporary Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Context (Springer-Verlag
Berlin Heidelberg, 2015),103 pp.
This book discusses how China’s transformations in the last
century have shaped its arts and its philosophical aesthetics. How have political, economic and cultural
changes shaped China's aesthetic developments? Further, how have China's long-standing
beliefs and traditions clashed with modern desires and forces, and how have
these changes materialized in art? In
addition to answering these questions, this book brings Chinese philosophical
concepts on aesthetics into dialogue with those of the West and contributes to
the discussion in the fields of art, comparative aesthetics, and philosophy.