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.
Massio Leone, On Insignificance: The Loss of Meaning in he Post-Material Age
(Routledge, 2019), 234 pp.
Focusing on the anthropological consequences
of the disappearing of materiality and sensory embodiment, On Insignificance
highlights some of the most perturbing patterns of insignificance that have
seeped into our everyday lives. Seeking to explain the semiotic causes of
feelings of meaninglessness, Leone posits that caring for the singularities of
the world is the most viable way to resist the alienating effects of the
digital bureaucratization of meaning. The book will be of interest to scholars
of anthropology, cultural studies, semiotics, aesthetics, communication
studies, and social theory.
Philosophical Perspectives on Ruins,
Monuments, and Memorials,
edited by Jeanette Bicknell, Jennifer Judkins, Carolyn Corsmeyer (Routledge,
2019), 304 pp.
collection of newly published essays examines our relationship to physical
objects that invoke, commemorate, and honor the past. The recent destruction of
cultural heritage in war and controversies over Civil War monuments in the US
have foregrounded the importance of artifacts that embody history. The book
invites us to ask: How do memorials convey their meanings? What is our
responsibility for the preservation or reconstruction of historically
significant structures? How should we respond when the public display of a
monument divides a community? This anthology includes coverage of the
destruction of Palmyra and the Bamiyan Buddhas, the loss of cultural heritage
through war and natural disasters, the explosive controversies surrounding
Confederate-era monuments, and the decay of industry in the U.S. Rust Belt. The
authors consider issues of preservation and reconstruction, the nature of
ruins, the aesthetic and ethical values of memorials, and the relationship of
cultural memory to material artifacts that remain from the past. Written by a group
of philosophers, art historians, and archeologists, the 23 chapters cover
monuments and memorials from Dubai to Detroit, from the instant destruction of
Hiroshima to the gradual sinking of Venice.
Read an interview with the editors, published in Aesthetics for Birds: https://aestheticsforbirds.com/2019/11/29/whats-so-interesting-about-the-past-an-interview-about-ruins-monuments-and-memorials/
The Philosophy of Rhythm, eds. Peter Cheyne, Andy
Hamilton & Max Paddison (Oxford University Press, December 2019), 432 pp.
is the fundamental pulse that animates poetry, music, and dance across all
cultures. And yet the recent explosion of scholarly interest across disciplines
in the aural dimensions of aesthetic experience—particularly in sociology,
cultural and media theory, and literary studies—has yet to explore this category.
This book furthers the discussion of rhythm beyond the discrete conceptual
domains and technical vocabularies of musicology and prosody. With essays by
philosophers, psychologists, musicians, literary theorists, and
ethno-musicologists, The Philosophy
of Rhythm opens up wider-and plural-perspectives, examining formal
affinities between the historically interconnected fields of music, dance, and
poetry, while addressing concepts such as embodiment, movement, pulse, and
performance. Volume editors Peter Cheyne, Andy Hamilton, and Max Paddison bring
together a range of questions: What is the distinction between rhythm and
pulse? What is the relationship between everyday embodied experience, and the
specific experience of music, dance, and poetry? Can aesthetics offer an
understanding of rhythm that helps inform our responses to visual and other
arts, as well as music, dance, and poetry? And, what is the relation between
psychological conceptions of entrainment, and the humane concept of rhythm and
Korsmeyer, Things: In Touch with the Past
(Oxford University Press, 2019), 232 pp.
In Touch with the Past explores the value of artifacts that have survived from the
past and that can be said to "embody" their histories. Such genuine
or "real" things afford a particular kind of aesthetic experience-an
encounter with the past-despite the fact that genuineness is not a perceptually
detectable property. Although it often goes unnoticed, the sense of touch
underlies such encounters, even though one is often not permitted literal
Carolyn Korsmeyer begins her account with the claim that wonder or marvel at old
things fits within an "experiential" account of the aesthetic. She
then presents her main argument regarding the role of touch-both when literal
contact is made and when proximity suffices, for touch is a fundamental sense
that registers bodily position and location. Correct understanding of the
identity of objects is presumed when one values things just because of what
they are, and with discovery that a mistake has been made, admiration is often
withdrawn. Far from undermining the importance of the genuine, these errors of
identification confirm it. Korsmeyer elaborates this position with a comparison
between valuing artifacts and valuing persons. She also considers the ethical
issues of genuineness, for artifacts can be harmed in various ways ranging from
vandalism to botched restoration. She examines the differences between a real
thing and a replica in detail, making it clear that genuineness comes in
degrees. Her final chapter reviews the ontology that best suits an account of
persistence over time of things that are valued for being the real thing.
Ivan Gaskell, Paintings and the Past:
Philosophy, History, Art (Routledge, 2019), 246 pp.
This book is an exploration of how art―specifically paintings in the
European manner―can be mobilized to make knowledge claims about the past. No
type of human-made tangible thing makes more complex and bewildering demands in
this respect than paintings. Ivan Gaskell argues that the search for pictorial
meaning in paintings yields limited results and should be replaced by attempts
to define the point of such things, which is cumulative and ever subject
to change. He shows that while it is not possible to define what art is―other
than being an open kind―it is possible to define what a painting is, as a
species of drawing, regardless of whether that painting is an artwork or not at
any given time.
The book demonstrates that things can be artworks on some occasions but not
necessarily on others, though it is easier for a thing to acquire artwork
status than to lose it. That is, the movement of a thing into and out of the
artworld is not symmetrical. All such considerations are properly matters not
of ontology―what is and what is not an artwork―but of use; that is, how a thing
might or might not function as an artwork under any given circumstances. These
considerations necessarily affect the approach to paintings that at any given
time might be able to function as an artwork or might not be able to function
as such. Only by taking these factors into account can anyone make viable
knowledge about the past.
This discussion ranges over innumerable examples
of paintings, from Rembrandt to Rothko, as well as plenty of far less familiar
material from contemporary Catholic devotional works to the Chinese avant
garde. Its aim is to enhance philosophical acuity in respect of the analysis of
paintings, and to increase their amenability to philosophically satisfying
historical use. Paintings and the Past is a text for
all advanced students and scholars concerned with philosophy of art,
aesthetics, historical method, and art history.