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Course: Lyotard’s Aesthetics

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The special two-part course ‘Lyotard’s Aesthetics’, taught by Dr Ashley Woodward (Dundee), begins 11am on
Monday 30 June. All classes are in the Law Building at the University of Melbourne. DISTANCE ENROLMENT IS ALSO AVAILABLE.

Full details and enrolment: http://mscp.org.au/courses/winter-school-2014

Lyotard’s Aesthetics (Part 1 & 2)

Lecturer : Dr Ashley Woodward

Part One: 11am-1pm | 30 June – 4 July
Part Two: 11am – 1pm | 7-11 July

Please Note: The two parts of Lyotard’s Aesthetics are counted and charged as two courses. You may enrol in one part without the other, although enrolling in both parts is recommended.

Jean-François Lyotard was the poststructuralist thinker most engaged with art and aesthetics, and this area of his work has recently been garnering renewed attention. Lyotard’s aesthetics is still best known through his association with the postmodern and the sublime, yet this reception remains mired in popular misconceptions of his work. Indicative of this is the fact that the impact of his aesthetic thought in the Anglophone world has been mainly felt through only three particular essays, while his writings on contemporary art and artists has recently filled six volumes (from Leuven University Press). This subject seeks to expose the deep core of Lyotard’s complex aesthetic concerns by positioning his thought in relation to those thinkers whose aesthetic theories he thought most deeply with, and against. It introduces Lyotard’s aesthetics through his critical engagement with four other key thinkers: Merleau- Ponty, Freud, Kant, and Adorno. These engagements reveal what he took to be essential to philosophy’s
attempts to think art and sensation in an era in which, he argues, “traditional” aesthetics is over, yet art remains very much alive.

Lyotard’s Aesthetics Part 1: Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis

This seminar introduces Lyotard’s early aesthetics around the books Discourse, Figure (1971) and Libidinal Economy (1974), in which his primary reference points are located in the traditions of phenomenological and psychoanalytic aesthetics. It introduces some of the key ideas of these traditions, and explores Lyotard’s critical engagements with and creative appropriations of them. It also charts the way in which Lyotard returns to these themes in later writings, offering fresh critical perspectives on aesthetics based
on perception (phenomenology) and desire (psychoanalysis). Lyotard here develops an aesthetics “between” phenomenology and psychoanalysis, arguing that a work of art is a matter of both perception and feeling (and neither alone).

Course Schedule

Lecture 1 : Introduction to Lyotard. The project of Discourse, Figure.

Lecture 2 : Merleau-Ponty and Phenomenology: Introduction. Discourse, Figure.

Lecture 3 : Merleau-Ponty and Phenomenology: From Discourse, Figure to later considerations. From
phenomenology to psychoanalysis.

Lecture 4 : Freud and Psychoanalysis: Introduction. The figural.

Lecture 5 : Freud and Psychoanalysis: Libidinal economic aesthetics. Later considerations. Critical

Lyotard’s Aesthetics Part 2: Traditional Aesthetics and Contemporary Art

This seminar introduces Lyotard’s later aesthetics around the books What to Paint? (1987), Lessons on the
Analytic of the Sublime (1991), and Karel Appel: A Gesture of Colour (1992). In these later works Lyotard
engages more directly with traditional philosophical aesthetics – especially that of Immanuel Kant – as
well as with the works of many contemporary artists. He develops an aesthetics which follows on and
responds to Theodor W. Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, taking up the idea that contemporary art has thrown
traditional aesthetics into crisis. Through the engagement of these themes Lyotard contributes to both
topical and perennial concerns around art and aesthetics, such as the nature of aesthetic experience, the
place of art in relation to history, the political power of art, the question of the “end” of art, and the
problem of philosophical commentary on art. Throughout it all, Lyotard develops a powerful defence of the
continued vitality of art and the value of artistic experimentation.

Course Schedule

Lecture 1: Introduction to Lyotard,. The concerns of traditional aesthetics. The stakes of contemporary

Lecture 2: Kant and Traditional Aesthetics: Lyotard’s Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime.

Lecture 3: Kant and Traditional Aesthetics: The sublime and contemporary art. Lyotard on the beautiful.

Lecture 4: Adorno and Contemporary Art: Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory. The current state of aesthetics.

Lecture 5: Lyotard and Contemporaray Art: The end of art, or the end of aesthetics? Art commentary.
Critical Summary.

Recommended Reading

Merleau-Ponty, “Cézanne’s Doubt”
Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind”
Lyotard, Discourse, Figure (selections)
Lyotard, “Freud According to Cézanne”
Kant, The Critique of Judgement (selections)
Lyotard, What to Paint? (selections)
Lyotard, Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (selections)
Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (selections)
Lyotard, Karel Appel : A Gesture of Colour (selections)

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate. No specific knowledge of the material covered will be assumed, but some
previous study of continental philosophy and/or art history would be of assistance.