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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: After Aesthetics: Philosophy and/as Art (HIAR10128)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course follows on from the third-year course 'The Rise of the Aesthetic: Art, Nature and the Ideal'. It focuses on the late-nineteenth and twentieth-century critique of the concept of aesthetic experience and of related notions of subjectivity, particularly in the work of existential phenomenologists but also in the work of Frankfurt School critical theorists and some post-structuralist writers. The notion of aesthetic experience developed from eighteenth-century idealism and became of central importance to art-historical discourse as well as philosophy of art in the nineteenth century. Alois Riegl, for example, narrated the shift from classical to Christian art in terms of a more subjectivised mode of representation, while Heinrich Wölfflin saw in the transition from 'Renaissance' to 'Baroque' the move from a world of discrete entities to one unified in the fugitive nature of subjective visual experience. However, the claim that 'feeling', or a universal sense of humanity in experience, defines our relationship to art was rejected by a number of radical thinkers from the later nineteenth century onwards. For example, Nietzsche's existentialism attempted in different ways to reframe the significance of art to human culture; Freud's psychoanalysis undermined the notion of the unity of the subject and the motivations for artistic activity; more recently, Paul de Man attacked the very notion of aesthetics on political grounds. Students will engage with these challenging debates in module texts via presentations, group work and by bringing to class examples from the history of the arts that amplify or challenge the ideas under discussion.
Course description Part 1 : Nietzsche on Art
The Birth of Tragedy

Part 2 : Freud and Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (excerpts) and Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood

Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny

Part 3 : Art and Phenomenology
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 'Cézanne's Doubt' and 'Eye and Mind'

Martin Heidegger, 'The Origin of the Work of Art'

Martin Heidegger, 'The Origin of the Work of Art' (continued)

Part 4 : From Heidegger to Post-Structuralism
Jacques Derrida, 'Restitutions, or The Truth in Pointing'

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, Chapter 1

Jean François Lyotard, The Inhuman

Coda : Against Post-Aesthetics

Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics and its Discontents
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: History of Art 2 (HIAR08012) OR Architectural History 2a: Order & the City (ARHI08006) AND Architectural History 2b: Culture & the City (ARHI08007)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain verbally and in writing some key arguments in the development of post-aesthetic philosophy of art.
  2. Distinguish between the positions taken by thinkers studied in the course on the role of art in human society.
  3. Engage in open discussion with peers, defending their own views clearly and respecting the views of others.
  4. Work effectively in a group context.
  5. Conduct independent library research in support of written work and present their ideas succinctly and clearly using both theoretical and visual material.
Reading List
Selected Bibliography

Primary Texts

Jacques Derrida, 'Restitutions, of The Truth in Pointing' in The Truth in Painting, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: an archaeology of the human sciences, New York: Vintage Books, 1973

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, (Pelican Freud Library, Vol 4), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983
'Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood', 'The Uncanny', Art and Literature (Pelican Freud Library, Vol 14), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988

Martin Heidegger, 'The Origin of the Work of Art', in Julian Young and Kenneth Hayes (trans.), Off the Beaten Track, Cambridge: CUP, 2002

Galen Johnson (ed.), The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting, Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1993

Jean François Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, London: Polity, 1993

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, in Raymond Geuss and Ronald Spiers (eds.), The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, Cambridge: CUP, 1999 (rev.ed.)

Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics and its Discontents, London: Polity Press, 2009

Key resources

David Cooper, A Companion to Aesthetics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1995

Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy (on-line at

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Neil Cox
Tel: (0131 6)50 2313
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
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