PSCI 339
Politics and Aesthetics Spring 2010
Division II Writing Skills
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Class Details

In recent years, political theorists have grown increasingly preoccupied with questions of what since the Romantic era has been called “aesthetics.” In a moment of global economic crisis, amidst continuing problems of war, violence, poverty, and injustice, this concern may seem puzzling, even fundamentally misplaced. Yet just as Plato, for instance, famously connected questions of the good and the true to those of the beautiful (so that it is anachronistic to impute to him a separation between political and aesthetic domains), some notable recent theorists claim that investigating aesthetic matters can enable us to gain a better understanding of political perceptions, ideals, aspirations, struggles, and possibilities. Among the main questions we will ask in this seminar is whether or not that claim is persuasive. Along the way, we will we will pay sustained attention to such matters as the role of emotion, affect, and the senses in political life, the nature of aesthetic judgment, its relationship to both political judgment and structures of power, and the similarities and differences between making art and acting politically. We will also, of course, examine what it means to call something “aesthetic,” and we will think about the limits of the aesthetic as a category of analysis. Though we will regularly take up examples drawn from the worlds of art, politics, and the mass media, our central focus will be on the careful reading of philosophical and critical texts, including Kant’s Critique of Judgment and writings from among the following authors: Adorno, Arendt, Bal, Benjamin, Bourdieu, Burke, Cavell, Danto, Deleuze, Dickie, Felski, Freud, Hegel, Heidegger, Hume, Mill, Nietzsche, Ramachandran, Rancière, Schiller.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 14
Class#: 3207
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: regular class participation, several short (1 page) response memos, one paper (6 pages) and one longer final essay (12-15 pages)
Prerequisites: open to juniors and seniors with at least one course in political theory or philosophy, or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: Political Science majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Attributes: AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives
PSCI Research Courses
PSCI Political Theory Courses

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