Formalism, Aestheticism, and Eroticism in Modern Art-Writing
This seminar investigates the relations between formalist procedures, aestheticist philosophies, and erotic investments in art-writing from the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. How did major modern art-writers deal with the erotic and sexual content of artworks in the past and the present, Western and non-Western? In what ways did art-writing function as a medium of critical commentary on modern sexualities? Why did certain artists and particular artworks emerge as the special focus of erotically invested art-writing? What were the interactions between art-writing concerned to address the erotic dimensions of aesthetic experience and formal theories of sexuality in such fields as biology, philosophy, psychology, and psychoanalysis? How did modern art-writing deal with nonnormative eroticisms, with pornography, and with censorship? The seminar will read influential texts (including writings by Winckelmann, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Ruskin, Pater, Symonds, Huysmans, Lee, Santayana, Berenson, Freud, Fry, and Stokes) and relevant scholarly commentary. Student projects will investigate particular traditions or cases. Readings from German and French texts will be in English translation, but students are encouraged to work on art-writing in the language of the original. The seminar is open to qualified undergraduates with the permission of the instructor.