Graduate Seminar: Evolutionary Aesthetics and the History of Art
Wednesday | 2:00 - 5:00pm
A recent resurgence of interest in evolutionary-development aesthetics (in such disciplines as cognitive anthropology, philosophy of art, and prehistoric archaeology) has reopened many questions about the “origins” of art and aesthetic consciousness, about prehistoric art, and about the role of art in human biocultural emergence in the Pleistocene, Holocene, and Anthropocene. Topics include: A revived neo-Darwinian theory of the roots of aesthetic consciousness and art in sexual selection (D. Rothenberg, R. O. Prum), and a commensurate attentiveness to earlier late nineteenth-century natural- and sexual-selectionist approaches in the theory of art (J. A. Symonds, Vernon Lee); models of the “art instinct” (D. Dutton) and the “aesthetic brain” (A. Chatterjee); new accounts of the utilitarian (evolutionary, adaptive) functions of “making things special” (E. Dissanayake) and of “striking visibility” (J. Stejksal); intersections between cognitive neuroscience and aesthetics/art history (J. Onians, E. Kandel); new ethological-ecological approaches to art (M. E. Dijkstra); and investigations of the role of art-making in the emergence of “psychologically modern” Homo sapiens (T. Deacon, S. Davies). The seminar will read these new contributions, assessing their relevance for the archaeology, anthropology, and history of art.
Open to qualified undergraduates with instructor’s permission.