AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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JAMES WOOD ON HOW CRITICISM WORKS

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Photo credit: Claire Messud

What follows is an interview of writer and literary critic James Wood, who is Professor of Literary Practice at Harvard. He is interviewed by Becca Rothfeld, a PhD candidate in philosophy at Harvard, and an essayist, literary critic, and contributor to The New Yorker, the New York Times Book ReviewThe Atlantic, and more. 

James Wood is Professor of Literary Practice at Harvard, a staff writer at The New Yorker, the author of two novels and six books of criticism, and the most exhilarating literary critic alive. He made his name writing long, ambitious, and often searingly negative essays, among them his famed takedown of so-called “hysterical realists”  and his evisceration of Paul Auster’s hypermasculine posturing. But I know Wood primarily as a lover of literature, and in recent years, he has done much to champion contemporary novelists, among them Ben Lerner and Teju Cole. Wood is a voracious quoter, and in his pieces he allows the works he loves to speak in their own voices. I love Wood for many reasons, some of which I fleshed out in my review of his latest essay collection, Serious Noticing. By way of summary, I love his beautiful prose, his appreciation for well-wrought sentences, and his argumentative and philosophical acumen. My favorite essay of his—perhaps my favorite piece of literary criticism in the world!—is his ravenous take on Moby-Dick and God. (The son of a minister, Wood’s vexed atheism rears its head in many of his essays.) In this interview, I spoke to him via email, initially about why he prefers to do interviews via email, ultimately about both his broader aesthetic commitments and what he thinks criticism amounts to.

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“WE ARE EVERYTHING AND WE ARE NOTHING”: AN INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR AND FILMMAKER JULIE DELPY

What follows is a guest post by Hans Maes (University of Kent) and Katrien Schaubroeck (University of Antwerp).

As part of Routledge’s Philosophers on Film series, Hans Maes and Katrien Schaubroeck are editing a volume on the so-called Before trilogy directed by Richard Linklater. The trilogy chronicles the love of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) who first meet up in Before Sunrise (1995), later reconnect in Before Sunset (2004) and finally experience a fall-out in Before Midnight (2013). Not only do the individual films present storylines and dilemmas that invite philosophical discussion, but philosophical conversation itself is at the very heart of the films.

Julie Delpy, who co-wrote the trilogy and was twice nominated for an Academy Award (best adapted screenplay) for Before Sunset and Before Midnight, agreed to be interviewed for the book because, as she explains, she has a soft spot for philosophy. What follows is an excerpt from that interview. The full text will be included in the volume that is scheduled to appear in 2021 and that will contain contributions from Christopher Cowley (University College Dublin), Diane Jeske (University of Iowa), James MacDowell (University of Warwick), Hans Maes (University of Kent), Kalle Puolakka (University of Helsinki), Anna Christina Ribeiro (Texas Tech University), Katrien Schaubroeck (University of Antwerp), Marya Schechtman (University of Illinois), Michael Smith (Princeton University), and Murray Smith (University of Kent).

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CHEF INTERVIEW: JUAN ESCALONA MELÉNDEZ, ON HISTORY AND SCIENCE IN CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN CUISINE

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Juan Escalona Meléndez, photography by Ana Lorenzana [Instagram: @analorenzana]

Chef Juan Escalona Meléndez interviewed by philosopher Aaron Meskin.
This interview took place during
January and February, 2020.

Juan Escalona Meléndez is a Mexican-born chef currently working in Mexico City. He studied Genomic Sciences as an undergraduate at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and did an MA in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds. He has collaborated with various philosophers on food projects and presented at the recent American Society for Aesthetics-sponsored Conference on Food, Art and Philosophy at UNAM. (He also created the conference meal.)  He has worked at Noma (Copenhagen), Pujol (Mexico City) and Máximo Bistrot (Mexico City).

Aaron Meskin is head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Georgia. He works on aesthetics, philosophical psychology and, recently, the philosophy of food. He is co-editing a special issue of the online philosophy journal Crítica devoted to food, art and philosophy. Before Georgia, he worked at the University of Leeds for 14 years, and that is where his conversations with Juan about food and art began.  Continue reading


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HIP-HOP, GENDER, AND LANGUAGE WITH UNDERGROUND RAPPERS BL SHIRELLE AND BATES

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L to R: Bates, Lissa Skitolsky, and BL Shirelle

This is Part I of a two-part series. Part II is a roundtable discussion of the below interviews, featuring scholars working on these issues.

I. What Is There To Discuss?

A Prompt for Discussion by Bill Adler

Bill Adler is a music journalist, hip-hop archivist, and legendary Def Jam publicist.

As wonderful as it is, as impactful as it is, hip-hop music has never exactly embodied a model of civil discourse. On the contrary, it has often been—and remains—rough, rude, and heedless. Indeed, those very qualities are at least part of what makes the culture so appealing to so many folks.

Happily, hip-hop has also generated a body of exemplary critical commentary from the very beginning. For over thirty years now, critics and journalists who came of age as hip-hoppers have wrestled with the music’s sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and materialism… and have done so with love, from inside the culture.

Naturally, the music’s sexism has been particularly vexing to women, and doubly vexing to women of color. In a review for the Village Voice in 1990 of Amerikka’s Most Wanted, the first solo album by Ice Cube, the critic Joan Morgan quotes a girlfriend of hers as follows: “Joan, you know this motherfucka must be bad if he can scream ‘bitch’ at me ninety-nine times and make me want to sing it.”

To Chuck D, though, it wasn’t a problem—at least not then. Women had R&B, he argued. White men had rock. Rap was by and for Black men. End of discussion.

Let’s discuss.

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WHAT’S SO INTERESTING ABOUT THE PAST? AN INTERVIEW ABOUT RUINS, MONUMENTS, AND MEMORIALS

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Alex King interviews philosophers
Jeanette Bicknell, Jennifer Judkins, and Carolyn Korsmeyer.

Jeanette Bicknell, Jennifer Judkins, and Carolyn Korsmeyer recently co-edited a collection of new essays, Philosophical Perspectives on Ruins, Monuments, and Memorials. From the book description:

This collection of newly published essays examines our relationship to physical objects that invoke, commemorate, and honor the past. The recent destruction of cultural heritage in war and controversies over Civil War monuments in the US have foregrounded the importance of artifacts that embody history. … The authors consider issues of preservation and reconstruction, the nature of ruins, the aesthetic and ethical values of memorials, and the relationship of cultural memory to material artifacts that remain from the past.

See the full list of contributing authors here.

Below, Alex King interviews them about themes from the volume.

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ARTIST-PHILOSOPHER INTERVIEW: MATT LINDAUER

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Musician and philosopher Matt Lindauer interviewed by Alex King

Matt Lindauer is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He specializes in moral and political philosophy, moral psychology, and experimental philosophy, and has published work in Philosophical Studies, Journal of Moral Philosophy, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, and Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, among other venues. He is also a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His band Myrna recently released their debut EP on Kitty Wizard Records and a full-length release is coming soon. His solo project Utena also produced a recent album that was recorded almost entirely on his iPhone between Australia and Brooklyn. He also played in the banjo-key-drum group Sugarbat and in Daphne Lee Martin’s band as guitarist and banjo player, and has recorded a number of other projects. Some of his music was recently featured in an ad for Joe’s Jeans. Continue reading


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STERLING HOLYWHITEMOUNTAIN ON BLOOD QUANTUM, “NATIVE ART”, AND CULTURAL APPROPRIATION

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“Entrenched” by Evan Thompson

Sterling HolyWhiteMountain interviewed by Matt Strohl

Sterling HolyWhiteMountain grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in northwest Montana. He holds a BA in English creative writing from the University of Montana and an MFA in fiction from the University of Iowa. He was also a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin. His work has appeared in volumes 1 and 2 of Off the Path: An Anthology of 21st Century American Indian and Indigenous Writers, The Montana Quarterly, ESPN.com and The Atlantic. Prior to being a Stegner Fellow he directed the writing center at Blackfeet Community College. He is currently at work on a collection of stories. Continue reading


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PHILOSOPHY AND POLITICS IN “SORRY TO BOTHER YOU”

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The following post appears as part of a partnership with the APA Blog. The original appears here.

Steven Manicastri is a political theorist and labor organizer.  Having recently viewed Sorry to Bother You and seeing its clear relevance to his own research he posed the following questions to Lewis Gordon because of his theoretical work on race, class, and politics in film. Continue reading