AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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AFB’S TERMS OF ART #16: FORMALISM

Now that increasing numbers of people are stuck at home and sheltering in place, I figured I’d do a little series. Every weekday for the duration of this intense period, I’ll post a short definition of some term in/related to aesthetics and philosophy of art. Let’s see how this goes! See them all here.

Terms of Art #16:
formalism

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GETTING PAST FORM: ON THE VALUE OF LITERARY IDEAS

 

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What follows is a guest post by Patrick Fessenbecker.

In a recent column in The New York Times, Ross Douthat contends that English professors aren’t having the right kind of arguments. Reflecting on the analysis of the decline of the humanities in a series of essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education over the last year, Douthat makes a familiar diagnosis: the problem is that we literature professors no longer believe in the real value of the objects we study. Engaging Simon During’s account of the decline of the humanities as a “second secularization” in particular, Douthat argues that secular attempts to defend the humanities will fail just as surely as secular attempts to defend religious ethics and norms did: it doesn’t work unless you really believe in the thing. Correspondingly, the debates literary scholars are having about how to expand the range of texts and subjects we teach are premised on a basic mistake about what such an expansion involves. As he puts it:

This should, by rights, be a moment of exciting curricular debates, over which global and rediscovered and post-colonial works belong on the syllabus with Shakespeare, over whether it’s possible to teach an American canon and a global canon all at once. Instead, humanists have often trapped themselves in a false choice between “dead white males” and “we don’t transmit value.”

In other words, we ought to be in the business of considering how our conceptions of value and their application should change as scholars recognize the incredible cultural wealth inherent in the diversity of the world. But instead we’re caught between reactionary conservatism and nihilistic critique. Continue reading


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Interview with Philosopher-Poet Troy Jollimore

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What follows is an interview with philosopher and poet Troy Jollimore. Troy is Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Chico. He is the author of Love’s Vision (Princeton University Press, 2011) and On Loyalty (Routledge, 2012) as well as over a dozen articles in journals including Midwest Studies in PhilosophyCanadian Journal of Philosophy, and American Philosophical Quarterly. He is also the author of two collections of poetry: At Lake Scugog (2011) and Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 2006. He is a former External Faculty Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center and is a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow.

Aesthetics for Birds recently featured an interview with poet and critic David Orr, author of Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry. Much of David’s work as a critic aims at demystifying poetry for a modern audience. Of course, philosophical enquiry can be said likewise to aim at the demystification of its subject matter. Given your status as a philosopher-poet (a designation perhaps few other than yourself can genuinely pull off without seeming for all the world a Class-A poseur), in what ways have you found philosophy to help or to hinder the study, practice, or appreciation of poetry (whether in general or more specifically in terms of your own work)?

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