Grant Vetter 

Curator / Writer / Critic

Core Seminar.

Art and Aesthetics. 

Philosophy of Art from the 18th to the 21st Century.


Course summary: The aim of this course is to introduce students to different philosophies of aesthetics from the eighteenth century up to the present day. The course starts with Kant and speculative reason and concludes with the emergence of speculative realism/materialism with Bruno Latour, Graham Harmon, Quentin Meillassoux, et al.


Each class lecture consists of four parts. First, there will be a very brief introduction to the life of a philosopher by way of biograpahical information and a brief look at the historical period they lived in. Second, there will be a slightly longer lecture on the overall development of their work with a special focus on their early, middle and late writings. Third, there will be an extended discussion period that covers key terms related related to each philosopher's work. Fourth, the class will use the last part of their time together to engage in a dialogue about what that philosopher had to say about aesthetics as well as examining some specific artworks in relation to a given theory of aesthetic experience.


Weekly Homework (20% of your total grade): Write 1-2 pages every week about your reactions to the thinkers discussed in class. Out of these reactions write down 3 questions each week to be handed in at the beginning of class about the topics dicussed the previous week. Make sure to put your name on the questions as well as to number them.

Attendance (20% of your total grade): Always be on time for class. Always turn off any phones or electronic devices that may interupt the lecture hall before coming to class.

Absences: More than 3 absences and your grade drops 1 full letter grade without a doctors note. Additional absences beyond 3 will cause your grade to drop a full letter grade as well. Attendence is mandatory. 

Midterm project (30% of your total grade): Write a 2-3 page paper using theories from 1 or more of the philosphers discussed in class to analyze a single work of art. The work of art can be from any period and in any meduim. Your interpretation should grow out of your understanding of aesthetic theory, observations made in your journal and the information made available in the class reader. You can also include obsevations that go beyond the readings covered in class provdied that you site these works and that you still use the class material as your primary source of information. Each page should have 2-4 footnotes.

Final (30% of your total grade): Write a 3-5 page paper about your own work, or use the theories presented in this class to write a piece of art criticism about the work of another artist. This paper should not be an opinion paper but should consist of utilizing the class materials to develop your own unique insights about aesthetic experience and critical thinking. Each page should have 3-5 footnotes.


THEMES OF WEEK 1: Speculative reason and absolute aesthetics.


Introductory Lecture Part I: What is Aesthetics?

Part one. Lecture on different definitions of aesthetic exprience.

Part two. Lecture on the history of aesthetics and an overview of theories of aesthetic experience.

Part three. Discussion of excerpts from: Which "Aesthetics do you mean?" Ten Definitions by Leonard Koren. Aesthetics. By Daniel Herwitz. Chapter 1. "The Birth of Aesthetics"., Aesthetic, Benedetto Croce. Excerpts from Aesthetic: Chapter 10. "Aesthetic feelings". Chapter 11." Aesthetic hedonism". Chapter 12. "Pseudo-aesthetic concepts". Chapter 14. "Physics and aesthetics". Chapter 8. "Immanuel Kant". Chapter 9. "The aesthetic of idealism". The Routledge companion to aesthetics. Edited by Bery Gaut and Dominic Mclver Lopes. Chapter 36. "Environmental aesthetics". By Allen Carlson. Chapter 37. "Feminist aesthetics". By Sarah Worth.

Supplemental readings on aesthetics. 

The Routledge companion to aesthetics. Edited by Bert Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes. Chapter 16. "The Aesthetic". By Alan Goldman.

Introductory Lecture Part II: From the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment to the End of Art.

Lecture topic: Kant on the beautiful, the sublime and the problem of judgement.

Part one. Lecture on biographical and historical information about Kant.

Part two. Lecture on developmental phases in Kant's thought: From aesthetics (early Kant) to philosophy of mind (mature Kant) to ethical and moral considerations (late Kant).

Part three. Discussion of key concepts: Categorical imperative, faculties, noumenon, phenomenon.

Part four. Discussion of excerpts from: The critique of pure reason, The critique of judgment: Analytic of aesthetic judgment, The critique of Judgement: Dialectic of aesthetic judgement, Observations on the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime.

Supplemental readings on Kant's aesthetics.

The german aesthetic tradition. By Kai Hammermeister. Chapter 2. Kant.

The routledge companion to aesthetics. Edited by Bert Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes. Chapter 5. "Kant". By Donald W. Crawford. 

A study in Kant's aesthetics. By Barrows Dunham. Chapter 2. The nature of aesthetic judgment. Chapter 3. The aesthetic judgment: Its subjective basis. Chapter 4. The aesthetic judgment, Its objective basis.

Kant's theory of taste: A reading of the critique of aesthetic judgment. Chapter 4. "The disinterestedness of the pure judgment of taste." By Henry E. Allison.

The aesthetic paths of philosophy: Presentation in Kant, Heidegger, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Nancy. By Alison Ross. Chapter 1. The formulation of the problem of presentation in Kant's doctrine of taste. Chapter 2. Pragmatic anthropology in the third critique's project of aesthetic presentation.

Art, origins, otherness: Between philosophy and art. William Desmond. Chapter 2. The terror of genuis and the otherness of the sublime: On Kant and the transcendental origin. 

Lecture topic: G. W. F. Hegel and the end of art thesis.

Part one. Lecutre on biographical and historical information about Hegel.

Part two. Lecture on the development of Hegel's philosophy from theology (early Hegel) to onto-theology (mature Hegel) or, the study of philosophy as a world system.

Part three. Discussion of key concepts: Dialectic, lordship and bondage, universal history, the end of history, negation (thesis, singular, finite), negation of the negation (anti-theis, particular, the good and the bad infinity), synthetic whole (synthesis, universal, absolute idea).

Part four. Discussion of excerpts from: Phenomenology of spirit, Introductory lectures on aesthetics, Hegel's aesthetics, Vol. I, Hegel's Aesthetics, Vol. II.

Supplemental readings on Hegel's aesthetics.

Art and the absolute: A study of Hegel's aesthetics. By William Desmond. Chapter 1. Art imitation and creation. 2. Art, philosophy and concreteness. 4. Art, history and the question of an end.

The Routledge companion to aesthetics. Edited by Bert Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes. Chapter 6. "Hegel". By Michael Inwood.

Hegel and the arts. Edited by Stephen Houlgate. Chapter 1. "Symbolic, classical, and romantic art." By Terry Pinkard. Chapter 7. "Art and history: Hegel on the end, the beginning and the future of art." By Martin Donougho. Chapter 8. "Freedom from nature? Post-Hegelian reflections on the end(s) of art." By J.M.Berstein. Chapter 9. "What was abstract art? (From the point of view of hegel)." By Robert B. Pippin. Chapter 10. "Art, religion and the modernity of Hegel." By John Walker. Chapter 11. "The 'religion of art'". By Rudinger Bubner. Chapter 12. "Hegel and german romanticism." By Judith Norman.

The philosophy of Hegel. By Allen Speight. Chapter 6. Art, aesthetics and literary theory.

The german aesthetic tradition. By Kai Hammermeister. Chapter 5. Hegel.

Modernity and the hegemony of vision. Edited by David Michael Levin. Chapter 3. Vision, reflection and openness: The "hegemony of vision" from a Hegelian point of view. Stephen Houlgate.

Art, origins, otherness: Between philosophy and art. William Desmond. Chapter 3. The otherness or art's enigma - Resolved or dissolved? Hegel and the dialectic origin.


THEMES OF WEEK 2: The revaluation of aesthetic experience.


Schopenhauer to Nietzsche: Aesthetics from Reactionary Romanticism to Modern Nihilism.

Lecture topic (Part I). Arthur Schopenhauer and the birth of the artistic genuis.

Part one. Lecture on biographical and historical information on Schopenhauer.

Part two. Lecture on Schopenhauer's phases of development:

Part thee. Discussion of key terms: Will, 

Part four. Discussion of excerpts from: The World as Will and Representation, Book III

Supplemental readings on Schopenhauer.

The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer. Edited by Christopher Janaway. 7. "Ideas and Imagination: Schopenhauer on the proper foundation of art." Cheryl Foster.

Art, origins, otherness: Between philosophy and art. William Desmond. Chapter 5. Art's release and the sabbath of the will: Schopenhauer and the Eros Turannos of origin.

Lecture topic (part II): Friedrich Nietzsche and Art as a form of the Will-to-Power.

Part one. Lecture on biographical and historical information on Nietzsche.

Part two. Lecture on phases of development in Nietzsche's thought:

Part three. Discussion of key terms: Will-to-Power, Ubermensch, Eternal Return.

Part four. Disscussion of excerpts from: Unpublished Writings from the Period of Unfashionable Observations, Human, All Too Human, The Gay Science, The Will to Power.

Case Study: Nietzsche and Wagner

Discussion of Excerpts from: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner: A Musician's Problem, Richard Wagner and Edward Livemore Burlingam, Art, Life and Theories of Richard Wagner: Selected from His Writings (1875)

Supplemental readings on Nietzsche's aesthetics.

The cambridge companion to Nietzsche. Edited by Bernd Magnus and Kathleen M. Higgins. Chapter 7. "Nietzsche, modernity, aestheticism." By Alexander Nehamas.

The routledge companion to aesthetics. Edited by Bert Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes. Chapter 7. "Nietzsche". By Ruben Berrios and Aaron Ridley. 

Nietzsche: Philosopher, psychologist, antichrist. Walter Kaufmann. 4. Art and History

Nietzsche and art. Anthony M. Ludovici. Part II. Nietzsche's art principles.

Nietzsche. Richard Schacht. Chapter 6. The affects, art and truth revalued.

Modernity and the hegemony of vision. Edited by David Michael Levin. Chapter 4. "In the shadow of philosophy: Nietzsche and the question of vision". By Gary Shapiro.

Art, origins, otherness: Between philosophy and art. William Desmond. Chapter 6. Eros frenzied and the redemption of art: Nietzsche and the Dionysian origin. 


THEMES OF WEEK 3 AND 4: The Critique of Logocentricism/Metaphysics from Non-Knowledge to Deconstruction.



Lecture topic: George Bataille on erotism, sacrifce and Surrealism.

Part one. Lecture on biographical and historical information on George Bataille.

Part two. Lecture on the phases of development in Bataille's thought: From political economy to general economy, or the value of sovereignty for life.

Part three. Discussion of key Concepts: Erotism, inner experience, non-knowledge, potlatch, general economy, sacrifice, the accursed share, laughter, festival, sovereignty.

Part four. Discussion of excerpts on art from: Visions of excess, Manet, The absence of myth, The unfinished system of knowledge, inner experience.

Case Study: Bataille and Brenton.

Discussion of excerpts from: Georges Bataille, The absence of myth: Writings on Surrealism. Andre Benton, The first manifesto of Surrealism.

Andre Benton, Surrealism and painting. Andre Benton, The second manifesto of surrealism.

Supplemental readings on Bataille's Aesthetics.

Downcast Eyes: The denigration of vision in the twentieth-century French thought. By Martin Jay. Chapter 4. The Disenchantment of the Eye: Bataille and the Surrealists.

Bataille: A critical reader. Edited by Fred Botting and Scott Wilson. Chapter 1. "A Preface to Transgression". By Michel Foucault.

Georges Bataille. By Michael Richardson. Chapter 6. Death, communication and the experience of limits.

Reading Bataille now. Edited by Shannon Winnubust. Chapter 9. "Bodies at play: A general economy of performance." By Dorathy Holand.

The Obesessions of George Bataille: Community and communication. Edited by Andrew J. Mitchell and Jason Kemp Winfree. Chapter 10. "Bataille: Discerning edges in the art of Lascaux". By Edward S. Casey,



Lecture: Derrida and the impossibility of a "Deconstructism" in art.

Part one. Lecture on biographical and historical information on Jacques Derrida.

Part two. Lecture on developmental phases in Derrida's thought: From the critique of logocentricism (early Derrida), to the politics of deconstruction (late Derrida), or (why the center cannot hold).

Part three. Discussion of key terms: Differance, pharmakon, deconstruction, The New international, event.

Part four. Discussion of excerpts on art from: The truth in painting, memoirs of the blind, The archeology of the frivolous.

Case Study: Derrida and Artaud.

Discussion of excerpts from: The secret art of Antonin Artaud by Jacques Derrida & Paule Thevenin, The screaming body: Antonin Artaud: Film projects, drawings and sound recordings., Antonin Artuad: Selected writings. Edited and with Introduction by Susan Sontag, Antonin Artuad: Excerpt from Van Gogh: The man suicided by society.

Supplemental readings on Derrida.

Deconstruction and the visual arts: Art, media, architecture. Edited by Peter Brunette and David Wills. Chapter 1. The Spatial Arts: An interview with Jacques Derrida. By Peter Brunette and David Wills. Chapter 3. Light in painting: Dis-seminating art history. Mieke Bal. Chapter 6. Impure mimesis, of the ends of the aesthetic. By D.N. Rodowick

Downcast Eyes: The denigration of vision in the twentieth-century French thought. By Martin Jay. Chapter 9: "'Phallogocularcentricism': Derrida and Irigaray."

Modernity and the hegemony of vision. Edited by David Michael Levin. Chapter 8. "Derrida and the closure of vision". By John McCumber.

The Routledge companion to aesthetics. Edited by Bery Gaut and Dominic Mclver Lopes. Chapter 14. "Postmodernism: Barthes and Derrida". By David Novitz.


THEMES OF WEEK 5 AND 6: Postmodernism as a legitimation crisis or the simulation of crisis?



Lecture topic: Lyotard and art as a differend.

Part One. Lecture on biographical and historical information on Lyotard.

Part Two. Lecture on the phases of developmen in Lyotard thoughtt: From revolutionary desire (early Lyotard) to Postmodernism (mature Lyotard), or the critique of the theater of representation.

Part Three. Discussion of key terms: Drifting (Drift-work), the figural, the differend, the event, postmodernism, language games, legitimation crisis, paraology, the inhuman.

Part Four. Disscussion of excerpts from: Driftworks, Discourse/Figure, Just Gaming, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, The Postmodern Explained, Toward the Postmodern, Newman: The Instant.

Case Study: Lyotard and Duchamp.

Discussion of excerpts from: Jean-Francois Lyotard, Duchamp's TRANS|formers, The Writings of Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Duchamp: Works, Writings, Interviews, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews.

Supplemental readings on Lyotard's Aesthetics.

Jean-Francois Lyotard. By Simon Maples. Chapter 2. Art, the sublime and the postmodern. Chapter 5. Art, the inhuman and the event.

Loytard: Philosophy, Politics and the Sublime. Edited by Hugh J. Silverman. Cahpter 13. "Lyotard before and after the Sublime". By Serge Trottein Chapter 14. "Lyotard, Kant, an the InFinite". By Wilhelm S. Wurzer. Chapter 16. "Lyotard and the events of the postmodern sublime". By Hugh J. Silverman.

The Lyotard Reader and Guide. Edited by Crome and James Williams. Introduction: Art Events.

Downcast Eyes: The denigration of vision in the twentieth-century French thought. By Martin Jay. Chapter 10: The ethics of blindness and the postmodern sublime: Levinas and Lyotard.



Lecture topic: Baudrillard and Simulationism in art.

Part One. Lecture on biographicaland historical information on Baudrillard.

Part Two. Lecture on phases of developmenton Baudrillard's thought: Jean Baudrillard and early (Marx structuralism), middle (Postmodern), and late (aphorisms) or, from the Crisis of Value to the Omni-presence of the Code.

Part Three. Disccusion of key concepts: Pataphysics, simluation, simulacra, seducation, and the hyper-real.

Part Four. Discussion of excerpts from: Simulations, The Transparency of Evil, (Transaesthetics), Impossible Exchange, The Conspiracy of Art.

Supplemental readings on Baudrillard's aesthetics.

Art and Artefact. Edited by Nicholas Zurbrugg. Chapter 8. "Between Marx and Derrida: Baudrillard, Art and Technology". By Graham Coulter-Smith. Chapter 11. "After the Afterimage of Jean Baudrillard: Photography, the Object, Ecology and Design". By Anne-Marie Willis.



THEMES OF WEEK 7 AND 8: From the analysis of power to strategies for resisting power, (or how to understand micro-politics and schizo-analysis).



Lecture topic: Foucault, The gaze as the locus of Power/Knowledge in a work of art.

Part One: Lecture on biographical and historical information on Foucault.

Part Two: Lecture on developmental phases in Foucault's work: From genealogy (early Foucault), to archeology (middle Foucault), to the care of the self (late Foucault), or, the resources of critique.

Part Three: Discussion of key terms: Genealogy, archeology, microphyiscs of power, counter-memories, transcendental-empirical doublet, heterotopias, panopticism, and bio-power.

Part Four: Discussion of excerpts from: The Order of Things.

Case Study: Foucault and Margritte.

Discussion of excerpts From: This is Not a Pipe, Selected Writings, Rene Magritte, Selected readings.

Supplemental readings on Foucault's aesthetics.

A return to Aesthetics: Autonomy, Indifference and Postmodernism. By Jonathan Losenberg. Chapter 3. Foucault's Aesthetics.

The Routledge companion to aesthetics. Edited by Bert Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes. Chapter 13. By Robert Wicks. "Foucualt".

Foucaults' Philosophy of Art: A genealogy of Modernity. By Joseph J. Tanke Chapter 5. The Cynical Legacy.

The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (second edition). Edited by Gary Gutting. Chapter 12. "Foucault's Modernism". By Gerald L. Burns.

Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision. Edited by David Michael Levin. Derrida and the closure of vision. Chapter 10. "Foucault and the Eclipse of Vision". By Thomas R. Flynn

Downcast Eyes: The denigration of vision in the twentieth-century French thought. By Martin Jay. Chapter 7. From the Empire of the Gaze to the Society of Spectacle: Foucault and Debord.



Lecture topic: Deleuze and What is Art?

Part one: Lecture on biographical infromation and the historical context around Deleuze.

Part two. Lecture on the developmental phases in Deleuze's philosophy: Monographs on philosophers (early Deleuze), collaborative work with Guattari (middle Deleuze), and essays and reflections (late Deleuze), or, from Anti-Platonism to Postmodern Vitalism.

Part three. Discussion of key concepts: Haptic space, minor and major literatures, rhizomes, body without organs (BwO), planes of consistancy, plateaus, smooth and striated spaces, schizo-analysis, multiplicities, assemblages, machines, minor politics, folding.

Part four. Discussion of excerpts on art from: What is Philosophy?, A Thousand Plateaus, On the Line, Difference and Repetition, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque.

Case Study: Deleuze and Bacon.

Discussion of excerpts from: Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, Michel Archibald, Francis Bacon: In conversation with Michel Archibald.

Supplemental readings on Delueze's aesthetics. 

Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed. By Claire Colebrook. Chapter 3. Art and Time. Chapter 4. Art and History.

Deleuze: A critical reader. edited by Paul Patton. Chapter 11. "The autonomy of Affect." By Brian Massumi.

Gilles Deleuze: Image and text. Edited by Eugene .W Holland, Daniel W. Smith, and Charles J. Stivale. Chapter 1. "The Landscape of Sensation." By Ronald Bogue. Chapter 5. "Sensation: The earth, a people, art." By Elizabeth Grosz. Chapter 10. "Deleuze, Guattari and Contemporary Art." By Stephen Zepke.

Art as Abstract Machine: Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari. By Stephen Zepke. Introdution. Art as Abstract Machine. 

Deleuze. On music, painting and the arts. By Donald Bogue. Part III. The Arts. Sensation and the plane of composition.


THEMES OF WEEK 9 AND 10: Subjectivation as a transversal process of becoming, or being the subject of a truth procedure.



Lecture topic: Felix Guattari, schizo-analysis and relational aesthetics.

Part one. Lecture on biographical information and the historical context around Guattari's philosophy. 

Part two. Discussion of key concepts: Schizo-analysis, molecular revoltuions, traversality. 

Part three. Excerpts from: Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, Chaosophy, 

Case Study: Guattari and Bourriand.

Discussion of excepts from: Nicolas Bourriand, Relation Aesthetics, Nicolas Bourriand, Post-Production, Nicolas Bourriand, The Radicant, Nicolas Bourriand, Altermodern.

Supplemental readings on Guattari's aesthetics.

The Guattari Effect. Edited by Eric Alliez and Andrew Goffey. Chapter 3. "On contemporary art". Interview with Oliver Zahm, April 1992. Chapter 13. "From Aesthetic Autonomy to Autonomist Aesthetics: Art and life in Guattari". By Stephen Zepke.

A shock to thought: Expression after Deleuze and Guattari. Edited by Brian Massumi. Chapter 3. "Aesthetics: A place I've never scene". By Stephan Zagala. Chapter 15. "From Transference to the aesthetic paradigm: A conversation with Felix Guattari". By Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger.



Lecture topic: Alain Badiou and three manifesto's for art production.

Part one. Lecture on the biogrpahical information and historical context of Badiou's thought.

Part two. Lecture on the development of Badiou's thought: From Maoism and the ontology of mathematics (early Badiou) to the question of Being, event and the logics of the world (mature Badiou) and the return to communism (late Badiou) 

Part three. Discussion of Key Concepts: Truth procedure, event, Being, logics of the world, subtraction. 

Part four. Discussion of excerpts from: Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, Theoretical Writings, On Beckett.

Case Study: Badiou and Beckett.

Discussion of excerpts from: Alain Badiou, On Beckett, Alain Badiou, a theater without theater, The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume I, 1929-1940, Samuel Beckett, Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment, Beckett's Dying Words: The Clarendon Lectures 1990, Anthony Uhlmann, Beckett and Postructuralism, Michael Y. Bennet, Reassessing the Theater of the Absurd: Camus, Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, and Piner

Supplemental readings on Badiou's aesthetics.

Badiou: A subject to truth. By Peter Hallward. Chapter 8. Art and Poetry.

Alain Badiou. By Ed Pluth. Chapter 7 Ethics and Affects

The Praxis of Alain Badiou. Edited by Paul Ashton, A.J. Bartlett and Justin Clemens. Art.


THEMES OF WEEK 11: From Speculative Reason to Speculative Realism/Materialism. 



Lecture topic: Object Oriented Ontology, Speculative Materialism and Speculative Realism.

Part one. Lecture on the rise of OOO (object-oriented ontology), Speculative Materialism and Specuative Realism.

Part two. Lecture on the main figures of the 'Specualtive turn', Latour, Harmon, Meillassoux, et al.

Part three. A discussion of key concepts: Flat ontology, arch-fossil, ANT (actor-network-theory).

Part four: Discussion of excerpts from: We Have Never Been Modern, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods, Toward a Speculative Realism, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the making, The Specuative Turn: Contenental Materialism and Realism, New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency and Politics, Continental Realism.




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