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GS/POLS 6087.3 GS/SPTH 6648.3 GS/CMCT 6336.3
Politics of Aesthetics
2011 Fall

Download course outline in PDF format

Course Website:
You will need your Passport York to sign in, then you will be directed to GS/POLS 6087.3 course website.

Class Time: Tuesday 19:00-22:00 Class Location: TEL 0013
Professor: Shannon Bell Office Location: S 634 Ross


Telephone Office: 416 2100 ext. 22552
Mobile: 416 822 6831
Office Hours: Tues 15:00-17:00
Wed 15:00-17:00

Course Description

The Politics of Aesthetics develops an aesthetic framework from eight continental philosophers who have an aesthetic theory as part of their philosophy. The philosophers include Hegel, Kant, Heidegger, Lyotard, Badiou, Ranciere, Nancy and Deleuze. These thinkers are selected because their philosophy facilitates artwork surpassing the aesthetic theory.

The course develops and applies assumptions and concepts from the eight philosophers. Hegel’s key assumptions are that art expresses the same content as philosophy; however, it does so in a sensory form; art portrays and allows the human spirit to emerge; and, God is revealed through art. Kant’s infamous distinctions between the beautiful (form) and the sublime (excess of form) recur and trouble postaesthetic theory. Lyotard theoretically reconfigures the landscape of the sublime in modernity and postmodernity

For Heidegger, art is the highest form of techné, that is, of bringing forth, and ‘a distinctive way in which truth comes into being, that is, becomes historical.’ (Heidegger, 1993, 202). ‘What is brought forth is a truth as something new.’ (Ibid) Heidegger positions art as ‘the setting-into-work of truth’ (ibid, 192), the artist as one who is able to ‘bring forth … in Being something that does not yet exist,’ (Heidegger, 1981, 69) and artwork as that which ‘unconceals’ or ‘opens up in its own way the Being of beings.’ (Heidegger, 1993, 165). Artists who do this are artist-philosophers. The artist-philosopher is one who addresses the grounding question of philosophy: ‘What is Being?’ (Heidegger, 1981, 68)

Alain Badiou turns Heidegger’s aesthetics into what he terms ‘inaesthetics’. ‘Inaesthetics’ is a relation of philosophy to art in which art is itself a producer of truths. Art provides what Badiou calls ‘immanent infinity’ - a new manner of thinking the infinite itself in the work of art. Badiou says that ‘a real artistic event is a change in the formula of the world.’ (Badiou, 2007, 4) Badiou’s artistic event has a commonality with Rancière’s ‘aesthetic regime of art’. In the aesthetic regime the artwork is both autonomous and calls into question the distinction between art and other activities. (Rancière, 2004, 23) Rancière sees the contradictory role of the artwork as a singularity and its broader potential of influencing thought, perception, production and action as the dynamic of the aesthetic regime of art.

It is dynamic singularity in terms of the sacred, singular, violent, forbidden that for Nancy makes the image seductive and unrepresentable. It is the singular sovereign experience that Deleuze identifies as the sensation or affect of the artwork. By sensation Deleuze means extension of the resonation of the artwork to the viewer and to the social. It is this resonation of the artwork with the external that produces the art event.


  • Badiou, A. 2010. Five Lessons on Wagner. trans. Susan Spitzer (Verso)
  • Badiou, A. 2005. Handbook of Inaestheics, trans. Albeto Toscano (Stanford University Press).
  • Deleuze, G. 2005. Francis Bacon. The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel Smith (University of
  • Minnesota Press).
  • Hegel, G. 1993. Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics, trans. Bernard Bosanquet (Penguin Books).
  • Heidegger, M. 1981. Nietzsche: Vol.1, The Will to Power as Art, trans. David Farrell
  • Krell (Routledge & Kegan Paul).
  • Lyotard, J.F. 1988. The Inhuman, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Stanford
  • University Press)
  • Nancy, J.L. 2005. The Ground of the Image, trans. Jeff Fort (Fordham University Press).
  • Ranciere, J. 2010. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, trans. Steven Corcoran (Continuum)
  • Ranciere, J. 2009. Aesthetics and Its Discontents, trans. Steven Corcoran (Polity)

Readings (posted on the course Moodle site)

  • Kant I. Excerpts Third Critique, ‘Selections from Critique of Judgment,’ trans. James Meredith
  • Heidegger, M. ‘The Origin of the Work of Art,’ Off the Beaten Track, trans. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes

Assignments and Grade Distribution

Two Seminar Presentations (2 X 10%) 20%
Discussion Forum 10%
Participation 15%
Essay Abstract (1 page) 5% due Nov 30
Essay (20-25 pages) 40% due Dec 30
Essay Film 10% due Dec 30

Presentation (2 X 10% = 20%)
Each person is responsible for producing two discussion questions based on two seminar readings. Each question should be between four and six lines. The questions are to be
1) posted on the course website by Monday evening 22:00.
2 presented in-person for discussion in the seminar portion of the course.

Course Website Discussion Forum (10%)
1) observations/comments/musings (written, images, audio files) regarding issues relating to the week’s readings. Each person is expected to do minimum one entry per week; the intent is to get an on-line discussion going that will inform and/or supplement the seminar discussion.
2) seminar discussion questions.

Participation (15%)
Attend each class with the readings done, have questions on the texts and a readiness to engage the presenter’s discussion questions.

Essay Assignment (40%)
An essay on the topic of your choice relating to aesthetics
A minimum of five texts on the course must be integrated into the essay.

Essay Topic Abstract (5%)
A one-page abstract that establishes the area(s) of inquiry, the aim of the essay and the texts to be used.

Film Assignment (10%)
A two-minute film to accompany the essay. The film can be shot on a phone camera, digital still camera, video camera, or computer web cam. They need to be processed as QuickTime for uploading.
If you are using a pc the Windows Movie Maker 2.1 and 2.6 can be downloaded free from
And Windows Movie Maker 2.1 can be downloaded free from
If you are using an Apple then use iMovie and process as QuickTime Med to HD quality.
The movies can be uploaded on or and the link provided on the Course Discussion Forum.
A free and open source website for found film footage is

Reading & Seminar Schedule

September 14

Introduction and Seminar Topic Selection



September 21

Hegel, Introduction to Lectures on Aesthetics
Discussion Questions: Chs1-2
Discussion Questions: Chs 3-4
Discussion Questions: Ch 5
Kant, ‘Selections from Critique of Aesthetic Judgment’ pp. 275-313
(all read 275-291)
Analytic of the Beautiful
Discussion Questions: pp.292-306
Analytic of the Sublime
Discussion Questions: pp. 306-313



September 28

Heidegger, Nietzsche: Vol.1, The Will to Power as Art (selections)
Discussion Questions: Chs,11,12,13
Discussion Questions: Chs.14,15,16
Discussion Questions: Chs.17,18,19
Discussion Questions: Chs. 20,21,22
Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’
Discussion Questions: pp.1-33
Discussion Questions: pp. 33-56



October 5

Lyotard, The Inhuman
Discussion Questions: Chs. 1&2
Discussion Questions: Chs. 3&4
Discussion Questions: Chs. 5&7
Discussion Questions: Chs. 8&9
Discussion Questions: Chs. 10&11



October 19

Badiou. Handbook of Inaestheics
Discussion Questions: Chs.1,2,3
Discussion Questions: Chs.4,5
Discussion Questions: Chs. 6 & 7
Discussion Questions: Chs. 8,9,10



October 26

Ranciere, Aesthetics and It Discontents
Discussion Questions: pp.17-60
Discussion Questions: pp. 61-87
Discussion Questions: pp. 88-106
Discussion Questions: pp.106-132



November 2

Ranciere, Dissensus
Part I: The Aesthetics of Politics
Discussion Questions: Chs. 1&2
Discussion Questions: Chs. 3&4
Discussion Questions: Chs. 5&6
Discussion Questions: Chs. 7&8



November 9

Ranciere, Dissensus
Part II: The Politics of Aesthetics & Part III: Response to Critics
Discussion Questions: Chs. 9&10
Discussion Questions: Chs. 11&12
Discussion Questions: Chs. 13&14



November 16

Deleuze, The Logic of Sensation
Discussion Questions: Chs.1-4
Discussion Questions: Chs.5-8
Discussion Questions: Chs.9-12
Discussion Questions: Chs.13-17



November 23

Nancy, The Ground of the Image
Discussion Questions: Chs.1&2
Discussion Questions: Chs.3&4
Discussion Questions: Chs.5&6
Discussion Questions: Chs.7,8,9



November 30

Badiou, Five Lessons on Wagner
Discussion Questions:
Discussion Questions:
Discussion Questions:



December 7

Badiou, Five Lessons on Wagner
Discussion Questions:
Discussion Questions:
Discussion Questions:


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