Aesthetic Subjects


Pamela R. Matthews and David McWhirter, editors

Demonstrates the remarkable resurgence of interest in the aesthetic

Establishes a renewed sense of aesthetic discourse and its usefulness as a tool for understanding culture.

Contributors: Leo Bersani, Susan Bordo, Bill Brown, Beatriz Colomina, Ulysse Dutoit, Lee Edelman, Maureen Harkin, Howard Horwitz, Audrey Jaffe, Martin Jay, Kay Bea Jones, Robert Kaufman, Alphonso Lingis, Joseph Litvak, Douglas Mao, Barbara Maria Stafford, Kathleen Stewart, Kathryn Bond Stockton, Judith Stoddart, Michael Taussig.

Recent calls for a return to aesthetics occur precisely at a moment when it is increasingly evident that nothing concerning aesthetics is self-evident anymore. Determined to recover the value of aesthetic experience for artistic, cultural, and social analysis, the contributors to this volume—prominent scholars in literature, philosophy, art history, architecture, history, and anthropology—begin from a shared recognition that ideological readings of the aesthetic have provided invaluable insights, in particular, that analyses of aesthetics within historical and social contexts tell us a great deal about the experience of aesthetic encounters.

From multiple and complementary perspectives, the contributors address topics as varied as Nabokov and Dickens, Caravaggio and Shelley Winters, gender and sexuality, advertising and AIDS. Taken together, their essays constitute a sustained and multifarious effort to resituate aesthetic pleasure in the mixed, impure conditions characteristic of every social practice and experience, however privileged or marginalized, and to ask what happens to the aesthetic if we consider it apart from—or at least in tension with—its historically dominant discursive formulations. As such, this volume establishes a renewed sense of aesthetic discourse and its usefulness as a tool for understanding culture.

Contributors: Leo Bersani, U of California, Berkeley; Susan Bordo, U of Kentucky; Bill Brown, U of Chicago; Beatriz Colomina, Princeton U; Ulysse Dutoit, U of California, Berkeley; Lee Edelman, Tufts U; Maureen Harkin, Reed College; Howard Horwitz, U of Utah; Audrey Jaffe, U of California, Santa Cruz; Martin Jay, U of California, Berkeley; Kay Bea Jones, Ohio State U; Robert Kaufman, Stanford U; Alphonso Lingis, Pennsylvania State U; Joseph Litvak, Tufts U; Douglas Mao, Cornell U; Barbara Stafford, U of Chicago; Kathleen Stewart, U of Texas; Kathryn Bond Stockton, U of Utah; Judith Stoddart, Michigan State U; Michael Taussig, Columbia U.

Pamela R. Matthews is associate professor of English at Texas A&M University.

David McWhirter is associate professor of English at Texas A&M University.


Introduction: Exile’s Return? Aesthetics Now Pamela R. Matthews and David McWhirter

PART I Locating Aesthetic Experience: Sites, Situations, Discourses

ONE Drifting into Dangerous Waters: The Separation of Aesthetic Experience from the Work o of Art Martin Jay
TWO Armed Assault Alphonso Lingis
THREE Reinventing the Wall:Looking into Zaha Hadid Kay Bea Jones
FOUR Pleasures Incarnate:Aesthetic Sentiment in the Nineteenth-Century Work ofArt Judith Stoddart
FIVE Caravaggio’s Secrets Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit

PART II Aesthetics in Social Contexts:Economies and Ethics

SIX The Moral Content of Nabokov’s Lolita Susan Bordo
SEVEN The Aesthetics of Jewishness:Shelley Winters Joseph Litvak
EIGHT Theorizing Popular Practice in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics: Lord Kames and Alexander Gerard Maureen Harkin
NINE The Labor Theory of Beauty:Aesthetic Subjects,Blind Justice Douglas Mao
TEN Sinthom-osexuality Lee Edelman

PART III Aesthetic Subjects: Bodies, Minds, Identities

ELEVEN The Combinatorial Aesthetics of Neurobiology Barbara Maria Stafford
TWELVE Cloth Wounds:Queer Aesthetics of Debasement Kathryn Bond Stockton
THIRTEEN Embodying Culture: Dorian’s Wish Audrey Jaffe
FOURTEEN Bad Taste,the Root Evil: I. A. Richards and the Postnational Subject Howard Horwitz

PART IV Rethinking Aesthetics:Secrets and Magic,the Gift and the Child

FIFTEEN The Gift: Reflections on the Eames House Beatriz Colomina
SIXTEEN What Is Construction,What’s the Aesthetic,What Was Adorno Doing? Robert Kaufman
SEVENTEEN The Secret Life of Things: Virginia Woolfand the Matter ofModernism Bill Brown
EIGHTEEN Arresting Images Kathleen Stewart
NINETEEN The Adult’s Imagination ofthe Child’s Imagination Michael Taussig