Philosophy 190

Fall 2019

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
190 Proseminar: Avant-Garde Art in the Mirror of Philosophical Aesthetics Kaiser/Grosser M 9-12 Moses 234

Against the background of classical (from G. W. F. Hegel to Arthur Danto) and contemporary (from S. Sonntag to G. Pollock) aesthetic theories, we will examine the role and meaning of avant-garde phenomena in the arts. Paradigmatic philosophical approaches to be discussed cover ontological, phenomenological, structural formalist, psychological, and socio-political accounts. Topics and questions to be pursued include the potential of avant-garde art to foster new forms of experience and sense-making; to profoundly modify our understanding of what counts as works of art; and to shed light on the significance of both creativity and receptivity.

Drawing mostly on selected examples from the artistic movements of the 19th through 21st centuries (e. g., Impressionism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Fluxus, Conceptual Art, Guerrilla Girls, Net art) and individual artists (e. g. Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Frida Kahlo, Marina Abramovic, Zhang Huan, Bahia Shebab, Jelili Atiku), we will critically assess both the promise and the dangers inherent to avant-garde art. Particular attention will be paid to neglected, marginalized, or suppressed perspectives and positions in the context of avant-garde practice and theory.

Despite the many obituaries that have been written about the avant-garde, we will argue that its analysis is key to a proper contemporary understanding of art itself.

Students should be willing to make some extra time for visits to the museum and for film screenings. Texts and other materials will be made available on bCourses.

Course Requirements: • regular attendance and active participation in seminar discussions • a short 20-minute presentation on an assigned topic [If you would prefer not to give a presentation, you could instead submit a 5-page (1500-1800 words) paper] • a final 15-page (4000-4500 words) term paper on a topic developed by the student

Enrollment is limited to 15 students and requires the instructor’s permission. In order to enroll, please send a brief email to and I’ll send you your course entry code.

Previously taught: SP19, FL18, SP18, FL17, SP16, FL15, SP15, FL14, SP13.