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Korsmeyer, Carolyn, and . Gender and Aesthetics: An Introduction

2004, London: Psychology Press

Publisher’s note: Feminist approaches to art are extremely influential and widely studied across a variety of disciplines, including art theory, cultural and visual studies, and philosophy. Gender and Aesthetics is an introduction to the major theories and thinkers within art and aesthetics from a philosophical perspective, carefully introducing and examining the role that gender plays in forming ideas about art. It is ideal for anyone coming to the topic for the first time.

Organized thematically, the book introduces in clear language the most important topics within feminist aesthetics:

  • Why were there so few women painters?
  • Art, pleasure and beauty
  • Music, literature and painting
  • The role of gender in taste and food
  • What is art and who is an artist?
  • Disgust and the sublime.

Each chapter discusses important topics and thinkers within art and examines the role gender plays in our understanding of them. These topics include creativity, genius and the appreciation of art, and thinkers from Plato, Kant, and Hume to Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva. Also included in the book are illustrations from Gaugin and Hogarth to Cindy Sherman and Nancy Spero to clarify and help introduce often difficult concepts. Each chapter concludes with a summary and further reading and there is an extensive annotated bibliography.

Carolyn Korsmeyer’s style is refreshing and accessible, making the book suitable for students of philosophy, gender studies, visual studies and art theory, as well as anyone interested in the impact of gender on theories of art.

Comment: Chapter 5 is particularly useful in teaching on art theories. It offers an interesting review of art theories from a feminist perspective, noting the gendered character of existing definitions. It may be good to teach it alongside Brand's ‘Glaring Omissions in Traditional Theories of Art’ to best bring out these issues. Secondly, it inspires the question: given the problematic exclusionary character of art history and theory, would it not be better if we did not have a definition of art which we can use to exclude? The value of the feminist art discussed in the chapter lies largely in its ability to expose the biases present in the artworld and expressed in theories of art. Thus the fact that artists tend to create works which challenge existing theories might be in fact desirable.