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Abhinavagupta, , . Abhinavabhāratī
2006, In M.M. Ghosh (ed.) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation.Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation.
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Summary: Abhinavagupta’s famed commentary on Bharatamuni’s treatise on drama, the Nāṭyaśāstra, in which he details aesthetic expression and experience according to a theory of rasa, or aesthetic relish. Abhinavagupta’s theory is the most influential account of how the rasas or aesthetic emotions transcend the bounds of the spectator and artwork in a three-part process including depersonalization, universalization, and identification.

Comment: This text is appropriate for an in-depth study of Indian aesthetics. It requires an at least an introductory background in Indian philosophy to be accessible.

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Chakrabarti, Arindam, , . Ownerless Emotions in Rasa-Aesthetics
2011, In Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.). Asian Aesthetics. National Univeristy of Singapore Press.
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Summary: Chakrabarti explores the possibilities of rasa theory via the question of whose emotion is experienced when an audience relishes a work of art. Chakrabarti argues for the existence of a “centerless non-singular subjectivity” according to which the special emotions savored in aesthetic experience do not have specific owners. These personless sentiments indicate an ethical relationship between aesthetic imagination and moral unselfishness.

Comment: This text could serve as both an overview of rasa theory in Indian aesthetics, as a basis for comparative work in cross-cultural aesthetics, as well as comparative philosophy.

Related reading:

  • Abhinavabhāratī. Abhinavagupta. In Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation. M.M. Ghosh (ed.). Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation, 2006.
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Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., , . Samvega, ‘Aesthetic Shock’
1943, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 7(3): 174-179.
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Summary: An explication of the Pali aesthetic term samvega as the state of shock and wonder at a work of art that occurs when the implications of its aesthetic qualities are experienced. Despite being an emotion, Coomaraswamy associates samvega with disinterested aesthetic contemplation.

Comment: This text would work well in a focused study of Indian aesthetics, as well in a cross-cultural study of disinterest in aesthetics.

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Doyle, Jennifer, , . Thinking Feeling: Criticism and Emotion
2013, In: Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art. Durham: Duke University Press. 69-89.
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Added by: Rossen Ventzislavov, Contributed by:

Summary: Doyle investigates the emotional dimensions of aesthetic experience in the context of controversial performance art practices. She focuses on sentimentality because it sits at the extreme end not only of the emotional spectrum but also, as a negative, on the art critical radar. Critics’ charge against the sentimental is twofold – it enables vicarious experience at the expense of its direct counterpart and it gives a platform to the inauthentic. Furthermore, the overwhelming critical consensus is that the personal itself, manifested in sentimentality or otherwise, is inherently suspect. Emotion is thus framed as detrimental to “serious” art. It is also, and even more damagingly, feminized and drained of its political charge. To counter these assumptions, Doyle uses specific art-historical examples which reveal the richness and importance of emotional interest in the way art is made and experienced.

Comment: This text can be used in discussions of emotion and affectivity. While much of its focus is on art, it can be used in more general classes on emotions as well.

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Ellen Dissanayake, , . Art and Intimacy
2000, University of Washington Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Publisher’s Note: To Ellen Dissanayake, the arts are biologically evolved propensities of human nature: their fundamental features helped early humans adapt to their environment and reproduce themselves successfully over generations. In Art and Intimacy she argues for the joint evolutionary origin of art and intimacy, what we commonly call love.It all begins with the human trait of birthing immature and helpless infants. To ensure that mothers find their demanding babies worth caring for, humans evolved to be lovable and to attune themselves to others from the moment of birth. The ways in which mother and infant respond to each other are rhythmically patterned vocalizations and exaggerated face and body movements that Dissanayake calls rhythms and sensory modes.

Rhythms and modes also give rise to the arts. Because humans are born predisposed to respond to and use rhythmic-modal signals, societies everywhere have elaborated them further as music, mime, dance, and display, in rituals which instill and reinforce valued cultural beliefs. Just as rhythms and modes coordinate and unify the mother-infant pair, in ceremonies they coordinate and unify members of a group.

Today we humans live in environments very different from those of our ancestors. They used ceremonies (the arts) to address matters of serious concern, such as health, prosperity, and fecundity, that affected their survival. Now we tend to dismiss the arts, to see them as superfluous, only for an elite. But if we are biologically predisposed to participate in artlike behavior, then we actually need the arts. Even — or perhaps especially — in our fast-paced, sophisticated modern lives, the arts encourage us to show that we care about important things.

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Friend, Stacie, , . The pleasures of documentary tragedy
2007, British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2):184-198.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Two assumptions are common in discussions of the paradox of tragedy: (1) that tragic pleasure requires that the work be fictional or, if non-fiction, then non-transparently represented; and (2) that tragic pleasure may be provoked by a wide variety of art forms. In opposition to (1) I argue that certain documentaries could produce tragic pleasure. This is not to say that any sad or painful documentary could do so. In considering which documentaries might be plausible candidates, I further argue, against (2), that the scope of tragic pleasure is limited to works that possess certain thematic and narrative features.

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Irvin, Sherri, , . Scratching an itch
2008, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 66 (1):25-35.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: In recent years, momentum has been gathering in defense of the appropriateness of aesthetic discourse in relation to a number of domains other than art and nature. Philosophers have argued that food, sports, and sex can be viewed aesthetically. It has been claimed that the “lower senses” of smell, taste, and touch may play legitimate or even exclusive roles in some aesthetic judgments. And there has been sustained criticism of the view that aesthetic judgments must be disinterested or must transport us out of the concerns of everyday life. Can this extension of the realm of the aesthetic be taken even further, so as to accommodate the idea that even the most mundane incidents of everyday life have an aesthetic character, or that there can be aesthetic experiences of such incidents? With attention to two especially hard cases, itches and scratches, I will argue that it is appropriate and worthwhile to think of even the simplest moments of everyday life in aesthetic terms. It is appropriate, because on the most plausible accounts of aesthetic experience there can be legitimate aesthetic experiences of itching and scratching; and it is worthwhile, because aesthetic attention to this domain offers the prospect of unique and significant satisfaction.

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Kwang-Myung Kim, , . Korean Aesthetic Consciousness and the Problem of Aesthetic Rationality
1998, Canadian Aesthetics Journal, 2
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Abstract: Aesthetic emotions are reputed to be irrational, but, aesthetic emotions as mental phenomena bear complex relations to rationality. Emotions give us knowledge about the world. The aesthetic consciousness of Korean is the internal roots of the Korean’s mentality. The aesthetic consciousness and the mentality are inseparably related to each other. The aesthetic consciousness as the analogy of reason, in the context of A.G. Baumgarten plays a role to extend the logical world. Aesthetic rationality is the common sense or the communicative rationality of it. For the argument of universality we discuss the problem of aesthetic rationality. Since the modern aesthetics, the problem of aesthetic rationality came on the stage of aesthetics. Shamanism as the deep-rooted element of Korean mentality is the most authentic cultural legacy of Koreans. Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and other religious elements influence the unique nature of the Korean character together with shamanism. They play a decisive role in determining the Korean mentality or consciousness. For Koreans, nature is a mirror of the self and a world of meditation which gives life, restoring all things to their proper state. As a peculiar color consciousness, Korean monochrome is characterized by vitality, spontaneity and unconcern for technical perfection. Korean art also tends to be devoid of an artificial movement and this reflects dislike of disturbance, deformation and convention.
If we are to consider Korean contemporary art from an international perspective, we must define what it means to be Korean, i.e. our cultural habits and artistic elements hidden in the artist’s unconsciousness. In this age of multiculturalism, the new interpretation on tradition makes it possible to merge the Korean art with the world stage. The extension of aesthetic emotion through experimentation shows us the change of aesthetic consciousness as a new possibility of interpretation.

Comment: Kim argues for aesthetic rationality, as a kind of aesthetic consciousness, at the heart of Korean identity. He traces its unique cultural legacy in Korean shamanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism in order to account for the characteristic vitality and spontaneity in Korean art. This text is appropriate for an aesthetics course. It does not require a background in Korean philosophy, but at least an introductory knowledge of aesthetics would be beneficial.

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Lord, Catherine, , . Aesthetic unity
1961, Journal of Philosophy 58 (12):321-327.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: FEW hold “A poem should not mean, but be” as dogma any longer, but most aestheticians agree that a work of art cannot be exhaustively paraphrased. Few dispute that the aesthetic ex- perience is, in some sense, disinterested, but the terms of that disinterestedness are still debated. I suggest that the work of art and the aesthetic experience are congruent and that an analysis of this congruence reveals both the nature of the import of art and the character of the aesthetic experience. I found my analysis on a faculty framework because I am convinced that neither the aesthetic experience nor the import of art can be illuminated without a fairly rigorous epistemology in which the roles of the imagination and the understanding are clearly defined. My framework is avowedly Kantian, for I think that the very incommensurability of the imagination and the un- derstanding, as emphasized by Kant, does more justice to the phenomenology of the aesthetic experience than an analysis of the cognitive faculties that stresses a difference in degree rather than kind.

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Saito Yuriko, , . Aesthetics of the Familiar: Everyday Life and World-Making
2017, Oxford University Press
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Publisher’s Note: Yuriko Saito explores the nature and significance of the aesthetic dimensions of people’s everyday life. Everyday aesthetics has the recognized value of enriching one’s life experiences and sharpening one’s attentiveness and sensibility. Saito draws out its broader importance for how we make our worlds, environmentally, morally, as citizens and consumers. Saito urges that we have a social responsibility to encourage cultivation of aesthetic literacy and vigilance against aesthetic manipulation. Yuriko Saito argues that ultimately, everyday aesthetics can be an effective instrument for directing the humanity’s collective and cumulative world-making project for the betterment of all its inhabitants.

Everyday aesthetics has been seen as a challenge to contemporary Anglo-American aesthetics discourse, which is dominated by the discussion of art and beauty. Saito responds to controversies about the nature, boundary, and status of everyday aesthetics and argues for its legitimacy. She highlights the multi-faceted aesthetic dimensions of everyday life that are not fully accounted for by the commonly-held account of defamiliarizing the familiar.

Comment: Of the three parts of the book (Concepts, Cases, Consequences), the first is the most theoretically involved. It engages with the current debates in everyday aesthetics, examining the concepts of ‘everyday’ and ‘aesthetics’, and arguing with the common drive to defamiliarize the familiar, aimed at making what is mundane stand out, turning the ordinary into something extraordinary. What is there to be gained by ‘artifying’ things, and thus making them special? Does the fact that we treat some objects as aesthetically special, not prevent us from seeing the aesthetic qualities of other things? Those questions can make for interesting topics to explore in class or to debate.

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Shapshay, Sandra, , . Schopenhauer’s Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
2012, Philosophy Compass 7 (1):11-22.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: This essay focuses on Schopenhauer’s aesthetics and philosophy of art, areas of his philosophy which have attracted the most philosophical attention in recent years. After discussing the subjective and objective aspects of aesthetic experience on his account, I shall offer interpretations of Schopenhauer’s theory of the sublime and solution to the problem of tragedy. In addition, I shall touch upon the liveliest interpretive debates concerning his aesthetic theory: the intelligibility of the ‘Platonic Ideas’ as the objects of aesthetic experience and the very possibility of aesthetic experience within Schopenhauer’s system. Another aim of this essay is to suggest how some of Schopenhauer’s aesthetic doctrines may be interpreted in a less metaphysically extravagant way. When understood in this manner, contemporary aestheticians might be inclined to take a closer look at Schopenhauer’s aesthetic theory and philosophy of art, for it is distinctive in the tradition of Western philosophical aesthetics in its attempt to highlight and balance the hedonic and cognitive importance of aesthetic experiences; in its sensitivity both to the aesthetic experience of nature as well as of art; in the high value placed on the experience of music ; and in the innovative solution to the problem of tragedy it offers

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