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A. W. Eaton, , . ‘A Lady on the Street but a Freak in the Bed’: On the Distinction Between Erotic Art and Pornography
2018, British Journal of Aesthetics 58 (4): 469-488
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: How, if at all, are we to distinguish between the works that we call ‘art’ and those that we call ‘pornography’? This question gets a grip because from classical Greek vases and the frescoes of Pompeii to Renaissance mythological painting and sculpture to Modernist prints, the European artistic tradition is chock-full of art that looks a lot like pornography. In this paper I propose a way of thinking about the distinction that is grounded in art historical considerations regarding the function of erotic images in 16 th -century Italy. This exploration suggests that the root of the erotic art/pornography distinction was—at least in this context—class: in particular, the need for a special category of unsanctioned illicit images arose at the very time when print culture was beginning to threaten elite privilege. What made an erotic representation exceed the boundaries of acceptability, I suggest, was not its extreme libidinosity but, rather, its widespread availability and, thereby, its threat to one of the mechanisms of sustaining class privilege.

Comment: The paper has implications reaching far beyond the pornography debate. Could similar power relations not impact art classification elsewhere? It might be useful to discuss this in the context of Larry Shiner’s ‘The Invention of Art,’ where the historical processes leading to the establishment of the modern Western system of the arts are analysed, including examples such as the exclusion of weaving as it became a female-dominated profession. Reaching even further, this can be applied to attitudes to art of other cultures, with (post)colonial power relations impacting on the way works are classified. Finally, Eaton’s text can serve as a sceptical argument against the classificatory project altogether: could all our attempts to distinguish art from non-art be just expressions of discrimination along various lines of priviledge?

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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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Author(s) Unknown, , . Yue Ji 樂記—Record of Music: Introduction, Translation, Notes, and Commentary
1995, Asian Music 26(2): 1-96.
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Summary: The earliest extant Chinese treatise on music. The Yue Ji presents largely Confucian ideas on the connections between music, self-cultivation, proper governance, and the realization of natural patterns. Human character is described as a musical progression with ties to the transformation of sound into a kind of music that is distinguished by its relationship to virtue. The exact identity of the author(s) is debated, and it is believed to have been compiled from various sources no later than the middle of the Western Han dynasty (206BCE-24CE).

Comment: This text is appropriate for an aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy course. It is best accessed by a reader with a basic understanding of early Chinese philosophy (especially Confucianism).

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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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Chari, V.K., , . Validity in Interpretation: Some Indian Views
1978, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36(3): 329-340.
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Summary: An outline of the theory of interpretation within the language philosophies of ancient India. Chari organizes this extensive history according to topics such as verbal autonomy, intention, unity of meaning, polysemy, contextualism, and interpretation.

Comment: This text is appropriate for discussions of language and meaning in aesthetics, as well as philosophy of language.

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Chung-Yuan Chang, , . Immeasurable potentialities of creativity
2011, In Chung-Yuan Chang (ed.). Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry. London & Philadelphia: Singing Dragon.
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Summary: A study of the Taoist (Daoist) concept of creativity as a non-instrumental process in which all things create themselves. Chang argues for the foundational place of this understanding of self-emergent creativity in the aesthetics of Chinese art.

Comment: Can be used as both an introduction to Daoism and to Chinese aesthetics.

Related reading:

  • Laozi, Tao Te Ching. D. C. Lau, trans. New York: Addison Wesley, 2000.
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Coleman, Elizabeth Burns, , . Repatriation and the Concept of Inalienable Possession
2010, In The Long Way Home, edited by Paul Turnbull and Michael Pickering: Berghan Books.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

Summary: The concept of inalienable possession often figures centrally in debates about repatriation of cultural artifacts (which are also often artworks). The right of alienability (or the right to transfer title to property) is one of the core rights in Western property theory. If property is inalienable, this means that title to it cannot rightly be transferred. In this paper, Coleman analyzes the concept of inalienable possession, and argues that laws (such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)) can foist a conception of inalienable possession on indigenous peoples that can be inaccurate to past and changing cultural norms. She uses this point to offer a distinction between property and ownership. This opens up conceptual space for a link between objects and identity through ownership that might nevertheless allow for the alienability of such property.

Comment: This paper is best for a course unit that is making room for in-depth discussion of the property dimensions of cultural property. It would pair well with Janna Thompson’s “Art, Property Rights, and the Interests of Humanity,” or James O. Young’s “Cultures and Cultural Property.” It can be also used together with or in lieu of Sarah Harding’s much longer and more detailed paper “Justifying Repatriation of Native American Cultural Property.”

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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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Dehejia, Harsha V., , Makarand Paranjape (eds.). Saundarya: The Perception and Practice of Beauty in India.
2003, Samvad India Foundation.
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Publisher’s Note: A peculiar feature of the classical aesthetic thought in India has been the emphasis on the art experience as a special state of being, defined not so much by saundarya or beauty as by ananda or beatitude. Yet, saundarya has been a crucial ingredient in the aesthetic experience, prevalent not only in traditional art objects but also in articles of daily life. The discourse of saundarya, as distinct from its experience, was however conducted by or on behalf of the cultivated aesthete and was carried out within the ambit of classical thought. In contrast, modernity, understood not merely as modernisation but as a departure from traditional modes of thinking and behavior, has opened new vistas of human experience and creativity, some of them in total opposition to traditional aesthetic norms. But even as modernity opens new discourses and initiates fresh debates on saundarya, we are reminded that the experience of beauty is a primal need, not easily overcome or substituted by another Can a renewed quest for an understanding the perception and practice of saundarya in India ensure that it is not relegated to the status of an archaic relic or curio, but restored as one of the bindus or foci of our lives?This volume, perhaps the first of its kind, is a unique contribution to the history of Indian aesthetic analysis. Its eminent contributors, ranging from aestheticians, linguistics, philosophers, historians, literary critics, art collectors, curators, performing artists, painters, and musicians of the highest calibre, are drawn from across three continents and diverse countries. Profusely illustrated, this visual and textual treat on the craft and culture of beauty in India, promises to be a collector’s item.

Comment: Wide-ranging volume on the concept of beauty (saundarya) in both traditional and modern Indian aesthetics. Includes essays on the ontology, expression, politics, and embodiment of beauty. This text is appropriate for a focused course or module on Indian or Asian aesthetics in which the students have some introduction to Indian philosophy and art.

Related reading:

  • K. Krishnamoorthy, Indian Theories of Beauty. Bangalore: Indian Institute of World Culture, 1981 (Transaction No. 53).
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Eaton, A. W., , . Feminist philosophy of art
2008, Philosophy Compass 3 (5):873-893.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: This article outlines the issues addressed by feminist philosophy of art, critically surveys major developments in the field, and concludes by considering directions in which the field is moving.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Eva Kit Wah Man, , . Issues of Contemporary Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Context
2015, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
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Publisher’s Note: This book discusses how China’s transformations in the last century have shaped its arts and its philosophical aesthetics. For instance, how have political, economic and cultural changes shaped its aesthetic developments? Further, how have its long-standing beliefs and traditions clashed with modernizing desires and forces, and how have these changes materialized in artistic manifestations? In addition to answering these questions, this book also brings Chinese philosophical concepts on aesthetics into dialogue with those of the West, making an important contribution to the fields of art, comparative aesthetics and philosophy.

Comment: A timely discussion of the influence of the last century’s political, economic, and cultural changes in China upon its philosophical aesthetics. Man’s book addresses a number of key neglected topics of comparative aesthetics between China and the West, contemporary aesthetics and art in Hong Kong, the relation of gender and art in the politics of identity, and the role of tradition in new creative practices. Chapter 4 introduces the leaders of the major schools of aesthetics in new China, including Li Zehou. This text is best used in a comparative aesthetics context, especially in discussions of contemporary aesthetic mediums.

Related reading:

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Freeland, Cynthia, , . Portraits in Painting and Photography
2007, Philosophical Studies 135(1): 95-109.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: This article addresses the portrait as a philosophical form of art. Portraits seek to render the subjective objectively visible. In portraiture two fundamental aims come into conflict: the revelatory aim of faithfulness to the subject, and the creative aim of artistic expression. In the first part of my paper, studying works by Rembrandt, I develop a typology of four different things that can be meant when speaking of an image’s power to show a person: accuracy, testimony of presence, emotional characterization, or revelation of the essential “air” (to use Roland Barthes’ term). In the second half of my paper this typology is applied to examples from painting and photography to explore how the two media might differ. I argue that, despite photography’s alleged ‘realism’ and ‘transparency,’ it allows for artistic portraiture and presents the same basic conflict between portraiture’s two aims, the revelatory and the expressive.

Comment: Considers two fundamental but conflicting aims of portraiture: the revelatory aim of faithfulness to the subject, and the creative aim of artistic expression. Explores how the two media of painting and photography might differ. Argues that despite photography’s alleged ‘realism’ and ‘transparency,’ it allows for artistic portraiture and presents the same basic conflict between portraiture’s two aims, the revelatory and the expressive.

Artworks to use with this text:

Richard Avedon, Jacob Israel Avedon (1969-1973)

Photographs of the artist’s dying father. These frank portraits succeed at both artistic expression and the subtle rendering of the sitter’s inner psychological states or character.

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Goldberg, RoseLee, , . The Art of Ideas and the Media Generation
2001, in: Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present. New York: Thames & Hudson. 152-155.
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Summary: In this brief historical note, Goldberg outlines the artistic response to the political upheavals of the 1960’s. The general spirit of civic disillusionment offered the best conditions for the re-evaluation of art and its supporting social institutions. Not surprisingly, a new animosity emerged towards the objects of art and their claim to aesthetic pleasure. The farthest possible opposite, which many artists readily embraced, was found in conceptual art, which prioritized ideas, relations and experiences over traditional aesthetic categories. Goldberg sees performance art as a potent embodied application of these new artistic concerns, and thus as a rightful heir to conceptual art. Furthermore, each sub-genre of performance art – from body art to live sculpture to discussions and performative scripts – retains a conceptual core that finds its roots in that decade of strife and controversy.

Comment: This text offers a historical note on the relationship between conceptual art and performance art, and could be used in aesthetics classes focusing on either of those arts

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Harding, Sarah, , . Justifying Repatriation of Native American Cultural Property
1997, Indiana Law Journal 72(3): 723-74.
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Summary: Harding’s article offer an in-depth look at the theoretical justification for the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990, paying special attention to the category of “cultural patrimony” under which non-funerary artworks will often fall if they are subject to NAGPRA. The paper focuses on three different approaches to justifying repatriation: in terms of compensation for historical injustices, the value of an object to a community, and challenging the very possibility of ownership of cultural patrimony. Harding ultimately favors this final approach, suggesting a stewardship model on which we all have obligations with respect to the protection of cultural property.

Comment: This is a long law review article, and so is best for more advanced classes. It is a useful text for instructors who are interested in exploring cultural property issues in a legal but philosophically informed context. One can also assign only certain sections focusing on particular issues. For a shorter article that also promotes a stewardship model, the Warren paper is a good substitute, though not likewise embedded in the legal issues (and written before the passage of NAGPRA).

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Kuki Shūzō, , . The Structure of Iki
2004, In Hiroshi Nara (ed.). The Structure of Detachment: The Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Sh?z?. Univeristy of Hawai’i Press.
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Summary: One of the most important and creative works in modern Japanese aesthetics. Kuki develops a description of a uniquely Japanese sense of taste (iki) that brings together characteristics of the geisha, samurai, and Buddhist priest.

Comment: Best used by a reader with at least an introductory knowledge of Japanese aesthetics. Could be used comparatively with work on disinterest in western Aesthetics, e.g., Kant.

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