Aesthetics and Modernity from Schiller to the Frankfurt School
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The essays in this book investigate the complex and often contradictory relationships between aesthetics and modernity from the late Enlightenment in the 1790s to the Frankfurt School in the 1960s and engage with the classic German tradition of socio-cultural and aesthetic theory that extends from Friedrich Schiller to Theodor W. Adorno. While contemporary discussions in aesthetics are often dominated by abstract philosophical approaches, this book embeds aesthetic theory in broader social and cultural contexts and considers a wide range of artistic practices in literature, drama, music and visual arts. Contributions include research on Schiller’s writings and his work in relation to moral sentimentalism, Romantic aesthetics, Friedrich Schlegel, Beethoven, Huizinga and Greenberg; philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Benjamin, Heidegger and Adorno; and thematic approaches to Darwinism and Naturalism, modern tragedy, postmodern realism and philosophical anthropology from the eighteenth century to the present day. This book is based on papers given at an international symposium held under the auspices of the University of Nottingham at the Institute of German and Romance Studies, London, in September 2009.
decades that Schiller’s Ghost-Seer has gradually emerged from the obscurity13 to which it had been consigned by the author’s own disparaging observations and his contemporaries’ discontent with a supposedly fragmentary novel.14 I would first like to present an overview of the story that the novel narrates, and then describe in more detail the literary techniques by means of which the story is narrated. I shall conclude by proposing a set of theses concerning the type of media aesthetic that the
this respect, what Schiller produces in – or rather, with – the GhostSeer can itself be construed as a veritable, albeit intra-literary instance of aesthetic theorizing. At the same time, this aesthetic is dominated by the ‘invisible hand’, or even – one might say – written by it. In that respect Schiller’s text throws significant light on the problems facing the discipline of aesthetics when it split in the late Enlightenment, or to be more precise the problems posed for autonomous aesthetics
Schiller is never quite so emphatically superlative, no doubt because he was at this point already convinced of the crucial merits of modernity: he never loses sight of the potential and eventual (historical) superiority of the moderns. At least not in any terms of content or detail. Herder had advocated an imitation of cultural structure, because, as he saw it, the function and structural history of true art was constant, but its content and appearance dif fered according to historical and
when applied to contemporary works that refuse to be held within the gallery or museum’s boundaries. Even though new and spectacular forms of art are capable of bringing forth such expansive experiences of freedom, experiences that seem to stretch so far beyond the Greenbergian aesthetic frame as to make its disciplinary strictures seem irrelevant, it is nevertheless time to look again at critical theories that place some measure of hope in what aesthetic experience, rather than conceptual
kinds of substance – res cogitans and res extensa in Descartes’ terminology – that do not add up. No one could dispute that we are both physical and mental beings, but the question of how the two relate and combine has exercized thinkers, then and now. This question of the interrelationship of man’s physiological and supersensory capacities is a consistent thread in Friedrich Schiller’s writings on culture. In the fourth of the Aesthetic Letters, which he characterizes as an attempt at a