Reading group: Aesthetics, Media & Cultural studies

School of Media, Film and Journalism academics Elizabeth Coleman, Justin O’Connor, and Paul Atkinson have established a new reading group – Aesthetics, Media and Cultural studies.

Description of the Field

Cultural and Media Studies in Australia and the UK emerged as much from older literary and artistic disciplines as from sociology, communications and other social sciences.

Juno Ludovisi.
Juno Ludovisi.

Indeed, much of the power of CMS came out of its conceptual critique of aesthetic theory and its historical and methodological critique of art as social practice (cf. Paul Willis in the reading list).

Rather than disappearing, in the last thirty years aesthetics and art history/ theory have undergone some radical transformations.

Many of older works in art and aesthetics have been revisited as pertinent to the contemporary cultural and media scene (Dewey, Read, Marcuse, Adorno) and many new approaches, coming out of post-structuralist (Lyotard, Deleuze, Rancière) and contemporary sociological thought (Habermas, Bourdieu, Luhmann), have suggested a possible rapprochement between aesthetics and cultural and media studies.

In many respects “art” and “cultural and media studies” have remained two distinct, though highly proximate worlds.

In addition, the current crisis in cultural policy – where the value of culture has been radically undermined by the discourse and technologies of economic innovation and efficiency – has also required a return to aesthetic history and theory.

In order to explore these issues, the Communications and Media Studies section of MFJ will be hosting four seminars, which will be based around one or two set readings.

Participants are welcome to suggest supplementary readings, however the discussion will be conducted under the assumption that the core texts have been read. Participation is open to all.

Reading List

The readings can be accessed online through the library website.

First Session

Wednesday, April 15, 12pm – 1pm, T2.26/7,  Caulfield Campus

rules-art-pierre-bourdieu-paperback-cover-artIn this seminar we will be reading sections of Jacques Rancière’s latest book Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art and Pierre Bourdieu’s The Rules of Art.

In addition we will be looking at Tony Bennett’s trenchant critique of Rancière in “Guided Freedom: Aesthetics, Tutelage and the Interpretation of Art” in Making Culture, Changing Society. London Routledge.

Second Session

Wednesday, April 29, 12pm – 1pm, T2.26/7, Caulfield Campus

In this seminar we will read through the opening chapter of John Dewey’s Art as Experience, “The Live Creature” pp. 1-19, where he discusses the importance of quotidian experience in the generation and evaluation of art.

In doing so, he critiques those aesthetic approaches that place art within museums for the purpose of disinterested aesthetic contemplation.

Susanne Langer.
Susanne Langer.

We will also read through chapter three “The Symbol of Feeling” pp. 24-41 of Susanne Langer’s Feeling and Form, in which she critiques Dewey and proposes her own definition of art as “significant form.”

Third Session

Wednesday 20th May 12pm – 1pm, T2.26/7, Caulfield Campus

Cultural studies and cultural economy approaches to the study of arts practices frequently rely on institutional theories of art and art worlds, such as those associated with Howard Becker and Pierre Bourdieu.

One weakness of institutional theories is that they cannot account for the value of art as a practice, or distinguish between aesthetic value and other values of arts.

artful_species (1)In the “The nature of art” (from his book The Artful Species), Stephen Davies critiques some of the arguments for the institutional theory, and in “Dissanayake’s evolutionary aesthetic” he critiques an alternative, evolutionary account of art and its value.

In “What Philosophers say the arts do,” Hans van Maanen explores the different kinds of value ascribed to art in order to articulate a framework for thinking about value in empirical studies of art practices and institutions.

Fourth Session

Readings and date to be announced.