Art Theroy II From the 18th century to the present

- Prof Parul Dave Mukherji

This course focuses on the emergence of aesthetics as a discipline around the time of Enlightenment during the 18th century. Marking a shift from Neoclassical aesthetics and its retake on mimesis, the Romantic aesthetics centred around the artist as a genius and insisted on aesthetic autonomy. To counter such fixation on extreme subjectivity, formalism emerged as a new methodology around the middle of 19th century and its claims of scientificity underscored the formation of art history as a discipline. While a number of philosophers (Kant and Hegel) and art historians (Alois Riegl, Jacob Burkhardt, Heinrich Wolfflin etc.) have shaped the basic structure of the discipline, a wide range of thinkers of the 20th century belonging to diverse fields such as linguistics, cultural anthropology, semiotics, photography, literary studies, political studies, gender studies, cinema studies and culture studies have impacted its disciplinary reconfiguration from without. As a consequence, the art objects progressively lost their autonomous status and instead turned into texts for tracking larger shifts in the cultural landscape and social imaginary. They upturned standard notions of authorship in the fields of visual arts, cinema studies and theatre and performance studies and problematized the very project of history writing with its concern for truth and limits of interpretation.

Attention shifted to the role played by cultural institutions, the cinematic and performative apparatus, art writings and the media along with the political economy of the art market, multiplexes and theatrical spaces where meanings were generated and controlled. Giving centrality to the body and its embeddedness in the historical moment, feminist art historians and cultural theorists have questioned the Kantian autonomy of forms and shifted emphasis on the conditions of production as a site of meaning. Its impact on performance studies has been enormous where the body and the gestural become the key site for identity formation. Cinema Studies with its engagement with spectatorship, desire and gaze have more than any other discipline foregrounded the question of the public sphere. The various critiques of art history as a discipline have exposed its euro-centrism. With the rise of multiculturalism and globalization, the very project of writing the history of art, performance and cinema from a universal perspective is questioned. Out of this crisis, a new field of Visual Studies has emerged which claims greater democracy by including within its ambit images produced through mechanical reproduction and redresses its elitism by encompassing images of popular visual culture that circulate in our everyday life.

Key Readings:



• Martin Banham, ed., The Cambridge Guide to World Theatre, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1988.

• Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1983.

• Eric Fernie, Art History and Its Methods: A Critical Anthology, Phaidon, London, 1995.

• Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams, eds. Reinventing Film Studies, Arnold, London, 2000.

• Stephen Melville and Bill Readings, Vision and Textuality, Duke University Press, Durham1995.

• Michael Ann Holly and Keith Moxey eds. Art History Aesthetics Visual Studies, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001.

• Toby Miller, A Companion to Cultural Studies, Blackwell, London 2006.

• Keith Moxey, The Practice of Theory: Poststructuralism, Cultural Politics and Art History, Cornell University Press, New York, 1994.

• Donald Preziosi ed., The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998.

• Nanette Saloman, "The Art Historical Canon: Sins of Omission" from (En)gendering Knowledge: Feminists in Academe, Joan E Hartman and Ellen Messerdavidow (eds.) University of Tennessee Press, Tennessee,1991.

• Richard Schechner, Performance Theory, Routledge, New York, 1977.