Knowledge, Perception, and the Prospects of Criticism

Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Criticism

In connection with the project, we are running an advanced level course in the philosophy of art criticism, delivered during November 2022 at Uppsala University.

Course description

The figure of the critic and the idea of criticism are constant points of reference in the philosophical literature of aesthetics. That said, there are wide disagreements about the concept and function of art-critical texts and about the qualities of their authors. Should criticism aim to evaluate its object or to describe and interpret it. Do critics aim to justify their observations (whether evaluative or descriptive) and if so, how? Is there a standard of correctness in criticism, or is it more a matter of being convincing, of critical success consisting in getting the reader to see, hear or feel what the critic herself sees? Does the work of criticism leave its object untouched? In what sense does criticism have its own aesthetics – that is, do critical texts themselves have aesthetic value and, if so, how does this relate to the aesthetic value they seek to identify in the artworks they are about?

The course will take stock of the history of arts criticism, the main current contrasting conceptions of the form as well as explore possibilities for revisionary approaches to the subject. It will also aim at taking a closer look at the practice of criticism and students will be expected to complete a written critical review of an artwork, text or performance.

Course requirements

Students are required to attend lectures and seminars. For seminars it is important to read the prescribed literature in advance and be prepared to discuss the content. The examination takes the form of a critical review (approx. 350-400 words); and a written essay on a single topic (2000-3000 words). Students are also required to give a presentation of their essay project at the end of the course, in order to test out the project ideas and obtain feedback from fellow-students and teachers. The examination elements will be weighted at 30% (review), 10% (presentation), 60% (essay) of the final mark (7.5hp).

Course teachers

Guy Dammann

irene Martinez Marin