701 ~ Seminar I: The Twentieth Century: Art in Theory  Syllabus

The purpose of this course in critical theory and topological studies is to re-introduce the student to the major conceptual and practical issues that confronted artists, theorists, critics, philosophers, and aestheticians in the twentieth century. Through the readings, seminar discussions, presentations, and debates, as well as written assignments, the student is also expected to familiarize herself/himself with the language of theory, aesthetics, and philosophy as it developed over the course of the century. Perhaps more importantly, the intention of the course is to give the student a “feel” for art as a dynamic, ever-changing mode of cultural and historical discourse. To that end, a lecture series on the ideology of aesthetics in Manet and Degas will situate contemporary aesthetic theory in relation to nineteenth-century psychoanalytic styles of representation. Lastly, the seminar will introduce to first-year students the IDSVA Topological Studies Program. With residency sites serving as points of historical context, twentieth-century art and ideas are resituated in relation to classical, feudal, renaissance, neoclassical, romantic, and modern modes of thought, and these in turn are held up against the horizon of contemporary culture and consciousness. A series of readings, including Book X from Plato’s Republic; the classical poem, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius; Jesse Weston’s From Ritual to Romance; and Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, will open our discussion of the topological method.


702.1 ~ Seminar II, Part 1: Kant, Hegel, Marx, & Freud Syllabus

Kant’s Third Critique (The Critique of Judgement) is arguably the first treatise on aesthetics to systematically theorize the relation between the subject/viewer and the art object—a relation that Kant analyzes largely on the basis of his famously Copernican theory of subjectivity. Contrary to Kant, Hegel sees the relation between the viewer and the art object as a spiritual one resulting from the dialectical history of ideas. Marx & Engels turn the Hegelian dialectic on its head, arguing that history is a dialectical struggle between classes for control of the material world, leaving art to the ideological vicissitudes of revolution—at least according to Lenin. With his invention of a new science, Freud moves away from philosophical and historical concepts of subject/object relations and opens up yet another field of aesthetic inquiry and debate—psychoanalytic theory. As we shall see, all of these critical approaches to art come down to the question of freedom. More specifically, we might say that our project is to understand how Kant lays the groundwork for the critique of art as form, while Hegel lays the groundwork for the critique of art as history; and how Marx and Engels extend the Hegelian project to the possibility of a social criticism of art as ideological discourse, while Freud presents the possibility of a psychoanalytic critique of art as an aesthetic representation of individual subjectivity. Our project in the fall (Seminar II, Part 2) will be to trace these nineteenth-century ideas and issues as they bump up against each other and maneuver for cultural ascendancy in the twentieth century.


702.2 ~ Seminar II, Part 2: Art in Theory Revisited Syllabus

Seminar II, Part 1 prepared the groundwork for Art in Theory Revisited.  In Kant we saw the critique of art as form, in Hegel, the critique of art as history; and while Marx extended the Hegelian project to the possibility of a social criticism of art as ideological discourse, Freud presented the possibility critiquing art as the aesthetic representation of individual human subjectivity. The purpose of Seminar II, Part 2 is to re-read Art in Theory 1900-2000 in order to more fully grasp the ways in which Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Freud inform twentieth-century ideas and debates about the historical status and function of art.


703 ~ Seminar III: A Quick History of Philosophy Syllabus

Seminar III begins with a six-day intensive residency in New York in early January. Mornings are devoted to Independent Study presentations and seminar discussions; afternoons will be devoted to museum work (MoMA, The New Museum, Guggenheim, Whitney, Chelsea Galleries, etc.).

A Quick History of Philosophy combines a survey of Western Philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the post-modern period with a quasi-Independent Study course. Unlike most courses at IDSVA, Seminar 703 follows a chronological approach, starting with the Pre-Socratics and ending with Post-World War II French philosophy. From week 1 to week 6 we shall focus on the narrative of Western Philosophy in its most distinctive phases: Antiquity, Medieval, Modern (including Renaissance philosophy, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and early 20th century). On week 7 we’ll switch gears to tackle broad thematic issues (Aesthetics, Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics, etc.), which will provide a useful background to the following two weeks of readings from primary texts of post-war French philosophers (Sartre, de Beauvoir, Foucault, Ingaray, Derrida, Deleuze, Nancy, etc.). The last four weeks will be dedicated to individual research and writing the final paper.


704 ~ Seminar IV: The Subject and Object of Art Syllabus

In the online section of the course, The Subject and Object of Art will loop back to Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Freud. In tracing the relation between the subject and the object as it develops over the course of the last two centuries, we start with Karl Jasper’s reading of Kant and then move to Alexandre Kojève’s introduction to Hegel. (This seminar, which Kojève gave at the École Pratique des Hautes Études from 1933 to 1939, tremendously affected French intellectual thought. Participants included Bataille, Merleau-Ponty, Breton, Lacan, and Sartre; and Foucault and Derrida figure prominently among others who acknowledge a sizable debt to Kojève.) We then venture into subject formation as a question of language and ethics, with Bakhtin’s theory of dialogical consciousness. While here in particular Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov provides a point of focus, the intent is to think through theories of language toward a philosophy of visual art. To that end Levinas’s ethics of the face of the other and Lacan’s theory of the gaze will introduce problems more specifically ocular vis-a-vis the object/other. This in turn will raise gaze/body/gender/subjectivity questions, especially as per Jacqueline Rose & Juliet Mitchell’s feminist readings of Lacan. Derrida’s early deconstruction of Levinas will open out onto a deconstructive turn toward ethics, in his “Adieu” to Levinas. Thereafter we consider Deleuze & Guattari’s anti-psychoanalytic philosophy as well as Zizek’s Lacanian riposte to Delueze & Guatarri. We conclude with a discussion of the relation of feminism and postmodernism as it pertains to our reading toward a philosophy of art.


801.1 ~ Seminar V, Part 1: The Kant/Hegel Divide (Facilitated Reading) Syllabus

This facilitated reading is designed to take entering second-year students through the Kant and Hegel readings in preparation for Seminar V, Part 2, Berlin Residency. Each week students will read a section of the texts and discuss in teleconferences, individually and in study groups.


801.2 ~ Seminar V, Part 2: The Kant/Hegel Divide Syllabus

In this residency seminar we revisit Kant and Hegel directly, with a close reading of the 2007 revised (Oxford) translation of the Third Critique, the Preface and Chapter IV of Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Mind, and Knox’s translation of Volume I of Hegel’s lectures on fine art. The purpose here is to trace Kant and Hegel’s aesthetics as they develop into opposing twentieth-century philosophies of art. Of particular interest will be the question of the art object’s relationship to cultural discourse. This question will hardly be restricted to the matter of aesthetics per se, and will in fact open out on to the wider fields of contemporary philosophy and theory. Of particular interest in this regard will be the differing theories of subjectivity the two thinkers propose in terms of aesthetics.


801.3 ~ Seminar V, Part 3: Continental Glissement Syllabus

In Seminar V, Part 2 we reengaged Kant & Hegel with another reading of Kant’s Third Critique and a good close reading of Hegel’s Introduction to the Phenomenology of Mind and Chapter IV, plus readings from his Aesthetics, Vol. I. Seminar V, Part 3 traces the intertextual extension of Kant and Hegel into contemporary philosophy and aesthetics. First, we read “Parergon” from Jacques Derrida’s The Truth In Painting, a meditation on a key, if often overlooked, component of Kant’s third critique: the question of what is central or proper to the judgment of a work of art. Second, in response to Merleau-Ponty’s assertion that “all the great philosophical ideas of the last century … had their beginnings in Hegel,” we trace these ideas through a selection of essays by leading twentieth century Continental philosophers. Then we will open these issues to a much wider field of inquiry, cutting across eighteenth- and nineteenth-century aesthetic and theoretical discourse as we work our way into 20th and 21st century concerns. Looping back and forth across these questions, the course moves elliptically toward an intertextual critique of the Kant/Hegel divide as it still informs contemporary thought and visual culture.


802 ~ Independent Study I Syllabus

The IDSVA Independent Study program is designed to help the student develop particular scholarly interests and to integrate those interests with the overall curriculum. It is also meant to encourage exploration and extended research toward a dissertation topic. Finally, the Independent Study is meant to foster the skills and attitude necessary for successful scholarship. These include the wherewithal to plow ahead on one’s own as well as the willingness to seek advice and counsel from colleagues in the field. The student and Independent Study director work together toward the student’s professional development in the terms just noted.

There are no set rules for Independent Studies. Each individual student, each project, will require a different approach and different methods, with more or less communication and more or less oversight and guidance.


803 ~ Seminar VI: Toward an Ethico-Aesthetics Syllabus

Seminar VI begins with a six-day January intensive residency in New York City. Visiting lecturers will deliver presentations concerning ethics within the context of the seminar on Ethico-Aesthetics. This year’s speaker is curator Holly Block, Executive Director, Bronx Museum of Fine Arts, Co-Commissioner, American Pavilion Exhibition, and 2013 Venice Biennale. A special symposium organized in collaboration with Christie’s New York will focus on the relation between the art market and globalization.

Museums to be visited include the Studio Museum Harlem, PS1, the Jewish Museum, and the Museo del Barrio, among others. Students will give seminar presentations on fall Independent Studies, with a view toward linking those studies to questions raised in the Seminar Lectures.

Part 2, the virtual/videoconference section of the course, will allow us to re-ask the questions: “what is art?” and “what is art’s responsibility to society?” This conceptual move will allow us to consider the philosophical relation of ethics to aesthetics and vice versa as implicit in the term “representation.”


804 ~ Independent Study II Syllabus

The IDSVA Independent Study program is designed to help the student develop particular scholarly interests and to integrate those interests with the overall curriculum. It is also meant to encourage exploration and extended research toward a dissertation topic. Finally, the Independent Study is meant to foster the skills and attitude necessary for successful scholarship. These include the wherewithal to plow ahead on one’s own as well as the willingness to seek advice and counsel from colleagues in the field. The student and Independent Study director work together toward the student’s professional development in the terms just noted.

There are no set rules for Independent Studies. Each individual student, each project, will require a different approach and different methods, with more or less communication and more or less oversight and guidance.


901.1 ~ Seminar VII: Methods Framework (Facilitated Reading) Syllabus

The purpose of this course is to prepare students for the IDSVA Methods Framework Course with Paul Armstrong that will take place during the Brown Residency. During the facilitated reading, students will become familiar with the new texts assigned by Professor Armstrong, as well as consider previous IDSVA readings (noted with an asterisk) in relation to the themes and concepts outlined in the questions in the course syllabus. Please note that previously assigned IDSVA readings will only require a quick review of the text as opposed to a thorough close reading. At the end of the facilitated reading, students will be prepared to move right into evaluation, critique, and synthesis of the course material at Brown. Over the three week time period of the facilitated reading, students will perform close readings of the newly assigned texts, review previously assigned materials, and be able to enter the Brown residency with the material fresh in mind.


901.2 ~ Seminar VII: Methods Framework Syllabus

This residency seminar is intended to help students develop a comprehensive, in-depth understanding of the conceptual and methodological debates that have defined contemporary aesthetic theory. Most of the readings have been taken from the first- and second-year IDSVA curriculum, but several new selections have been added in order to clarify the issues at stake in particular areas of controversy. This is the time in a student’s graduate career when, in anticipation of the oral exam and the dissertation, it is important to look back and assess the meaning and significance of the debates to which the curriculum has introduced you. What are the theoretical causes and consequences of the major disputes in aesthetics today, how have they evolved, and what are the methodological and conceptual implications of these disagreements for the work ahead of you? A central goal of the seminar is to help students develop a clearer, more rigorous understanding of where they stand (and why) in these controversies so that they can better demonstrate their readiness to participate in them. The aim is to help students negotiate the transition from understanding others’ theoretical positions to articulating their own independent contributions to debates that will matter to their future work.


901.3 ~ Seminar VII, Part 3: Foundational Texts: Plato to Kristeva Syllabus

Seminar VII, Part 3 is titled Foundational Texts: Plato to Kristeva. It extends the conversation begun at the Brown Residency in the Methods Framework course taught by Professor Paul Armstrong. That seminar addressed issues of Epistemology and Representation, Formalism(s), Modernist and Post-Modernist discourses, The Politics of Art, and The Body, in relation to the interpretation, evaluation, reception, production, agency, and embodiment of the work of art, with a focus on the Twentieth century. The purpose of Seminar VII, Part 3, Foundational Texts: Plato to Kristeva, is to situate the issues covered in the Methods Framework course within an expanded field of earlier and more recent moments in philosophy and aesthetics. Starting with Plato’s Republic and ending with Kristeva’s The Powers of Horror, and traversing some twenty-five hundred years across the history of ideas, we go from the establishment of classical misogyny to the postmodern critique of patriarchy, from the critique of beauty as a corruption of truth to the celebration of corruption as an instance of the beautiful and the true. As we move across these philosophical horizons, taking up foundational texts as we go, we begin to see recurrent themes and emerging points of argument. Beyond the properly aesthetic question that asks, for instance, what is the relation between word and image, we now come to questions such as, what is truth, what is beauty, what is the relation between beauty and truth? While these broader questions arise as the main issues informing a centuries-long debate, the philosophical and ideological underpinnings of these questions shift from one historical moment to the next, often coiling back on themselves in surprising, even shocking ways. In the end it remains for us to ask, where do we stand in the history of ideas? What is our contribution to the on-going dialogue?


902.1 ~ Dissertation Preparation I, Part 1: Pre-Dissertation Seminar Syllabus

Purpose: To prepare students for their third year of study, during which they will begin writing their dissertations (producing an outline in the fall and a first chapter in the spring).

Outcomes: At the end of the workshop, students should have near-final drafts of two documents:

a.  A 15-page research statement that explains the intellectual problem to be addressed by the dissertation and that situates the dissertation in the larger field of inquiry in which the student will demonstrate competence in the qualifying examination.  This statement will guide the student’s research during year three in preparation for this exam.  The dissertation proposal, to be completed after the qualifying exam, will develop out of this statement in light of the third year’s reading and research.

b.  A list of 25 books (or the equivalent) that will constitute the student’s initial proposal for the individualized section of the qualifying examination, supplementing the core list taken from the IDSVA curriculum.  This list will be further modified, with the guidance and supervision of the IDSVA faculty, during the student’s reading and research during the third year.


902.2 ~ Dissertation Preparation I, Part 2: Launching the Dissertation: Topic, Outline, Bibliography Syllabus

In this course we will begin to shape your field statements and reading lists into a roadmap for your dissertation. The aim will be to stabilize your list of 25 titles that will be included on your oral qualifying exam, while also establishing a broader bibliography of books to be explored in the process of your research. We will work to hone your dissertation topic and to create an outline that will guide your ongoing research.


903 ~ Seminar VIII: Contemporary Readings: Cage to Agamben Syllabus

Seminar VIII extends from Seminar VII, Part 3 (Foundational Texts: Plato to Kristeva). The purpose of Seminar VIII is to situate the issues covered in Seminar VII, Part 3 within contemporary issues in philosophy, aesthetics, and art theory. As with Seminar VII, our problem remains to answer the question, What is our contribution to the on-going dialogue in contemporary philosophy, aesthetics, and art theory?


904 ~ Dissertation: Work Planning, Sustainable Research, First Chapters Syllabus

In this course we will generate a long-term work plan for dissertation research and writing. During the semester, you will write either an introduction or a first chapter of your dissertation. You will continue to read the titles on your list of twenty-five for the Preliminary Oral Examination. During one-on-one telephone calls and conference calls we will discuss techniques for efficient and sustainable research.