The Man Without Content (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics)

The Man Without Content (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics)

Giorgio Agamben

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 0804735549

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this book, one of Italy's most important and original contemporary philosophers considers the status of art in the modern era. He takes seriously Hegel's claim that art has exhausted its spiritual vocation, that it is no longer through art that Spirit principally comes to knowledge of itself. He argues, however, that Hegel by no means proclaimed the "death of art" (as many still imagine) but proclaimed rather the indefinite continuation of art in what Hegel called a "self-annulling" mode.

With astonishing breadth and originality, the author probes the meaning, aesthetics, and historical consequences of that self-annulment. In essence, he argues that the birth of modern aesthetics is the result of a series of schisms—between artist and spectator, genius and taste, and form and matter, for example—that are manifestations of the deeper, self-negating yet self-perpetuating movement of irony.

Through this concept of self-annulment, the author offers an imaginative reinterpretation of the history of aesthetic theory from Kant to Heidegger, and he opens up original perspectives on such phenomena as the rise of the modern museum, the link between art and terror, the natural affinity between "good taste" and its perversion, and kitsch as the inevitable destiny of art in the modern era. The final chapter offers a dazzling interpretation of Dürer's Melancholia in the terms that the book has articulated as its own.

The Man Without Content will naturally interest those who already prize Agamben's work, but it will also make his name relevant to a whole new audience—those involved with art, art history, the history of aesthetics, and popular culture.

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deer and elk antlers, animal hooves and skulls; on the opposite wall, in near proximity to each other, hang tortoise shells, snake skins, sawfish teeth, and leopard skins. From a certain height all the way down to the floor, the walls are covered with shelves overflowing with shells, octopus bones, mineral salts, metals, roots, and mythological statuettes. Only seemingly does chaos reign in the Wunderkammer, however: to the mind of the medieval scholar, it was a sort of microcosm that reproduced,

is the original principle (apxt) of something other than itself. By contrast, the will that is at the origin of praxis and reaches its limit in action, remains enclosed in its circle. It wants only itself through action; thus it is not pro-ductive, and brings only itself into presence. 2. "Poetic Art Is Nothing but a Willful, Active, and Productive Use of Our Organs" The Aristotelian interpretation of praxis as will traverses the history of Western thought from end to end. In the course of this

the work that he was thinking of writing, The Will to Power. The projected titles now read: "Redemption of Nihilism"; "Dionysus, Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence"; "Dionysus Philosopher." But in the essence of art, which has traversed its nothingness from end to end, it is will that reigns. Art is the eternal self-generation of the will to power. As such, it detaches itself both from the activity of the artist and from the sensibility of the spectator to posit itself as the fundamental trait

something other than the mere thing itself is, allo agoreuei. The work makes public something other than itself; it manifests something other; it is an allegory. In the work of art something other is brought together with the thing that is made." 2. Degas, quoted in Paul Valery, Tel Quel in Oeuvres, ed. Jean Hytier, vol. 2 (Paris: Gallimard, 1960), p. 474. An analogous tendency toward what one could call the "dullness of the absolute" can also be found in Baudelaire's aspiration to create a

and more passive partner, for whom the work of art is merely an occasion to practice his good taste. Our modern aesthetic education has accustomed us to finding this attitude normal and to resenting any intrusion into the artist's work as an unwarranted violation of his freedom. Certainly no modern Maecenas would dare meddle with the planning and execution of a commissioned work of art as much as the Cardinal Giulio de' Medici (later to become Pope Clement VII) meddled with those of the Sacrestia

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