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The introduction raises the intricate cross-influences among ninetheenth-century science, paganism, and the arts by noting the many renowned experts whose bodies are buried at Holywell Cemetary, Oxford. These include Walter Pater, Kenneth Grahame, botanist George Claridge Druce, zoologist George Rolleson, Celtic scholar John Rhys, Egyptologist Francis Llewellyn Griffith, and comparative philologist Max Müller. This intermingling of earth sciences, paganism, and the arts, I argue, captures the ecological foundations of decadence, despite its more popular conception as defined by artifice, dandyism, and shocking non-conformity. The final section of the itnroduction summarizes the monograph’s chapters.
Casting fresh light on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British art, literature, ecological science and paganism, Decadent Ecology reveals the pervasive influence of decadence and paganism on modern understandings of nature and the environment, queer and feminist politics, national identities, and changing social hierarchies. Combining scholarship in the environmental humanities with aesthetic and literary theory, this interdisciplinary study digs into works by Simeon Solomon, Algernon Swinburne, Walter Pater, Robert Louis Stevenson, Vernon Lee, Michael Field, Arthur Machen and others to address trans-temporal, trans-species intimacy; the vagabondage of place; the erotics of decomposition; occult ecology; decadent feminism; and neo-paganism. Decadent Ecology reveals the mutually influential relationship of art and science during the formulation of modern ecological, environmental, evolutionary and trans-national discourses, while also highlighting the dissident dynamism of new and recuperative pagan spiritualities - primarily Celtic, Nordic-Germanic, Greco-Roman and Egyptian - in the framing of personal, social and national identities.
The author draws comparisons between the subjectivity of interpreting a work of art and that of experiencing anorexia nervosa. She explores her own experiences of anorexia through a portrait depicting the duality of the disorder.
This chapter engages two clusters of long-run, big-picture issues. One concerns relations between art and nature. Aristotle’s views on this were challenged in the late seventeenth century by Robert Boyle in defending the new mechanical philosophy. Darwin is aligned with neither Aristotle nor Boyle; nor with German Romantic philosophers, such as Schelling. The agrarian contexts of Darwin’s science, and its alignments with agrarian rather than industrial forms of capitalism, illuminate Darwin’s views, including his natural theological views, of art-nature relations. A second cluster of issues concerns the role of the selection analogy in later controversies about natural selection, notably involving Alfred Russel Wallace and Francis Galton in the nineteenth century, and Ronald Fisher and Sewall Wright in the twentieth century. We stress that Darwin’s theorising is sometimes ancient in its resources and sometimes modern, which is not surprising given the intellectual life he was leading. His analogical argument belongs in the science classroom not because it is up-to-date but precisely because, like all science, it is of its time.
Chapter 2 follows the rise of Anthony Comstock from being a dry goods clerk and vigilante against all things he deemed immoral, to becoming the nation’s most prominent and powerful censor. He was responsible for enacting federal legislation banning obscene materials from the US Mail and served as a special agent for the Post Office, enforcing the law. He founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an anti-vice organization that was emulated in numerous other states. From this position, he waged a lifelong crusade against contraceptives, free love, free thought, literature, art, and everything that offended his Puritan sensibilities. The chapter describes the key events in his long career, including his rise to prominence, his prosecution of Victoria Woodhull for revealing Reverend Henry Ward Beecher’s affair with a parishioner, his various campaigns against free thought, art, and literature, and his prosecution of birth control advocates.
Can we really trust the things our bodies tell us about the world? This work reveals how deeply intertwined cultural practices of art and science questioned the authority of the human body in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Focusing on Henry Fuseli, Anne-Louis Girodet and Philippe de Loutherbourg, it argues that romantic artworks participated in a widespread crisis concerning the body as a source of reliable scientific knowledge. Rarely discussed sources and new archival material illuminate how artists drew upon contemporary sciences and inverted them, undermining their founding empiricist principles. The result is an alternative history of romantic visual culture that is deeply embroiled in controversies around electricity, mesmerism, physiognomy and other popular sciences. This volume reorients conventional accounts of romanticism and some of its most important artworks, while also putting forward a new model for the kinds of questions that we can ask about them.
Newly discovered and previously documented Late Neolithic chalk plaques from the Stonehenge locality have been subjected to new, non-invasive techniques which allow access to previously unseen elements of archaeological evidence. The application of these methods – involving Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) – has revealed detail of the surface preparation and allowed methods and sequence of the compositions to be unpicked, clarifying their complexities. The results reveal a range of approaches to the compositions, some of which demonstrate planning, order, and intention while others include less systematic, rapidly executed sketches. Investigations of lines and surfaces have been made, supplemented by preliminary studies of replicated test pieces, to examine potential implements used in their creation and remark on plaque biographies and surface attrition following manufacture. Furthermore, detail revealed by RTI provides indications of the orientations in which some of the plaques should be viewed and – in one instance – suggests a ‘reflected’ element that may not be entirely abstract. Results from improved radiocarbon determinations place the plaques in the early part of the 3rd millennium bc which, together with identification of individual motifs, allows the plaques and the designs to be reconsidered within the corpus of Neolithic art in the British Isles.
The representation of the ‘dying Socrates’ was extremely popular among artists during the 17th and 18th centuries, while there are several artworks with this concept during the early 19th century. This article's main aim is to use the methodological tool of the Grammar of Visual Design in forming a teaching proposal based on the Harvard University ‘Artful Thinking Project’. This teaching proposal can be applied to a Language, a Philosophy or a History course. As a second aim, we propose a new typology for that era's artworks on the subject of the last moments of Socrates.
This chapter considers how Edward Payson Roe’s Barriers Burned Away – the first novel set in Chicago that dealt with the city as an urban environment rather than as a frontier settlement – examined topics that would become part of the Chicago literary tradition. These include the moral implications of a market economy that enriched some but left others in poverty, the role of conspicuous consumption in defining the city’s social hierarchy, and the question of whether those who arrived in the city in search of success could make a place for themselves without sacrificing their principles.
Both in the 1807 Phenomenology and in the original 1817 Encyclopedia, Hegel did not grant art any special status as one of the basic forms of absolute spirit. Yet, we know that by 1820, two years after his arrival in Berlin, he was lecturing on art along the lines that now are familiar to us, as one of the three essential components of absolute spirit. I will argue that this shows us something crucial in the development of Hegel’s systematic philosophy, which has to do both with his systematic concerns and with the dramatic shift in the world around him after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In a nutshell: the modern world which he had delineated in 1807 had been vindicated by the failure of the Congress to turn the clock back to pre-revolutionary times, and this raised the question of what role art could play in that world which would be different from the religious role it had formerly played. This turn of events required him to rethink his political philosophy, his philosophy of religion, and, of course, his philosophy of art. It also led him to his historical and rather “phenomenological” conception of art that he presented in his Berlin lectures.
The Encyclopedia’s philosophy of art appears only rarely in accounts of Hegel’s aesthetics, and even then, usually in the form of a note or an insignificant remark. This neglect is caused by its brevity and laconic expression, which, compared with the rich content of the voluminous Lectures on Aesthetics, seems greatly impoverished and more a sketchy frame than a text that could help us acquire a better understanding of Hegel’s analysis of art. There is, nevertheless, an obvious virtue in the Encyclopedia’s version of Hegel’s philosophy of art, namely that it is explicitly embedded in Hegel’s only uniform presentation of his system. Two closely intertwined theses are put forward here. First, I argue, pace Gethmann-Siefert, that the Encyclopedia’s philosophy of art should be given priority over the Lectures on Aesthetics precisely because it places art under the perspective of the system. Second, I argue, against David James, that the core of Hegel’s philosophy of art is neither a claim for the historicity of art nor a claim for the ethical function of art in a socio-political context but rather a distinctive view about the relation between logos, nature, and spirit
Chapter 8 focuses on a second interaction between Gukurahundi history, law and citizenship by looking at the trial of visual artist Owen Maseko. For his exhibition on the experiences of Gukurahundi, Maseko stood accused of ‘inciting tribal hatred’. In their courtroom narratives, prosecutors elaborated on this accusation to communicate ZANU-PF’s continued control over instruments of coercion to a ‘Matabele’ audience. Maseko and his defence team, in turn, performed in a rule-bound manner to draw attention to Maseko as a citizen with the freedom to express his interpretations of history, and to put these in the public domain for debate, rather than as a ‘criminal’ for failing to align with ZANU-PF’s historical narrative. These different forms of courtroom performance highlight how the Gukurahundi as a violent historical event continued to inform negotiations over citizenship, and the understandings of law’s legitimacy and state authority that they encompassed, in this region.
Bishop was a prolific letter-writer and a connoisseur of correspondence, who read deeply and widely in the form, and taught a course at Harvard on it. Being positioned between the artful and the everyday, the letter form helped her style herself as a writer with high aesthetic ambition but a distrust of any writing that positions itself as exceptional and apart from ordinary life. Her long correspondences with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell demonstrate her working out this position. The letter form provided a private space where ideas could be explored in an open-ended way, in the context of personal intimacies. Correspondence connected her to friends and family while she was traveling frequently and living for two decades in Brazil. It was an important stylistic resource for her poetry. Her letters have been crucial to Bishop’s posthumous reputation and evolving views of her life and work. Her correspondence with Louise Bradley reveals her discovery, in adolescence, of same-sex intimacy and poetic vocation. Her letters to her psychoanalyst Ruth Foster chronicle her sexual history, dream life, and the connections of both to her creativity.
When Turner daubed a red buoy in his seascape Helvoetsluys, what did he mean? In nature, red may repel or attract, signalling toxicity or ripeness, anger, ruddy health or sexual readiness. For Turner, the red created contrast, and in making that mark, he meant to generate salience and arouse interest, to dominate his rivals and draw in his admirers. Colour has long excited emotions and intellectual debate, not only for visual art, but also in philosophy, psychology and physiology. In contemporary vision science studies, colour helps people find objects faster, discern material properties, learn, conceptualise and memorise. Yet colour is made in the mind, not out there in the world. It is a subjective phenomenon, a personal possession, one that varies between individual eyes, and one that people cling to with ardour when challenged: witness the public divide over the 'blue/black', 'white/gold' dress. So the question is not only what does colour mean, in life and in art, but how does it mean anything? How does the human brain create colour, stabilise it, and make its meaning? And why does it evoke emotion and aesthetic appreciation?
Lorenzo Lotto's Portrait of Andrea Odoni is one of the most famous paintings of the Italian Renaissance. Son of an immigrant and a member of the non-noble citizen class, Odoni understood how the power of art could make a name for himself and his family in his adopted homeland. Far from emulating Venetian patricians, however, he set himself apart through the works he collected and the way he displayed them. In this book, Monika Schmitter imaginatively reconstructs Odoni's house – essentially a 'portrait' of Odoni through his surroundings and possessions. Schmitter's detailed analysis of Odoni's life and portrait reveals how sixteenth-century individuals drew on contemporary ideas about spirituality, history, and science to forge their own theories about the power of things and the agency of object. She shows how Lotto's painting served as a meta-commentary on the practice of collecting and on the ability of material things to transform the self.
Chapter 7 analyses the history of Copperbelt cultures, focussing on the region’s music and visual art. While Copperbelt migrants expressed their understanding of social change through innovative, syncretic cultural mediums, cultural analysts and curators distinguished between ‘high’ and popular art, promoting artistic authenticity and criticising the supposed ‘Westernisation’ of local cultural expression. The chapter explores the role of Hugh Tracey’s International Library of African Music (ILAM) in curating, representing and promoting Copperbelt music and the curation and analysis of Haut-Katangese painting, both as ‘primitive art’ and as ‘popular painting’, and the ways artists engaged with these forms of knowledge production. It explains how the Zairian and Zambian states sought to produce new national cultures and the ways in which Copperbelt musicians and artists engaged with these initiatives. The chapter explores how social and economic change shaped the development of Copperbelt cultural outputs and how the region’s economic decline led to new innovations in cultural expression that give meaning to its marginalisation and crises, often in nostalgic forms.
This chapter looks at Plato’s take on the nomos-phusis antithesis in his Laws. He argues that the goal of the Laws, of legislating in accordance with nature, should be distinguished from the much-studied idea of 'natural law' in two ways. First, in the relevant parts of the Laws, the focus is primarily the right way to conduct an activity, legislation, rather than its product (laws or law). Secondly, the Laws draws a comparison with other specialised or technical activities that can be performed well or badly, such as medicine or building. Legislation is natural, among other things, when it is undertaken in a certain ‘natural’ order, from the starting point of life to death. This order ensures that no stage of life is ignored during the legislative process and thus guarantees its comprehensiveness. Plato’s comparison between the legislator and other craftsmen presents a view of natural procedure within an art or profession: the craftsman is not subjected to constraints that are external to the subject matter and he is able to give full attention to the objectives and questions that belong to his craft. Finally, the legislation considered here is ‘natural’ without being underpinned by theology.
theory of art in the conventional sense. He does not provide a systematic account of art, nor does he provide criteria for aesthetic judgment. He is concerned rather with the role art plays in forming our culture and its meaning in our individual and communal lives. This chapter situates Gadamer’s views in the context of the history of philosophy–the ancient Greek view of art and the modern views of art, especially the view of Kant. For Gadamer, art is an event of understanding. The concepts of play and the game are important to his account. This chapter considers the temporal, the dialogical, and the communal aspects of art for Gadamer. It considers arts claim to truth. And finally, it shows how Gadamer thinks that art has an important transformative potential.
The city's 'Americanness' has been disputed throughout US history. Pronounced dead in the late twentieth century, cities have enjoyed a renaissance in the twenty-first. Engaging the history of urban promise and struggle as represented in literature, film, and visual arts, and drawing on work in the social sciences, The City in American Literature and Culture examines the large and local forces that shape urban space and city life and the street-level activity that remakes culture and identities as it contests injustice and separation. The first two sections examine a range of city spaces and lives; the final section brings the city into conversation with Marxist geography, critical race studies, trauma theory, slow/systemic violence, security theory, posthumanism, and critical regionalism, with a coda on city literature and democracy.
Chapter 3 focuses on relationships and accountability and looks at the role of colonial rule in contributing to continuing state fragility in Africa today. This chapter also considers colonialism from the perspective of internal and external relationships. The implications of colonial governance and legal structures for accountability and recourse in instances of harm are also discussed.