Scientific Disciplinary Sector (SSD)
M-FIL/04 - AESTHETICS
II semestrino A, II semestrino B
In which sense every human being is an entirely singular existence? Not a generic being, a simple numeric and quantitative determination, the mere element of an uniform and undifferentiated social mass, but an individual who affirms his singleness, his irreducible difference which discriminates him from other people.
Since the beginning of actual mass society in the XIX century, the writers (among them Baudelaire and Huysmans, whose works shall be analyzed into the course) have sharply grasped such a question. They have directed their attention to the diffusion of an anonymous standard of life – which tends to bereave individuals of their own singularity’s experience – into the urban civilization governed by market economy and by a powerful bureaucracy. They have seen, moreover, in which sense a technical and scientific code of self-perception – imposed in the XIX century by the rising mass-culture – could be inclined to consume inwardly the individual essence of everyone. In a period of deep transformation of artistic practices (whose changes shall be analyzed with particular reference to visual arts and literature), Baudelaire and Huysmans, from different points of view, strongly criticized this condition. With their obstinate and uncompromising defence of individuality, they invented a new style of life (the dandyism – theorized by Baudelaire – and the aestheticism, whose principles were fixed by Huysmans). But above all they started a form of subjective and passionate art’s criticism which – openly adverse to academic theories – allowed them to grasp ingeniously the meaning of transformations realized in XIX century’s painting and to follow its developments from romanticism’s crisis to symbolism.
Course’s contents: Baudelaire and Paris in XIX century. – Crowd and mass as phantasmagoria. – The town as ant-hill. – A critic of progress. – Fashion and cyclical time. – A serial world: the merchandise. – Banality as an ontological determination of modernity. – Time-serving. – Boredom, eternal recurrence, factory-work. – Sisifo’s toil: Modernity and “hellish world” in Benjamin’s theory. – The senseless cycle of merchandise. – Art and transfiguration of the real. – Domestic interior as a shelter. – Romanticism and painting: Delacroix. – The artist as “man of the crowd”: the modern life’s painter. – The dandy: the cult of singleness in the era of uniformity. – The poetic of luxury. – Woman, jewel and maquillage. – Poetry and utopia: infancy’s paradise.
Huysmans: A rebours and aestheticism. – Modern art: from impressionism to symbolism. – Degas. Cézanne. Forain. – Moreau: the femme fatale and Salomé’s myth. – The “monster” in O. Redon work. – F. Rops: Eroticism and painting.