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Tutorial Latin: Ancient Aesthetic Theory


Admission requirements

This course is open to MA and research MA students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (specialization Classics).


Everybody would agree that there is a great difference between the effect of seeing an ice cream and the effect of viewing a painting: unlike an ice cream (which we will certainly desire to eat) a piece of art may cause an “aesthetic” experience. Similarly, we would agree that there is a difference between a person who is affected by a cultic object, and a person, who is sitting in a church with a Baedeker in her or his hand and looking at a religious object as if it simply was an artistic masterpiece.

But how can we describe the aesthetic experience which we make when we view a piece of art? And what precisely is the difference between a sensual experience and the various forms of an ‘aesthetic’ experience – as e.g. the experience of art? Is there a difference between the aesthetic experience as it is made within a religious context and the experience which is provoked by an artistic accomplishment, e.g. by a statue of Praxiteles? And to what respect does the recipient him- or herself have an influence on the object? Obviously there are not only several ways of approaching an object. The object, too, can steadily be re-defined.

Since antiquity the quality of an aesthetic experience and the boundaries between non-aesthetic (sensual) and aesthetic experiences of art have consistently been questioned and discussed – not only in theoretical treatises, but also in literature and art itself.

In the tutorial we will discuss ancient (such as Plato, Aristotle, Ps.-Longinus, etc.) and modern theoretical approaches as well as the various reflections and implications as they are inherent within Hellenistic and Roman poetry (e.g. Herondas, Poseidippos; Plautus, Seneca, Martial).

Course objectives

  • Advanced research skills: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials (both primary texts and results of earlier research). Analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions;

  • Critical assessment of secondary literature;

  • Oral presentation: presenting clearly and making effective use of hand-outs, illustrations and/or multi-media techniques;

  • In case of 10 EC, a written presentation: setting out research results effectively, clearly and in a well-structured manner.


See timetables Classics and Ancient Civilizations

Mode of instruction

Tutorial and independent research

Assessment method

When taken for 5 EC:

  • Preparation and active participation in class (40%);

  • Presentation (60%).

When taken for 10 EC:

  • Preparation and active participation in class (40%);

  • Presentation (30%);

  • Paper (8-10 pp, 30%).


In this course we make use of Blackboard.

Reading list

Secondary literature will be made available through the University Library.

Some secondary literature:

  • Dewey, John, “Art as Experience” (1934), in: J.Dewey, The Later Works, 1925–1953. vol. 10. ed. J. Boydston. (Carbondale 1989)

  • Danto, Arthur, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace. A philosophy of Art. (Cambridge/ Mass 1981)

  • Jauß, Hans Robert, Ästhetische Erfahrung und literarische Hermeneutik (Frankfurt a.M. 1982)

  • Maag, Georg: „Erfahrung“, in: Ästhetische Grundbegriffe II, ed. Karlheinz Barck (Stuttgart 2001) pp. 260-275

  • Küpper, Joachim / Menke, Christoph (eds.), Dimensionen ästhetischer Erfahrung (Frankfurt a.M. 2003)

  • Gert Mattenklott (ed.), Ästhetische Erfahrung im Zeichen der Entgrenzung der Künste. Epistemische, ästhetische und religiöse Formen von Erfahrung im Vergleich (Hamburg 2004)


Via uSis


Mw. Prof. Dr. A.B. Wessels