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Art and Aesthetics


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Philosophy of Mind, or Concepts of Selfhood.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


In this course we will focus on a specific trajectory in Post-Kantian aesthetics that is marked by a gradual shift from understanding art in terms of beauty to what, in general terms, could be called an ‘aesthetics of disorientation.’

We will explore this aesthetics of disorientation by focusing on a series of important concepts, each of which has a specific signature and is tied to a particular set of philosophical problems. As a first entry point, we will focus on the sublime and its paradoxical aspects (bringing in Immanuel Kant’s das Erhabene as well as Edmund Burke’s the sublime and the contemporary echo’s of these ideas in Lyotard and others). A second entry point will be provided by Hegel’s discussion of tragedy as a conflict that emerges between two equally legitimate positions that are both one-sided (critically re-interpreted by Kierkegaard and Nietzsche).

Building on these two ‘models of disorientation’, other aesthetic notions of disorientation will be brought in, such as: estrangement (Viktor Shklovsky’s Ostranenie; Bertolt Brecht’s Verfremdung), the grotesque (Sigmund Freud’s Das Unheimliche, Wolgang Keyser’s Das Groteske), the abject (Antonin Artaud’s la cruauté; Julia Kristeva’s l'abjection), and confusion (Ludwig Wittgenstein’s verwirrung; Stanley Cavell’s puzzlement).

Course objectives

This course aims to provide the students with a clear view of:

  • a particular trajectory within modern Aesthetics in which the focus starts to shift from an understanding of art in terms of beauty to an approach that views art more in terms of disorientation;

  • the various forms of disorientation that characterizes this trajectory;

  • the link between these philosophical views and the artworks that either comply or diverge from these views;

  • the relevance of this aesthetics of disorientation for understanding modern art.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the various views on the effects of disorientation that artworks bring about;

  • the differences between these effects of disorientation;

  • the relations between art and philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • critically understand and interconnect a great variety of texts on the aesthetics of disorientation with each other and link them to traditional discussions in aesthetics;

  • develop an original and relevant question in which the philosophical implications of the disorienting effects of art are discussed and further developed.


The timetable is available on the following websites:

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending lectures and seminars (13 weeks x 3 hrs): 39 hours

  • Preparation for the seminars: 39 hours

  • Take-home assignments: 22 hours

  • Study of literature: 80 hours

  • Researching, writing and presenting the final paper: 100 hours

Assessment method

Graded assessments

  • Dossier of take-home assignments (30%)

  • Final paper on a question agreed in advance based on the submitted proposal (70%).

Non-graded practical exercises

  • In the second block, each student has to present at least once a reading of the literature and discuss it with the group.

  • Each student has to hand in a proposal for the final essay and discuss it with the rest of the group.

  • In the last seminar, each student will have to present a draft version of the paper.

These three exercises will not be graded, but are required for getting admission to the exam (final paper).


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the graded subtests.


The resit consists of one examination for all parts at once. No separate resits will be offered for the dossier of take-home assignments. The resit will be more demanding than then original assignments and will include commentaries on three texts and an argumentative essay. The mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests.

Satisfactory completion of practical assignments (presentation, proposal) is a prerequisite for taking the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • general information

  • weekly communication

  • posting of documents (syllabus etc.), assignments, and updates.

Reading list

We will conduct the course in English, using English translations. The students are invited to read the original text if they speak that language (Russian, German, French, Danish, etc.). These original texts are usually freely available on the Internet. Links to the texts will be provided on Blackboard.

Primary literature

  • Extracts from Kant’s Kritik der Urteilskraft [Critique of Judgement]

  • Extracts from Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful

  • Extracts from Lyotard’s Leçons sur l'analytique du sublime [Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime]

  • Extracts from Hegel on Tragedy

  • Extracts from Nietzsche’s Die Geburt der Tragödie [The Birth of Tragedy]

  • Extracts from Kierkegaard’s Enten-Eller [Either/Or]

  • Shorter texts from Shklovsky, Brecht, Freud, Kristeva, Wittgenstein, and others.

All texts will be given in both the original language (when available) and in English translation.

Secondary literature

Suggestions for additional, secondary literature will be provided in the weekly introductions to the texts.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M. Boven


Not applicable.