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Department of History of Art


A Zoom seminar co-organized by Caroline van Eck (Cambridge University), Isabelle Kalinowski and Mildred Galland-Szymkowiak (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris).

This seminar will consider theories of art and art history developed in the German-speaking world from 1750 to the late 20th century. In the course of this period aesthetics as a philosophical discipline was born and branched out into various kinds; art history became an academic discipline, incessantly in search of methododologies; morphological approaches to art entered into a dialogue with more historical approaches to ancient and non-Western art. This vast corpus of thought remains to the present day an inexhaustible source of methodological tools to think about the arts. It is particularly relevant today because it took on the challenge of developing global theories of art and its histories, and sought to integrate perspectives on art and material culture from adiacent disciplines such as anthropology.

In the course of this seminar the main figures, texts and concepts will be analysed from an interdisciplinary perspective, bringing together art and architectural historians, philosophers and specialists of German language and culture. It is hosted by the research laboratory Pays germaniques (Isabelle Kalinowski) and the Department of Philosophy (Mildred Galland-Szymkowiak) at the Ecole Normale in Paris (Translitterae Graduate Program), as well as by the Department of Art History in Cambridge (Caroline van Eck).

In 2022-23 the seminar will return to origins: speakers will consider Ernst Gombrich's analysis of the primitive and its role in the arts; and we will consider two founders of aesthetics as a disipline: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, whose essay on the Laocoon group revolutionized thinking about the relation between poetry and the visual arts and laid the foundation for present-day media theory; and Karl Philipp Moritz, who is less well-known, but an important thinker about the autonomy of art. This year the theme of hapticity, or the aesthetic appreciation of the tactile values of an art work, is also. a major theme, culminating in a symposium held at the Ecole Normale in Paris, with an online retransmission.

Please write to and for all enquiries or to register. The seminar is open to all graduate students in History of Art, History, Philosophy and German or French Studies.