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333 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
  • Introduction
  • The cuteness of the avant-garde
  • Merely interesting
  • The zany science
  • Afterword.
The zany, the cute, and the interesting saturate postmodern culture. They dominate the look of its art and commodities as well as our discourse about the ambivalent feelings these objects often inspire. In this radiant study, Sianne Ngai offers a theory of the aesthetic categories that most people use to process the hypercommodified, mass-mediated, performance-driven world of late capitalism, treating them with the same seriousness philosophers have reserved for analysis of the beautiful and the sublime. Ngai explores how each of these aesthetic categories expresses conflicting feelings that connect to the ways in which postmodern subjects work, exchange, and consume. As a style of performing that takes the form of affective labor, the zany is bound up with production and engages our playfulness and our sense of desperation. The interesting is tied to the circulation of discourse and inspires interest but also boredom. The cute's involvement with consumption brings out feelings of tenderness and aggression simultaneously. At the deepest level, Ngai argues, these equivocal categories are about our complex relationship to performing, information, and commodities. Through readings of Adorno, Schlegel, and Nietzsche alongside cultural artifacts ranging from Bob Perelman's poetry to Ed Ruscha's photography books to the situation comedy of Lucille Ball, Ngai shows how these everyday aesthetic categories also provide traction to classic problems in aesthetic theory. The zany, cute, and interesting are not postmodernity's only meaningful aesthetic categories, Ngai argues, but the ones best suited for grasping the radical transformation of aesthetic experience and discourse under its conditions.
(source: Nielsen Book Data)9780674046580 20160609
Law Library (Crown)
278 p. ; 25 cm.
  • Introduction
  • Landscape and longing
  • Art and human nature
  • What is art?
  • "But they don't have our concept of art"
  • Art and natural selection
  • The uses of fiction
  • Art and human self-domestication
  • Intention, forgery, Dada : three aesthetic problems
  • The contingency of aesthetic values
  • Greatness in the arts.
Law Library (Crown)
xii, 251 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Surveying a wide range of cultural controversies, from the Mapplethorpe affair to Salman Rushdie's death sentence, from canon-revision in the academy to the scandals that have surrounded Anthony Blunt, Martin Heidegger, and Paul de Man, Wendy Steiner shows that the fear and outrage they inspired are the result of dangerous misunderstanding about the relationship between art and life.
(source: Nielsen Book Data)9780226772240 20160528
This is a report from the battleground of contemporary culture, a landscape littered with the remains of vilified artworks, demonized artists and discredited orthodoxies. Caught between extremists of the right and the left, liberal defenders of art have stood mutely by as these cultural battles rage and have failed to explain the special value of aesthetic experience. This study counters the surge in fundamentalist thinking about the arts with a liberal aesthetic for our times. The author surveys a wide range of controversies - the Mapplethorpe affair and the death sentence against Salman Rushdie; Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin's crusade to equate pornography with rape and political correctness on college campuses; and the "scholar scoundrels" Anthony Blunt, Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man. Steiner shows that the fear and outrage inspired by these cases rests on a dangerous misunderstanding about the relationship between art and life. Steiner reminds us that aesthetic experience requires the ability to distinguish fiction from nonfiction, the figurative from the literal, the virtual from the real. But for fundamentalists, whether the Ayatollah Khomeini or Jesse Helms, such distinctions are meaningless; saying is doing and a picture is no different from what it represents. Such literalism is at the root of the current uneasiness with difficult art; it threatens to undermine the entire basis of liberal thought and aesthetic experience. Steiner uncovers the folly of this pervasive literalism. Art, she argues, is neither identical to reality not isolated from it, but an imaginative realm tied to the world by acts of interpretation. To experience art, then, means to accept a paradox: we need not assent to a work in order to understand it, or be seduced by its ideology in order to take pleasure in it. Instead, we participate in what Steiner calls "enlightened beguilement." The acknowledgment of this beguilement, this pleasure, has tended, however, to embarrass most academics. How, Steiner wonders, can liberal defenders of the arts ever expect to persuade a skeptical public if they deny or ignore the value of aesthetic experience?
(source: Nielsen Book Data)9780226772233 20160528
Law Library (Crown)
xx, 273 p. ; 24 cm.
Law Library (Crown)