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Ideology and Aesthetics

Lecturer: Matthew Sharpe

Originally Taught: Summer School 2003

This course looks at the much-contested notion of ideology, with a view to an engagement with two of its most recent defenders and modifiers: Eagleton and Zizek. The aegis under which the course proceeds is an engagement with aesthetic theory. Following both Eagleton and Zizek, I investigate the sense in which, if all aesthetics is not ideological, nevertheless wherever there is ideology there will be the deployment of certain aesthetic devices. In this vein, we will commence by looking at Kant's Critique of Judgement on the beautiful and the sublime. We will then look at Marx on the commodity form, arguably the central piece in the subsequent evolution of Western marxism. In the final classes, we will look at Eagleton's theorisation of ideology, via a reflection on Kant's theorisation of the beautiful, and his enigmatic notion of the 'sensus communis', and then at Slavoj Zizek 's fascinating recent attempt to elevate a theorisation of the sublime to the level of the theory of ideology.

prior reading:
Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An introduction chapters 1 and 2
Slavoj Zizek, Tarrying with the Negative chapter 2
Matt Sharpe, "The Sociopolitical limits of fantasy: September 11 and Slavoj Zizek" at
brave souls can start on: Immanuel Kant, "The Analytic of the Sublime" in The Critique of Judgement