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Aesthetics and Art Theory MA

Mode Duration Attendance Start date
Full time 1 year Two modules per week
  • September 2015
Part time 2 years One module per week
  • September 2015

Choose Kingston's Aesthetics and Art Theory MA

The Aesthetics and Art Theory MA is widely recognised as one of the most significant and innovative courses in its field, and is now one of the most successful philosophy masters programmes in the country. Unlike most courses on art theory, this programme grounds its problems and concepts in the appropriate philosophical context.

The MA prepares graduates for a wide range of careers in the arts, education and public policy. It also provides an ideal preparation for doctoral research across the humanities and social sciences.

What will you study?

This programme combines a grounding in philosophical aesthetics in the modern European tradition with study of contemporary art theory.

Students take four taught modules, and prepare a dissertation on a topic of their choice. Following a compulsory module on Kant and the Aesthetic Tradition, you choose from a range of options, including Romantic Philosophy of Art, Modernism and Contemporary Art Theory, and Commodification and Subjectivation. Authors studied include Adorno, Deleuze, Derrida, de Duve, Duchamp, Greenberg, Heidegger, Kant and Merleau-Ponty.

Assessment

Coursework (including short exercises), essays and a 15,000-word dissertation.

Research areas

This course is taught by internationally-recognised specialists at the dynamic Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP – formerly based at Middlesex University, prior to its transfer to Kingston in Summer 2010).

Since its inception in 1994, the CRMEP has developed a national and international reputation for teaching and research in the field of post-Kantian European philosophy, characterised by a strong emphasis on broad cultural and intellectual contexts and a distinctive sense of social and political engagement. Building on its grade 5 rating in RAE 2001, work published by members of the CRMEP was awarded a score of 2.8 on the new RAE scale in 2008, with 65% of its research activity judged 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'.
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Course structure

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list.

Core modules

  • This module provides an introduction to the tradition of philosophical aesthetics through a detailed study of its founding text, Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgement.

     
  • This module provides students with an opportunity for intensive and detailed research-based study of their chosen topic under the guidance of an appropriate MA dissertation supervisor.

     

Optional modules

  • Based on a study of artists’ texts, art criticism, art history and philosophical writings on art, this module comprises a critical examination of the legacy and possibilities of modernist and avant-garde criticism in contemporary art theory. As well as introducing students to some of the major texts and ideas in these traditions of art theory and art criticism, the modules aims to enable students to reflect critically on works of contemporary art in the light of their study.

     
  • A historical and philosophical introduction to the two main 20th-century traditions of Critical Theory: the Frankfurt School and French anti-humanism. After several works devoted to Kant's conception of freedom and practical philosophy, the module focuses on competing conceptions of critique, practice and empowerment, in, for example, Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Horkheimer, Althusser, Foucault, and one or two more recent thinkers (e.g. Badiou or Rancière).

     
  • Setting out from an examination of the basic concepts of Freud’s metapsychology (the unconscious, the drive, the ego), with its inextricable connection between psyche and sex, the module will discuss the critical development of this theoretical framework by Lacan - the move from a psychology of the self to a philosophy of the subject - and its theoretical transformation and political critique in feminist and queer theory.

     
  • This module involves guided study of two or three major works of twentieth-century German critical theory or philosophy, focusing each year on the work of two or more related thinkers including Benjamin, Adorno, Taubes and Schmitt. Topics will include: sovereignty, violence, philosophy of history, the non-identical and the philosophical response to the Shoah.

     
  • Through our reading of the Phenomenology of Spirit, we will focus on the issue of understanding, more specifically of philosophical understanding. In the Preface, Hegel states that “philosophical writings” “have to be read over and over before they can be understood” (§63). Which specific mental, cognitive and affective operations does such a rereading imply? According to Hegel, our understanding (Verstand) is not, as a faculty, able to give us access to the “concept” (Begriff). What is it that our understanding does not understand? Through despair, doubt, skepticism and pain produced by the resistance of the philosophical statement, something appears — spirit. “Spirit that appears”, such is the meaning of the title Phenomenology of Spirit, such is also the name of the proper philosophical understanding: revelation.

     
  • This module provides students with a grounding in Kant's philosophy, through detailed study of the Critique of Pure Reason and its competing interpretations. The module presents Kant's critical project as an historical and conceptual basis for the understanding of subsequent European philosophy as a whole.

     
  • This module offers students an opportunity to study major works by Nietzsche and Heidegger. In particular it considers the relationship between Nietzsche's critique of metaphysics as the manifestation of an ascetic 'will to truth' and Heidegger's project of 'dismantling' and 'overcoming' metaphysics in light of a renewal of the question of being.

     
  • This module focuses on the question ‘what is involved in a philosophical thinking of the history of art?’ This question devolves into two main parts. The first concerns the temporality proper to art’s history; the second concerns the way in which the individual work of art presents history and the operation of time. The module will concentrate on three figures central to a philosophical thinking of the work of art: Walter Benjamin, Alois Riegel and Aby Warburg. To conclude, we will examine, in detail, three works of contemporary art, traversing painting, sculpture and photography.

     
  • This module aims to investigate, via the concept of plasticity, the relations between ‘thought’ and ‘form, that have structured certain central aspects of nineteenth and twentieth-century ‘continental’ philosophy. Each year, these relations are studied from a different point of view, and in relation to different thinkers. Thinkers covered might include Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida. Each year the locus of study might include broad areas such as ‘writing’ (in Derrida’s sense), ‘literature’ (Dichtung), ‘habit’, and ‘trace’.

     
  • This module involves guided study of two or three major works of twentieth-century French philosophy, focusing each year on the work of two related thinkers. Possible topics include: Sartre or de Beauvoir's existentialism, Levinasian ethics, Merleau-Ponty's theory of embodied perception, Foucault's theory of power, Derrida's practice of deconstruction, Deleuze's conception of difference, Badiou's concepts of the subject and truth.

     
  • This module provides an examination of Romantic philosophy of art in the light of the role played by early German Romanticism in recent philosophical and art-theoretical debates, with particular reference to contemporary French philosophy.

     
  • Each year this module involves guided study of major works from the tradition of Modern European Philosophy, focussing either on a single text or on a range of texts in relation to a theme. The module offers students the opportunity to undertake intensive study under the guidance of a Professor – Étienne Balibar – who is himself a major thinker in the Modern European Tradition. Past topics have included Althusser, the dispute over humanism and the idea of a philosophical anthropology and the reception of Das Kapital in the Western Marxist Tradition. For 2014–15 the module will focus on a study of Spinoza’s Ethics, providing a general introduction to the structure and key ideas of the text, and proposing commentaries for 10 strategic propositions (or groups of propositions) chosen across the five ‘parts’ of the work.

     

You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

For further information

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Tel: +44 (0)20 8417 2361
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Location

This course is taught at Penrhyn Road and Knights Park

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