English CRI 200C - Fall, 2016

Class Information

Instructor: Watkins, Evan
Time: R 12:10-3:00
Location: 248 Voorhies


    We’ll look at a history of criticism centered around the European emergence and development of concepts of the aesthetic in the second half of the 18th century and early 19th century. We’ll begin, however, with Aristotle’s Poetics and some texts of Plato’s that so often appear at the beginning of histories of criticism and are in fact often referenced in the later texts we’ll be reading. The idea is that rather than built primarily in relation to these classical texts, the development of aesthetic concepts might be understood more productively in relation to another set of emergent discourses contemporary with aesthetics: political economy. The continual backwards referencing of aesthetic discourses to classical texts on poetics helped keep aesthetics separate from political economy and other new discourses. Yet at the same time both political economy and aesthetics required, for example, explaining (or explaining away) the force of desire. Both required complex negotiations with moral values and ethical principles. Each, often surreptitiously, found support in the other, particularly in the matter of how to get from individual sorts of things to universal things. I find these connections particularly interesting because as aesthetics was continually “purified” over time economics eventually became its most significantly distanced other among the human sciences. Conversely, the continual attention to moral issues, to sensibility, and to interpersonal sympathy—i.e. the basic material as it were of aesthetics—that seemed perfectly normal to early figures in political economy such as Adam Smith was gradually edited out of mainstream economics completely, returning only in the late 20th century under the sign of the complex mathematical profiles generated by econometrics.


    Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, eds. Steven Cahn and Aaron Meskin
    Critique of Judgment, Immanuel Kant
    Capital, vol 1, Karl Marx
    Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, David Ricardo
    The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
    The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith
    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , Mary Wollstonecraft