This is going to be fairly short as this is, essentially, just a recap of the course on aesthetics that I took. The last lecture was nearly two weeks ago, but there wasn’t much new discussed during the last lecture. What was, in part, new was on phenomenology, hermeneutics and semiotics. That said, there wasn’t much on them because the last lecture also included going through everything discussed on the course in summary. That was so that if someone had something they happened to miss or had something they’d like clarified, they could have the opportunity to ask about things before the exam that was held earlier this week. As a side note, it’s worth noting out that, unlike in some other countries, you are given three exam dates, the first typically being the last lecture date and the two others being either department or faculty exams in which various exams are held simultaneously as well as in succession (for example, in case your other course exams end up overlapping or you are doing book exams). Actually, unless they’ve changed things around, you can sit in each of the exams if you want, in hopes of getting a higher course grade, or just for the sake of it, in case you are into such. I don’t know if anyone does that for the fun of it, but I wanted to bring that up as I’d find it highly amusing if someone actually did that.
Before I summarize my experience of the course, I think it’s worth sharing one more anecdote from the last lecture before the exam. As the course is meant for literature and art history majors, I guess first and/or second year students, not grad students, people can be a bit anxious about exams and exam success. Right, so, to calm people down, the lecturer amused the audience by stating that if you are not familiar with grace, as in Christian grace, getting a passing grade or a bit above, that’s when you’ve experience it. While certainly amusing, for me it makes no difference what grade I get anyway, grace or no grace. At least there’s some perks in not being an undergrad in this country.
Right, so, summarizing the course, I have to say it was probably the best course I’ve attended. Fair enough, I haven’t actually attended a course in years, so there’s that. As much as I have attended courses during my undergrad years, nowadays the course better be great for me to attend it. It’s just way more efficient for me to delve into the relevant literature instead of listening to someone else tell me about it. Then there’s the examination, getting graded on what you happen to remember on something, be it relevant or not. That’s just unproductive to me. If I compare what I’ve learned in the last couple of years on my own, just by reading plenty of this and that, to what I learned as an undergrad by attending courses and doing a bit of reading, it’s clear that I’ve been far more productive on my own. Sure, I can’t show any official record to support that, but that’s the point exactly. Why is it that we learn anything? Is it so that we become something, whatever that may be, or that we look good on paper? I’ll let you answer that yourself.
As I’ve pointed out in my previous essays on the lecture course, I attended the lectures not to get credits, not to mention a high grade, but to fill in certain gaps in knowledge pertaining to landscapes in art and philosophy. The German tradition in landscape art and scholarship, as well as philosophy, is not something that I keep coming across when I read books and articles, so the lectures proved to be very useful. The elaboration of Immanuel Kant’s aesthetics and how it influenced art in the 1800s was particularly useful to me. I was already familiar with the development of linear perspective during the Renaissance, but the lecturer managed to explain certain aspects of it that I was not that familiar with. In general, he also explained many philosophical concepts that crop up in a lot of texts, so that also proved to be very useful to me. I wish there had been more time to engage with the developments in the 1900s, but I guess you can’t have it all, plus it’s not like I can’t find the relevant literature of the 1900s myself. The somewhat random inclusion of Wilhelm von Humboldt’s theory of language was also a highlight as it bears certain similarities to subsequent theories that I’ve read.
All in all, a great lecture series by a great lecturer, who, unlike many others, actually knows about philosophy and is able to explain its relevance to arts and humanities in particular. In my own experience it’s very rare to come across something, articles in particular, which does not ignore philosophy. This was actually something I discussed with the lecturer after I was done with the exam, the why part of attending his lecture course, how I find it particularly important to understand reality is and how it unfolds, not because I want to one-up people, no no, but because if I don’t, landscape, as a way of seeing or perspective, to put it in simple terms, just makes little sense. For me, it is of utmost importance to understand how it is not merely something pasted on reality, but something that works from within, from the inside, not the outside. If it were something simply pasted on, it’d be easy to point to it as a false reality and then we’d be able to dispel it, or so to speak. However, the thing is, the way I see it, landscape, there’s nothing false to it, nothing to dispel. It is not external to reality. It is how we construct it. Does it have to be so? No, yet it is. On top of it, no matter how aware I am of it, no matter how aware a handful of scholars are of it, that is not the case with the vast majority of people. If I can help with that by writing about it, making people more aware of it, then great. What I can’t do is just ignore the issue. I could happily do that, just do more of the same, followed by more of the same, and perhaps be even rewarded for doing so, hurrah, but that doesn’t really lead anywhere, that doesn’t address the underlying issue, instead, it, perhaps, makes things even worse. Now, fair enough, I haven’t actually argued for the case here, but that’s not the intention of this essay, only my stance to it in summary.
Getting back on track here, this is actually why I write these essays and why I chose to attend the lectures on aesthetics. If you want something substantial, here and now, as opposed to my views on this, considering that I’m what people call a nobody, I recommend reading plateau seven ‘Year Zero: Faciality’ in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. To me, at least so far, that is the best literature you can find on why it is that landscape matters. Now, to be fair, the problem with that is that it may take a couple of years, if not more, to understand what they are on about. You need to let yourself read and think differently, like reading literature, as it’s not a handbook that explains things to you. Instead you need to let it sink in and think for yourself as they for sure won’t do that for you. The upside of this is, once you do that and get comfortable with the plateau, a whole range of other things open up as well elsewhere in the book. Think of it as an investment into yourself, in your becoming. It only takes time and will.
- Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ( 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.