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The Man Without Content (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics)
 
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The Man Without Content (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics) [Kindle Edition]

Giorgio Agamben , Georgia Albert

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Product Description

Product Description

In this book, one of Italy's most important and original contemporary philosophers considers the status of art in the modern era. He takes seriously Hegel's claim that art has exhausted its spiritual vocation, that it is no longer through art that Spirit principally comes to knowledge of itself. He argues, however, that Hegel by no means proclaimed the "death of art" (as many still imagine) but proclaimed rather the indefinite continuation of art in what Hegel called a "self-annulling" mode.
With astonishing breadth and originality, the author probes the meaning, aesthetics, and historical consequences of that self-annulment. In essence, he argues that the birth of modern aesthetics is the result of a series of schisms—between artist and spectator, genius and taste, and form and matter, for example—that are manifestations of the deeper, self-negating yet self-perpetuating movement of irony.
Through this concept of self-annulment, the author offers an imaginative reinterpretation of the history of aesthetic theory from Kant to Heidegger, and he opens up original perspectives on such phenomena as the rise of the modern museum, the link between art and terror, the natural affinity between "good taste" and its perversion, and kitsch as the inevitable destiny of art in the modern era. The final chapter offers a dazzling interpretation of Dürer's Melancholia in the terms that the book has articulated as its own.
The Man Without Content will naturally interest those who already prize Agamben's work, but it will also make his name relevant to a whole new audience—those involved with art, art history, the history of aesthetics, and popular culture.

Synopsis

In this book, one of Italy s most important and original contemporary philosophers considers the status of art in the modern era. He takes seriously Hegel s claim that art has exhausted its spiritual vocation, that it is no longer through art that Spirit principally comes to knowledge of itself. He argues, however, that Hegel by no means proclaimed the death of art (as many still imagine) but proclaimed rather the indefinite continuation of art in what Hegel called a self-annulling mode. With astonishing breadth and originality, the author probes the meaning, aesthetics, and historical consequences of that self-annulment. In essence, he argues that the birth of modern aesthetics is the result of a series of schisms between artist and spectator, genius and taste, and form and matter, for example that are manifestations of the deeper, self-negating yet self-perpetuating movement of irony.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1277 KB
  • Print Length: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (1 Jun 1999)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001YQFJ7S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #492,031 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agamben's "aesthetics" 25 July 2000
By Byron the Bulb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Giorgio Agamben is quite simply one of the most profound living philosophers and essayists, and this is one of his most illuminating texts. In it, Agamben takes up the question of the status of the work of art in capitalist culture. Much of his critique draws upon Heidegger's later essays on the relationship between technology and art ("The Question Concerning Technology", "What are Poets For?"), attempting to explore the implications of Heidegger's concern that art may have already become "standing reserve." However, this book owes as much to Hannah Arendt's _The Human Condition_, especially her reading of the history of political theory through her trichotomy of labor, work, and action. Throughout his book, however, Agamben takes these ideas in startling new directions, always seeking out new connections between concepts and pushing them to their limits. He also writes in a reasonably clear style, avoiding much of the word-play of contemporary continental philosophy, although it probably won't be very accessible to readers without some understanding of recent continental philosophy. All in all, this might be the most significant contribution to the philosophy of art since Adorno's _Aesthetic Theory_.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging Treatise on Aesthetics 26 Jun 2010
By Olga Bezhanova - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The philosophy of aesthetics normally does not interest me very much. However, like everything else written by this great thinker, Giorgio Agamben's The Man Without Content overcame my initial resistance to the subject of aesthetics.

For Agamben, aesthetics presents both a great impediment to the fulfillment of human destiny and the only hope of achieving it. He begins his fascinating study by discussing the relatively recent origins of the idea of good taste and aesthetic sensibility. It is not until the mid-XVIIth century, says Agamben, that the distinction between good taste and bad taste appears. It is at that same point in history that a strict boundary between art and non-art begins to be drawn. From that moment, a work of art increasingly transforms for the spectators into an opportunity to practice their good taste and exercise their aesthetic judgement.

The real difference between art and a non-artistic result of our productivity lies in art's central capacity to bring into being something radically new. Art's privileged status, says Agamben, is a result of art's power to create something out of nothing. Today, we have unfortunately forgotten about this crucial ability of art to create something out of nothing. Agamben points out that the tradition of storing art in museums and art collections of private individuals robs art of its role as an act of creation. The moment you attempt to contain art in a museum or a collection, you transform it into an occasion for aesthetic enjoyment or, as happens more and more often, an opportunity for the spectators to practice their aesthetic judgement. Thus, art stops being a subject and becomes an object. It is only valuable as long as we can turn it to our use as a trigger of our critical analysis.

The reason why this new attitude to art was formed lies in the changing attitude towards work. We all know that the Greeks did not hold working in a very high regard (to say the very least). According to the Greeks' way of thinking, one had to deserve the right to be considered a human being. The way to achieve that was by making oneself as different as possible from an animal. While animals are ruled by their biology, human beings can attempt to free themselves from this enslavement to physiological processes. This vision of work vs art is completely transformed in subsequent historic periods. With Locke, Adam Smith and Marx, work and productivity become the measure of human endeavor. The legend of Balzac who asked to be tied to an armchair in order to remain as productive as possible continues today in the perennial efforts of artists to keep producing regularly and always achieving higher quality of their product. According to Agamben, this is a very dangerous thing to happen because what we lose as a result of this approach to art is a place where we can truly come to existence as human beings.

This is a fascinating book but I have to warn potential readers that a significant chunk of it is dedicated to a very painstaking analysis of the Ancient Greek terms central to Agamben's analysis. In my opinion, this analysis of terminology employed by Greek philosophers becomes quite redundant, which I consider to be the main weakness of The Man Without Content.
10 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genial but a bit too German 8 Jan 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first book by Agamben I have read, and it's quite an impressive encounter. Agamben has a lively historical imagination, and seems comfortable in tracing the manner in which art and the aesthetic has shifted in status and situation from the middle ages to the 20th century. When Agamben is using his native Italian intelligence, he's first-rate. However, when the names Hegel or Heidegger are invoked, the discussion tends to become arid, vaporous, and unnecessarily enamoured of Greek etymons. Frankly, I wish Agamben had never read either of the H's - too much teutonic fog dims even his Latin acuity.
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Popular Highlights

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&quote;
The artist is the man without content, who has no other identity than a perpetual emerging out of the nothingness of expression and no other ground than this incomprehensible station on this side of himself. &quote;
Highlighted by 9 Kindle users
&quote;
Artistic subjectivity without content is now the pure force of negation that everywhere and at all times affirms only itself as absolute freedom that mirrors itself in pure self-consciousness. &quote;
Highlighted by 8 Kindle users
&quote;
For the one who creates it, art becomes an increasingly uncanny experience, with respect to which speaking of interest is at the very least a euphemism, because what is at stake seems to be not in any way the production of a beautiful work but instead the life and death of the author, or at least his or her spiritual health. &quote;
Highlighted by 6 Kindle users

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