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York Summer Theory Institute: Art History and Phenomenology

Monday 3 June 2019, 1.30PM to Fri 7th June

Speaker(s): Professor Whitney Davis, University of California at Berkeley

Image: Jackson Pollock, Mural (1943), oil on canvas, 8 ft. x 19 ft. 8 in.

YSTI 2019 was devoted to the conceptual and methodological possibilities made available to art history by the phenomenological tradition in aesthetics, philosophy, and psychology, emphasizing the diversity of that tradition and the arenas of art history in which it has been productive. Key concepts include the theory of corporeal standpoint and the visual angle (Abschattung or “adumbration”), the method of phenomenological “bracketing” or reduction, and the model of “the depicturing picture-Object” (abbildene Bildobjekt). Many art historians casually assume that “phenomenology” means the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who directly addressed himself to major works of art. Merleau-Ponty’s writing has been deservedly influential, but the seminar will make a point of addressing other phenomenologies and phenomenologists who have contributed to the theory and history of art and/or whose thought might prove interesting to art historians: Franz Brentano’s “intentional analytics”; Alexius Meinong’s philosophy of the “content” of objects (both possible, such as Kasimir Malevich’s painting Red Square, and impossible, such as “round square”); Edmund Husserl’s lectures on space and “the thing” (Das Raumding), which deeply influenced Merleau-Ponty; Martin Heidegger’s existential ontology as a response to Husserl; Ludwig Binswanger’s existential psychoanalysis; and Jean-Luc Marion’s treatment of “givenness.” We will consider the work of art historians who have self-identified as proceeding in a phenomenological way, who have used phenomenological models to make sense of historical works of art and their perception and reception, and/or who have considered modern artists who might be taken to have worked in relation to phenomenological thought. We will also look at the recent resurgence of phenomenology in the theory of art (e.g., Alva Noë’s Varieties of Presence and Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature).

Event archive

Location: Hosted by the History of Art department, University of York


Location: History of Art department

Event archive

See the previous four years of this annual event