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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


‌‌‌Applications are now open for YSTI 2019: Please submit a 250 word statement setting out how you envisage your attendance contributing to your research. Please also include your name, affiliation and the stage of your research (MA, PHD etc). Send your application to by 5pm on Thursday 28th February.


YSTI is free of charge, but places are limited. In order to increase the diversity of its participants, the History of Art department is able to offer some support for travel and accommodation expenses for students who reside beyond 100 kilometers from York. If you are a graduate student from, let’s say Liverpool, or if you are an international student working over the summer in London, do specify it in your statement. Please notice that the department is unable to cover costs for national and international flights.

YSTI 2019 is 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).


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


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

Event archive

See the previous four years of this annual event