Carnegie Mellon University

Problems of Subjectivity, Criticism, and the Interdisciplinary Origins of Aesthetics

Author: Clover Bachman

Degree: Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, 2009

Working toward an interdisciplinary definition of aesthetics, my dissertation considers how the aesthetic construction of the art object can be viewed as a response to generalizable problems of subjectivity and consciousness that arose in post-enlightenment intellectual culture. I bring together topics of eighteenth-century philosophy, Romantic poetry, and theories of artistic practice in order to demonstrate that each of these domains has a properly aesthetic dimension -- understood as a mode of inquiry and reflection which is vitally concerned with problems of autonomy of the subject, productivity of self-consciousness, and reflective contradiction. This work is broadly concerned with how the practical or pedagogical dimension to aesthetic reflection -- grounded in the making of and critical reflection upon exemplary art-works themselves -- is often in tension with the theoretical conceptualization of the category. Understanding this tension as the proper site of aesthetic investigation makes the category more useful for thinking about interdisciplinary work in the humanities.