Aesthetics, Politics, and Modernity: Critical Theory and China (CHINA 371)
This course explores a number of key motifs of critical theory relevant to Chinese studies. The class will focus on theories of modernity, media, literature, film, and the relation of aesthetics and politics. The prevalent view believes that a radical politics can be articulated aesthetically by unleashing sensual pleasure, forging subjectivity or staging performance. This view is at risk of reducing the political potential of artworks to spectacle, commodity, and consumption. By re-examining major pronouncements about artworks, culture and politics, we will explore the ways aesthetics and politics are intertwined, break apart, and re-configured. Our discussion will explore the potential of aesthetics and politics as analytical categories for understanding literature, culture, power, morality, media, and history. We will read works from the Chinese classics and representative theorists. We will also read critical theories by Walter Benjamin, Althusser, Eagleton, and Buck-Morss.nIn each class students should be ready to raise at least one question and explain the origin of the question, or make a brief comment on readings. I will randomly ask students to respond and this performance is graded. The final work will be a digestion and synthesis (18-22 pages) of a set of questions or motifs from 3 writers. Students may have an option of writing a research paper working the concepts into the analysis of primary texts.nGrade composition: attendance (10%). Class discussion (15%). Term Paper (75%).