The function of the aesthetic in East Central Europe and the United States after the Second World War
Guran, Letitia Ileana
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My dissertation attempts to define the aesthetic from a historical and functionalist perspective in the light of the current debate about the profile of the concept, which takes place in the United States and East Central Europe. The opening chapter addresses the multifaceted nature of the category of the aesthetic, which can be regarded as a philosophical field, as a manner of reading and interpretation, and as an identity-building strategy. Due to the fact that during the past six decades the aesthetic concept has often been misconstrued by its opponents and has acquired reactionary connotations, one of my goals is to provide an alternative perspective on this debate. Instead of seeing the aesthetic as the quintessence of the formalist, apolitical, Eurocentric, male-chauvinistic, imperialist, and colonialist mode of interpretation, my study pleads for a reevaluation. In the first two chapters, my dissertation focuses on the post-1947 evolution of the aesthetic in East-Central Europe, characterized by an intense exploration of the ethic and utopian potentialities of the concept. Philosophically speaking, there are two positions characterizing the aesthetic debate in the United States and East Central Europe. The first attitude grounds its argument about the possibility of bridging the gap between aesthetics and ethics in re-reading Kant from an Adornian perspective. The second position originates in Nietzsche and challenges the Kantian, hierarchical relationship between reason, morality, and art, proposing instead a new aesthetics, free of any constraints. Finally, there are scholars who do not belong to either orientation and try to found an alternative, globalizing perspective on the aesthetic, grounded in its anthropological, liminal functions, and also in its trans-national potential. Such studies are presented in my dissertation as the alternatives that the field should follow if it is to escape the sometimes, sterile polemics that shaped the debate so far.