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GERMAN 591 A: Studies In German Intellectual History

Classical Aesthetics in the Digital Age

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
DEN 312
Rick Gray
Richard Gray

Additional Details:

This course will examine the establishment of aesthetics as discipline in Germany at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, with a view toward contemporary questions regarding the “digital humanities.” Topics to be discussed include: the foundations of idealist aesthetics; the autonomy of art; the role of semiotics in the definition and classification of literature and the arts; the sociology of authorship; theories of “genius”; the dichotomization of “high” and “low” literature; aesthetic theory as ideology. The seminar will be structured around readings of “classical” works in aesthetic theory: selections from A. G. Baumgarten’s Aesthetica, Lessing’s Laokoon, Kant’s Kritik der Urteilskraft, Schiller’s Ästhetische Erziehung, excerpts from Schelling’s theory of art, and Hegel’s “Introduction” to his Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik. These will be supplemented by shorter readings of essays by figures such as Moses Mendelssohn, Bodmer and Breitinger, and K. Ph. Moritz.


The seminar will be organized as a “workshop” in which individual students or student collaboratives will supplement the primary course materials by pursuing independent research projects focused on a theme, problem, or author (a list of non-binding suggestions will be provided). Seminar participants will cooperate in developing a shared intellectual project: the completion of a scholarly website on aesthetic theory. Students will be encouraged to exploit the multimedia potentials of the digital medium as a vehicle for illuminating the history and theory of German contributions to the foundations of aesthetics. Course requirements: one short (2-3 pp.) position paper on one of the common readings, presented orally as a stimulus for seminar discussion; one individual or collaborative research project conceived for and executed in the digital format. Course grades will be based both on the position paper, the content contributions for the website, and on the individual students’ input toward organizing and structuring the website. This project will constitute a kind of pedagogical experiment, and its success will depend on the dedication of the seminar participants. Students will be encouraged to participate in the free Web Authoring (Dreamweaver) or HTML Basics courses offered by UW-IT.


Nota bene: A list of the textbooks is offered here, for those who may want to order books ahead on-line. Note that the Reclam edition of Schiller’s Ästhetische Erziehung should be the most recent one, with the “Nachwort” by Klaus Berghahn.



Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft, ed. Wilhelm Weischedel (Suhrkamp)

Schiller, Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen, ed. Klaus Berghahn (Reclam, 2000)

Schelling, Texte zur Philosophie der Kunst, ed. Walter Beierwaltes (Reclam, 2004)

Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik, vol. 1 (Suhrkamp)

Catalog Description: 
Seminar on rotating special topics dealing with interactions of history, literature, and culture in the German tradition.
GE Requirements: 
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
April 28, 2016 - 3:21pm