Germanic Languages | Seminar in German Literature: Aesthetics and Disgust
G835 | 2609 | Michel Chaouli

G825  Seminar in German Literature:  Aesthetics and Disgust
It is often thought that aesthetic distinctions are umade with the
help of the opposition beautiful-ugly. Yet in the late eighteenth
century, when aesthetics in the modern sense is invented, a third term
begins to creep into aesthetics: while beauty and ugliness ostensibly
remain at the center, the question of what evokes disgust begins to
have a profound influence. The seminar will look at how the opposition
between beauty and ugliness is effaced to the extent that ugliness
becomes a species of beauty, and how the core opposition is now framed
around the aesthetic vs. the disgusting, between what is in good taste
and what tastes bad. The seminar will consider why disgust may have
emerged in the late eighteenth century as a philosophical problem,
what its philosophical and political consequences might be, and how
literary works respond to the exclusion of disgust. To this end, we
will start with some classic formulations of the question (in Plato,
Aristotle, Horace), follow the issue into the eighteenth century
(Boileau, Diderot, Burke, Mendelssohn, Lessing, Kant), and end with
texts from the last hundred years or so that reconceptualize disgust
(Nietzsche, Freud, Bataille, Mary Douglas, Derrida, Kristeva, Butler,
Zizek). Some of the questions that interest me: to what extent is
disgust dependent on aesthetic Bildung? Is there a utopian moment to
disgust? Is disgust (not its object but the affect itself)
historically constructed? Is it gendered? Do its effects extent beyond
aesthetics? And why is it, pace Kant, so enjoyable?

Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, Volumes 2 and 3 (in one volume),
trans. Robert Hurley (Zone Books), ISBN: 0942299213.

Georges Bataille, Story of the Eye, trans. Joachim Neugroschel (City
Lights Books),
ISBN: 0872862097.

Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of
the Sublime and Beautiful, ed. Adam Phillips (Oxford), ISBN:

Classical Literary Criticism (Aristotle, Horace, Longinus), ed. T. S.
Dorsch (Penguin)
ISBN: 0140441557.

Sigmund Freud, Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (Fischer-TB), ISBN:

Franz Kafka, Der Proce▀▀. In der Fassung der Handschrift (Fischer-TB),
ISBN: 3596124433.

Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell (Schocken), ISBN:

Heinrich von Kleist, Penthesilea (Reclam), ISBN: 3150013054.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Laokoon (Reclam), ISBN: 3150002710.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Laocoon, trans. Edward Allen McCormick
(Johns Hopkins UP), ISBN: 0801831393.

Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft (Suhrkamp), ISBN: 3518276573.

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner Pluhar (Hackett
ISBN: 0872200256.

Plato, Ion, Hippias Minor, Laches Protogoras (The Dialogues of Plato,
Vol 3), trans. R.E. Allen (Yale UP) ISBN: 0300074387.

A reader will include further texts.
Several of these texts will be on reserve in BH 643.