Aesthetic Theory As Critical Theory – ONLINE

What is the relationship between an artwork and the social and historical setting in which it was made? Does aesthetics offer a perspective on political mobilisation within society? These kinds of questions were explored by the Frankfurt School, a school of social theory and critical philosophy, associated with the Institute for Social Research at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. It was founded in 1929 (European interwar period) in the Weimar Republic. Scholars affiliated with the Frankfurt school were critical of 20th century liberal capitalist societies and proposed social theories to critically assess aesthetic, economic, political, and social questions. In this course we will focus on questions of art and aesthetics as they are related to questions of social and political theory. We will read and discuss key figures of the Frankfurt School (e.g., Horkheimer, Adorno, Benjamin, Kracauer) and we will discuss 1) their aesthetic theories and 2) the relation of aesthetic theory to critical theory and philosophy.

Who is this course for

This course is at Upper Intermediate level and so would not be suitable for people who are new to studying philosophy. It would be an ideal continuation course for students who have previously studied on our Intermediate level courses and who now want a course that will look at the work of a particular philosopher or theme in some depth. It may also be suitable for people who have had some previous grounding in Philosophy and who now want to study in more depth.
Although you should have some previous experience of studying philosophy it is not expected that you need to have a great deal of familiarity with aesthetic theory and critical theory, as this is what the course will aim to provide.

What does this course cover

We will examine the work of, amongst others, Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer and Herbert Marcuse. We will cover, amongst other themes: Adorno's aesthetic of mimetic experience, Marcuse's political aesthetics and Benjamin and Kracauer's aesthetic theory of the everyday. We will read these authors chronologically and discuss the main themes of each thinker in their historical context. We will analyse the relation between aesthetic and social theory and elaborate the impact of these discourses on philosophical and political thought today. By the end of the course, students will be able to discuss multiple issues in aesthetic theory, Continental philosophy, and critical theory.

What will it be like

The course will be run online using Zoom for the live class sessions and either the Moodle page for the course or some other system for the distribution of the electronic resources for the session sitting alongside this. Although there will be some adjustments that need to be made for the online version of this course, we will aim to keep the experience as close as possible to that of a face to face course taught in the Centre.

The format will involve lectures, seminar style discussions and smaller group discussions around key questions. Students will be asked to write a short reflection each week and have the opportunity to present it in class and receive feedback from tutor and peers. All the reading material will be available on Moodle. Progress will be assessed in terms of student participation - engagement in seminars and with the material.

What else do you need to buy or do

The course will be run on Zoom, please make sure you have installed it in advance of your first class on your computer or mobile device. You can sign up for free here:

You will need a microphone (it's fine to use whatever is built into your device) and camera, so we can see you via video. You may also want to use headphones during the session.

You can participate in class sessions through the use of a computer, laptop, tablet or other similar internet enabled device. Please note that if you only have access to a smartphone, you will be able to attend the class sessions and participate in them but you will find it more difficult to benefit from the full range of materials and activities involved in the course if this is your only means of connection.

Make sure you have a small space to work in during the session and that as far as possible that you can keep this space quite and clear of interruption so that you can concentrate on what is happening in the class.

By signing up to the course you are consenting to being on camera. The content of the lesson may occasionally be recorded by the tutor for internal education and training purposes but any such recordings will not be made available to anyone outside of the Mary Ward Centre organisation without us asking you again for further permission to do so.

All reading materials are provided as far as possible

What this course could lead to

Other Upper Intermediate or Advanced level Philosophy courses at the Mary Ward Centre or other similar establishments. Other courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences with a strong emphasis on theory and the study of the mind and human behaviour (e.g., Psychology, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, History).

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I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.

MWC student

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

Why choose Mary Ward?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening and weekends to suit your timetable. You can learn face to face at one of our centres (Bloomsbury or Waterloo) or take an online course

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’