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The Essay as Form

30 Jan - 27 Feb


6 - 9

       Artworks are an important object of social inquiry. They are regularly classified, interpreted, and saturated with social meaning. Such an approach is apparent in a historical moment when art is directed towards identitarian recognition and democratic politics. By affirming an abstract capacity to know art, however, sociology has largely bracketed how it might be transformed by the object. In doing so, it disavows a rich tradition which conceives of social inquiry in irreducibly aesthetic terms. 

       In this seminar, we will consider sociology from the vantage of aesthetics. To that end, we will ask how art poses methodological, experiential, and revolutionary challenges to the interpretation of society. How have sociologists and philosophers responded to these challenges? In what ways does their work, in turn, explicitly theorize the relationship between form and content? We will focus, in particular, on the essay form.

       Throughout the course, we will ask how aesthetics may bear upon social inquiry beyond Europe. How may we reclaim the tradition of aesthetics with a view to interdisciplinary methods and forms of knowledge production in the Arab world? Material may include texts by Ibn Khaldun, G. W. F. Hegel, and Theodor Adorno, as well as artworks from around the Mediterranean.

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