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The Man Without Content (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics) 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0804735544
ISBN-10: 0804735549
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In this book, one of Italy’s most important and original contemporary philosophers considers the status of art in the modern era. He takes seriously Hegel’s claim that art has exhausted its spiritual vocation, that it is no longer through art that Spirit principally comes to knowledge of itself. He argues, however, that Hegel by no means proclaimed the “death of art” (as many still imagine) but proclaimed rather the indefinite continuation of art in what Hegel called a “self-annulling” mode.
With astonishing breadth and originality, the author probes the meaning, aesthetics, and historical consequences of that self-annulment. In essence, he argues that the birth of modern aesthetics is the result of a series of schisms—between artist and spectator, genius and taste, and form and matter, for example—that are manifestations of the deeper, self-negating yet self-perpetuating movement of irony.
Through this concept of self-annulment, the author offers an imaginative reinterpretation of the history of aesthetic theory from Kant to Heidegger, and he opens up original perspectives on such phenomena as the rise of the modern museum, the link between art and terror, the natural affinity between “good taste” and its perversion, and kitsch as the inevitable destiny of art in the modern era. The final chapter offers a dazzling interpretation of Dürer’s Melancholia in the terms that the book has articulated as its own.
The Man Without Content will naturally interest those who already prize Agamben’s work, but it will also make his name relevant to a whole new audience—those involved with art, art history, the history of aesthetics, and popular culture.

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Product Details

  • Series: Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804735549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804735544
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #887,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Giorgio Agamben is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Venice. He is the author of Profanations (2007), Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (2002), both published by Zone Books, and other books.

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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Byron the Bulb on July 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Giorgio Agamben is quite simply one of the most profound living philosophers and essayists, and this is one of his most illuminating texts. In it, Agamben takes up the question of the status of the work of art in capitalist culture. Much of his critique draws upon Heidegger's later essays on the relationship between technology and art ("The Question Concerning Technology", "What are Poets For?"), attempting to explore the implications of Heidegger's concern that art may have already become "standing reserve." However, this book owes as much to Hannah Arendt's _The Human Condition_, especially her reading of the history of political theory through her trichotomy of labor, work, and action. Throughout his book, however, Agamben takes these ideas in startling new directions, always seeking out new connections between concepts and pushing them to their limits. He also writes in a reasonably clear style, avoiding much of the word-play of contemporary continental philosophy, although it probably won't be very accessible to readers without some understanding of recent continental philosophy. All in all, this might be the most significant contribution to the philosophy of art since Adorno's _Aesthetic Theory_.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Clarissa's Blog VINE VOICE on June 25, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The philosophy of aesthetics normally does not interest me very much. However, like everything else written by this great thinker, Giorgio Agamben's The Man Without Content overcame my initial resistance to the subject of aesthetics.

For Agamben, aesthetics presents both a great impediment to the fulfillment of human destiny and the only hope of achieving it. He begins his fascinating study by discussing the relatively recent origins of the idea of good taste and aesthetic sensibility. It is not until the mid-XVIIth century, says Agamben, that the distinction between good taste and bad taste appears. It is at that same point in history that a strict boundary between art and non-art begins to be drawn. From that moment, a work of art increasingly transforms for the spectators into an opportunity to practice their good taste and exercise their aesthetic judgement.

The real difference between art and a non-artistic result of our productivity lies in art's central capacity to bring into being something radically new. Art's privileged status, says Agamben, is a result of art's power to create something out of nothing. Today, we have unfortunately forgotten about this crucial ability of art to create something out of nothing. Agamben points out that the tradition of storing art in museums and art collections of private individuals robs art of its role as an act of creation. The moment you attempt to contain art in a museum or a collection, you transform it into an occasion for aesthetic enjoyment or, as happens more and more often, an opportunity for the spectators to practice their aesthetic judgement. Thus, art stops being a subject and becomes an object. It is only valuable as long as we can turn it to our use as a trigger of our critical analysis.
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11 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 7, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first book by Agamben I have read, and it's quite an impressive encounter. Agamben has a lively historical imagination, and seems comfortable in tracing the manner in which art and the aesthetic has shifted in status and situation from the middle ages to the 20th century. When Agamben is using his native Italian intelligence, he's first-rate. However, when the names Hegel or Heidegger are invoked, the discussion tends to become arid, vaporous, and unnecessarily enamoured of Greek etymons. Frankly, I wish Agamben had never read either of the H's - too much teutonic fog dims even his Latin acuity.
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