History of perception: from Walter Benjamin to the contemporary debate

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Modalità esame

Written and oral exams, seminars


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No prerequisites are required.


The course will be dedicated to an analysis of the thesis of the historical variability of perception, which, starting with Wölfflin and Riegl, represents one of the crucial themes of 20th century aesthetics. The starting point will be Walter Benjamin's reflections on the ways in which different types of media - photography, cinema, architecture - shape perception in different ways, thereby structuring experience. In the course, attention will be paid to the further development of this thesis by referring to the various positions that are today confronted with the challenge represented by the recourse in aesthetics to experimental models that emphasise the components of biological universality of aesthetic perception.

Obiettivi formativi

The course aims to present a philosophical issue of great importance for 20th century aesthetics starting with a reading of some of Walter Benjamin's works and to introduce students to the contemporary debate on the universality and historicity of perception.

Riferimenti bibliografici

Further bibliographical information will be provided during the course. Some studies useful for setting the contents:

“The Historicity of the Eye”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 59, No. 1, 2001, pp. 1-44.

B. Nanay, “The History of Vision”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 73, No. 3, 2015, pp. 259-271.

M. Jay, Scopic Regimes of Modernity, in H. Foster (ed), Vision and Visuality, Bay Press, Seattle 1988.

J. Crary, Techniques of the Observer. On Vision and Modernity in the sNineteenth Century, MIT Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 1990.