Postmodernist Aesthetics

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Postmodernist Aesthetics 


Prof: María Eugenia Díaz Sánchez 

Universidad de Salamanca 


Credits: 3 


Course objectives: 

The course will explore the evolution of innovative trends in aesthetics since 1960s. Art suffers a 

change of the dominant perspective from a focus on outside references to a focus on itself. The 

constructed reality of the art work is more important than the outside references. Postmodern 

Visual Culture: film, digital media, and critical theory as well as traditional visual forms of 

expression such as painting and sculptures will be discussed: the New York school of abstract 

expressionist painters, Pollock, De Kooning, Pop Art, Concept Art.  

Students are expected to be able to trace the development of postmodern art, from the ‘Literature 

of Exhaustion’ and ironic Metafiction of the 1960s and 70s, in Nabokov and others, to later texts 

in which Postmodernism is more readily engaged with issues of media, history and allegory. 

Students will be asked to use the theoretical material studied in the course to develop critical 

positions to texts and works in general studied in class. 



Course contents: 

1. Introduction to the main themes of the class 

Hutcheon, “Theorizing the Postmodern” Chapter 1 of The Poetics of Postmodernism. An exploration of major 

20th-century aesthetic movements through an in-depth consideration of particular texts (drawn from writing, 

art and film) and the critical theory related to them. Contemporary verbal and visual approaches on which 

students may draw in developing their own solutions to problems of writing and design. 

2. Avant-Garde as the Self-Criticism of Art in Bourgeois Society. Readings: Brian McHale

Postmodernist Fiction (1987) (Derrida) 

3. The Autonomy of Art. Entropy, information and interpretation, Paranoia: Pyncheon, The 

Crying of Lot 49, politics and America. Fcition: John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse (1968), 

William Gass and Paul Auster  

4. Narrative practices: quest, drift, etc., postmodern identity, the culture of consumption,  the 

specular, innocence and experience, meta-commentary and the possibilities of critique. 

Acker’s The Empire of the Senseless  · narrative modes  

Smithson´s earth art. 

5. The Problem of the “The New” Chance, Montage 

Visual Arts: Peter Greenaway 

Architecture: Paolo Portoghesi Postmodern 




The course will consist on lectures and seminars. Class participation will be strongly 

encouraged. Visual material will be handed in in class for in-class discussion but also feedback 

on selected texts will require of a written response by the student. 




A paper following correctly the MLA Style Manual. The topic should be one concerning the 

materials we will be covering in class.  

Report: A 6-7 page report and 15-20 minute class presentation will be on a specific topic from 

the syllabus. The report will be based on this presentation and is due the same night. The short 

oral presentation of your report should last no more than 15 minutes. In it you will discuss your 

findings on the relationship between a general topic and modern or postmodern American art, 

with specific examples provided from some of the art works mentioned in class. 


Participation and written reports: 40 % 

Written in class exam: 40% 

Paper: 20% 



Roland Barthes, “The Reality Effect” 

Burger Theory of the Avant-Garde 

Benjamin “Author as Producer” 

Baudrillard, “The Precession of Simulacra” 

T. Docherty “Introduction (to Postmodernism)” Postmodernism, A Reader 

Jameson, “Beyond the Cave. Demystifying the Ideology of Modernism” 

Jameson “Reification and Utopia In Mass Culture”   

Jameson, Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism 

Hal Foster The Return of the Real  

Hal Foster, “Postmodernism: A Preface” in The Anti-Aesthetic 

Hutcheon, The Poetics of Postmodernism 

Brian McHale, “Towards a Poetics of Cyberpunk” 

Lyotard “What is Postmodernism?” 

Lyotard “Note on the Meaning of Post” 

Marcuse, “Affirmative Culture” 

Hayden White “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact” 


Internet sources  

Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought  


"The Postmodern," "Postmodernism," "Postmodernity": Approaches to Po-Mo  

Includes basic premises, key works, criticisms, leading figures, and methodologies.   


Postmodernism :A New Model of Reality  

Xenos Christian Fellowship: Postmodernism and You  


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