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Title: From paideia to transaesthetics : the concept of aestheticization and its significance in the digital age
Author: Straczowski, Joanna Tamara Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 7964 1563
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis addresses the problem of aestheticization and the concept's significance in the digital age. Chapter One outlines the origins of aesthetics and the different meanings of the term aestheticization, arguing that the concept of aestheticization goes back to the Greek concept of paideia on which the humanistic notion of Bildung is founded. Chapter Two discusses the concept of Bildung in more detail and examines Friedrich Schiller's call for aesthetic education of humankind as a quest for freedom through Bildung. It argues that Schiller's conception of aesthetic education goes back to the concept of Bildung as an aesthetic experience of freedom. His optimistic focus on aesthetics and the arts, as an integral part of the quest for freedom, was criticized by Isaiah Berlin. Thus, Chapter Three addresses his critique of the concept of positive freedom, as a quest for freedom through self-realization and artistic expression. Berlin warns that this conception of freedom can eventually turn against itself in a totalitarian manner. This also resonates in Walter Benjamin's famous critique of an aestheticization of politics. Benjamin's attack of the concept of aestheticization is akin to Berlin's mistrust of positive freedom insofar as both recognize that Bildung can carry coercive elements. Chapter Four then turns to recent debates about the concept of aestheticization in the digital age. It specifically focuses on Byung-Chul Han's claim that aestheticization has led to an anaestheticization and that the superficial aesthetics of digital design give rise to a Kalokratie. Han is likening this process to the concept of positive freedom. However, instead of criticizing Bildung as the root of the aestheticization process, he mourns the loss of an ideal of beauty as Bildung and calls for its rescue. Han's frequent references to the theories of Jean Baudrillard then lead to Chapter Five. In his writings on simulation and transaesthetics, Baudrillard condemns the process of aestheticization as part of the narrative of progress and Bildung which has brought about a state beyond aesthetics, i.e. transaesthetics. Digital communication technologies and media have, according to Baudrillard, proved Idealism's narrative of Bildung wrong. The works of pop artist Andy Warhol play an important role here, since Baudrillard argues that they are both part of and resist the aestheticization process. It is in his concept of seduction that the beautiful-sublime experience of Bildung survives. This is central to Chapter Six which draws on Jean-François Lyotard's notion of the sublime Thing in relation to Baudrillard's concept of seduction. It argues that the transformational experience of Bildung still presents itself in the sublime seduction of the illusion of perfection, which has found its realization in the digital age.
Supervisor: Gkogkas, Nikolaos ; Vassilopoulou, Panayiota Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral