Aesthetics of Anxiety

By Ruth Ronen

Subjects: Philosophy, Aesthetics, Psychoanalysis, Art Theory
Series: SUNY series, Insinuations: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Literature
Paperback : 9780791476680, 195 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9780791476673, 195 pages, January 2009

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Aesthetics of Anxiety
Displeasure in Aesthetics
Kant’s Aesthetics and Modernist Upheavals
Displeasure and Anxiety in Aesthetic Experience
Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics
The Object of Anxiety, the Object of Aesthetic Judgment
1. On the Anxiety Prior to Any Possible Judgment of Taste
Kant and Aesthetic Pleasure
Are Negative Judgments of Taste Aesthetic?
Anxiety Is Prior to Any Act of Judgment
2. The Beautiful Thing
Aesthetics Beyond Beauty?
The Uncanny in Freud
From Kant’s Aesthetic Idea to the Surrealist Doll
From Intimacy to Absolute Extimacy: The Subject as Doll
From the Uniqueness of Beauty to the Effect of Repetition
3. Catharsis, Displeasure, and Anxiety
Catharsis: Between the Pleasure Principle and beyond the Pleasure Principle
Catharsis “Is Previous to Desire’s Formidable Center That Sucks Us In”
4. Toward Two Principles of Aesthetic Functioning
Anxiety: The Access Road to the Real
Anxiety and Creation
5. Beyond the Sublime
The Sublime and the Object of Nature
The Sublime Is Not without an Object
The Object of the Sublime
Sublimation and the Totality of the Thing
6. The Subversion of the Genius and the Dialectic of Creation
The Enigma of Unparticular Particularity in Joycean Writing
Kant, Genius, and the Paradox of Original Exemplarity
Genius and the Subject of Creation
Lacan with Joyce

Places anxiety at the heart of the aesthetic experience.


What is the relation of anxiety to aesthetics? Aesthetics of Anxiety brings psychoanalysis into dialogue with aesthetics, providing provocative and original insights into aesthetic theory and experience. From Aristotle's katharsis to the role played by pain and disgust in the aesthetics of the avant-garde, the notion of anxiety helps us understand the particular kind of discontent (or negative pleasure) that accompanies aesthetic experience. Anxiety, articulated through such notions as desire, the unconscious, and the real, is also presented as a productive tool for understanding the Kantian aesthetic categories of pleasure, beauty, the sublime, and genius. Aesthetics of Anxiety goes beyond the idea that there is anxiety in aesthetics to place anxiety at the very heart of aesthetic experience, thus transforming anxiety into a particularly aesthetic affect that becomes part of our understanding of every work of art, every act of creation.

Ruth Ronen is Professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University and the author of Possible Worlds in Literary Theory and Representing the Real.


"This book will be useful for readers seeking to locate Kantian aesthetics in the Anglo-American tradition from the vantage point of Heidegger's ontology and Lacan's poststructuralist reworking of psychoanalytic theory." — CHOICE