Beautiful, Bright, and Blinding

Phenomenological Aesthetics and the Life of Art

By H. Peter Steeves

Subjects: Phenomenology, Aesthetics, Philosophy, Art, Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9781438466545, 270 pages, July 2018
Hardcover : 9781438466538, 270 pages, November 2017

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Table of contents


Section 1. Painting, Seeing, Concepts

1. Gone, Missing

2. Arshile’s Heel, Gorky’s Line

3. “You Are Here” and Not Here: The Concept of Conceptual Art

Section 2. Moving Pictures and Memory

4. The Doubling of Death in the Films of Michael Haneke

5. Yep, Gaston’s Gay: Disney and the Beauty of a Beastly Love

6. And Say the Zombie Responded? or, How I Learned to Stop Living and Unlove the Undead

Section 3. Other Animal Others

7. The Man Who Mistook His Meal for a Hot Dog

8. Rachel Rosenthal Was an Animal

Section 4. Laughing Beyond Modernity

9. “It’s Just a Bunch of Stuff that Happened”: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Postmodern Comedy

10. Quantum Andy


Phenomenological analysis of beauty and art across various aspects of lived experience and culture.


Through a careful analysis of concrete examples taken from everyday experience and culture, Beautiful, Bright, and Blinding develops a straightforward and powerful aesthetic methodology founded on a phenomenological approach to experience—one that investigates how consciousness engages with the world and thus what it means to take such things as tastes, images, sounds, and even a life itself as art. H. Peter Steeves begins by exploring what it means to see, and considers how disruptions of sight can help us rethink how perception works. Engaging the work of Derrida, Heidegger, and Husserl, he uses these insights about "seeing" to undertake a systematic phenomenological investigation of how we perceive and process a range of aesthetic objects, including the paintings of Arshile Gorky, the films of Michael Haneke, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, zombie films, The Simpsons, the performance art of Rachel Rosenthal and Andy Kaufman, and even vegan hot dogs. Refusing hierarchical distinctions between high and low art, Steeves argues that we must conceptualize the whole of human experience as aesthetic: art is lived, and living is an art.

H. Peter Steeves is Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University. He is the author of The Things Themselves: Phenomenology and the Return to the Everyday and the editor of Animal Others: On Ethics, Ontology, and Animal Life, both also published by SUNY Press.


"…[Steeves] provides rich, coherent, and thought provoking analyses of the deep continuity between art and life. He explores complex ideas and experiences in a highly readable way, examining them from multiple perspectives and engaging the reader's imaginative and critical capacities. Beautiful, Bright, and Blinding will certainly merit multiple readings and provoke discussion." — Phenomenology & Practice

"…Steeves guides us through an enlightening, entertaining, accessible, and intelligent study of the life of art that never leaves behind the human element that each of us brings to the banquet … [he] has produced an objectively beautiful and fascinating book, every bit as artistic as the objects we see through its bright and illuminating lens." — Popular Culture Review

"This is a brilliant new contribution by our preeminent phenomenologist of culture. It's extremely accessible, illuminating, original, and sophisticated while being philosophically probing." — David Wood, author of The Step Back: Ethics and Politics after Deconstruction