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Art and Affect

Date: 12‒14 July 2017
Venue: Toowong Rowing Club, 37 Keith St, The University of Queensland, St Lucia
Enquiries: Xanthe Ashburner uqche@uq.edu.au

…the poets…are enamored of the passions as such…

From antiquity to the present, literature and the arts have been associated with the solicitation of the passions. Thus a profound tradition, stretching from Plato’s dialogues to Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and beyond, has viewed art’s engagement of the passions as a form of bewitchment, opening the way to dangerous psychological, moral and political disorder. An equally powerful mode of thought, however (much championed by the Romantics) has conceived of art’s investment in the affective life positively, as a route to personal fulfilment, a vehicle for social sympathy, or as nourishing the imaginative powers necessary to bring about progressive political change. Still other traditions find in art capacities for governing, or subduing, merely passional attachments and drives. This conference, hosted by the UQ Node of the ARC Centre for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100‒1800), will explore the long and complex history of the relation between aesthetic production and concepts of ‘the passions’.

Topics to be addressed may include:

  • Attacks on, and defences of, the arts
  • Art, literature and the question of censorship
  • The association of the arts with heresy, blasphemy or immorality
  • Literary and artistic depictions of the passions
  • Understandings of the passions in critical, philosophical and political writing
  • Religious, ethical and political critiques of the arts
  • The role of the arts in notions of self-cultivation or self-government

Keynote speakers

Helen Deutsch (UCLA)

Joshua Scodel (The University of Chicago)


Image: Caravaggio, Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594-96). Wikimedia Commons.