Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rancière's Latest: "Aisthesis"

Many different factors play into how a person chooses his or her dissertation topic. When I began my PhD studies, I figured that I would be writing something on recent French philosophy. I had, in the previous few years, been reading lots of Badiou, Agamben, Lacan, and others. And then, in early 2005, I decided to write a dissertation on Schelling's philosophy of art. Not much had been written on the topic, nor, for that matter, on Schelling in general. I don't even know if I had thought about it in those terms--at most, I must have still been in that phase where reading Schelling was one of  the more unique (and sometimes more bizarre) experiences I had had in studying French and German philosophy (not to say that this experience no longer happens...). The project would also give me a chance to read up on Kant, Spinoza (and then, to my chagrin, Jacobi), Fichte, and Hegel, and work on my German.

Over the years, explaining my decision would remain a complex task (this ended, incidentally, when I published the book), especially if the person asking knew that I went in thinking about French philosophy. Eventually, I started telling these people that the best reason to work on a historical figure is that he or she would never publish anything new while you were trying to finish your dissertation: so if Schelling leapt out of his grave and presented a new system, we'd have bigger problems than my dissertation.

Since I've been working on Rancière, this joke was the first thing I thought of, when I discovered that he's recently published a new book on the aesthetic regime of art, entitled Aisthesis (Galilée, 2011).

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