Wednesday 11 October, 3-5pm
‘Lesson of Darkness: Phenomenology and Lyotard’s Aesthetics’
Ashley Woodward (Dundee)
This presentation will examine the relationship of Jean-François Lyotard’s aesthetics to phenomenology, especially the works of Mikel Dufrenne and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. It will argue that this comparison allows a greater understanding of Lyotard’s late aesthetic writings, which can appear gnomic and which have received relatively little critical attention. Lyotard cites Merleau-Ponty as opening the theme of difference in the aesthetic field, yet believes that the phenomenological approach can never adequately account for it. After outlining Lyotard’s early critiques of Dufrenne and Merleau-Ponty, the paper will demonstrate how his late aesthetics can be understood as returning to phenomenological themes but in the form of a reversal. Lyotard’s ‘lesson of darkness’ is that the secret power of art can never be brought into the light of phenomenal appearance, and that artworks do not testify to the birth of perception, but to its death and resurrection.