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By Carolyn Korsmeyer
“Feminist aesthetics” does not label a variety of aesthetics in the way that, for example, the terms “virtue theory” and “naturalized epistemology” qualify types of ethics and theories of knowledge. Rather, to refer to feminist aesthetics is to identify a set of perspectives that pursue certain questions about philosophical theories and their assumptions regarding art and aesthetic categories. Feminists in general have concluded that, despite the seemingly neutral and inclusive theoretical language of philosophy, virtually all areas of the discipline bear the mark of gender in their basic conceptual frameworks. Those who work in aesthetics inquire into the ways that gender influences the formation of ideas about art, artists, and aesthetic value. Feminist perspectives in aesthetics are also attuned to the cultural influences that exert power over subjectivity: the way that art both reflects and perpetuates the social formation of gender, sexuality, and identity.
Aesthetics is by nature rather more interdisciplinary than are some other areas of philosophy, for this field articulates with art practices and the critical disciplines. Feminist perspectives in aesthetics have been contributed not only by philosophers but also by art historians, musicologists, and theorists of literature, film, and performance, among others. There are practical implications for the discoveries that emerge from feminist investigations: analyses of the historical conceptual frameworks that govern aesthetics and philosophy of art help to account for the disparate numbers of men and women who have been influential practitioners of the arts, for example. Philosophical theories adapted by feminists also have been highly influential in the critical interpretation of art and popular culture, and sometimes in the development of contemporary artistic practice. What is more, feminist aesthetics pursues inquiries and critiques that reach into the values at the very foundations of philosophy, examining concepts that often do not directly refer to males and females at all, yet whose hierarchies are imbued with gendered significance.
1. Art and Artists: Historical Background
2. Art and Artists: Creativity and Genius
3. Aesthetic Categories and Feminist Critiques
4. Feminist Practice and the Concept of Art
5. The Body in Art and Philosophy
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