Call for Postgraduate Papers: Contemporary Aesthetic Education in the UK

University of York 10th December 2012

The purpose of this inter-disciplinary workshop is to explore the role of aesthetic education in the UK today. The presence of the concept of aesthetic education in the thinking of British cultural critics can be traced to the profound influence of Matthew Arnold, who inherits the notion from its German Enlightenment proponents – Schiller, Herder, and Winckelmann. The tradition holds that instruction in art and literature can bring about real changes in society. In the UK today, however, education in literature and the arts is being increasingly threatened by social change rather than facilitating those changes. In Culture and Anarchy, Arnold prescribed culture as the antidote to a looming threat of ‘anarchy’ which lay chiefly, he suggested, in vulgar monetary concerns. In the fear of the neoliberalisation of the university driving the contemporary proliferation of neohumanist apologies for the arts and humanities, we hear the echoes of Arnold’s fear of vulgar monetarism. Another, contemporary inheritance of this tradition of aesthetic education is a rapidly expanding field of ‘therapeutic’ reading. Here, aesthetic education is not so much a politically decisive aspect of academic activity as a project of popular empowerment carried out at the level of public libraries, charitable education projects and health provision. These are just two of many lines of inheritance in the contemporary UK cultural situation of the Enlightenment tradition of aesthetic education.

The inter-disciplinary workshop will take place at the University of York on the afternoon of Monday 10th December 2012, where discussion will be led by Professor Philip Davis (English, Liverpool) and Dr Nick Jones (Philosophy, York). Two postgraduate speakers will be selected from submissions. We welcome abstracts from postgraduates and early career researchers working in all disciplines across the arts and humanities. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

· The contemporary significance of Matthew Arnold’s cultural education

· Martha Nussbaum’s Not For Profit (2010) and other contemporary interventions

· Elizabeth Prettejohn’s Beauty and Art, 1750-2000 (2005) and the question of why we should care about Beauty in the twenty-first century

· Comparative contexts – Britain and elsewhere, e.g., Jacques Rancière’s notion of aesthetics as a space of political non-domination

· The contemporary significance of morality and ethics for art and narrative

· The social mission of English literature and its twenty-first century legacy

· Therapeutic reading as cure for modern problems

Submissions should consist of an abstract of up to 300 words for a paper of 30 minutes in length, and be emailed as an attachment to Mildrid Bjerke at by 15th September.

Please direct any queries to Rafe McGregor at

The workshop is being hosted by the Humanities Research Centre at York, and has been funded by the Centre for Modern Studies.

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