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Art at the Limits of Perception

The Aesthetic Theory of Wolfgang Welsch

Jerome Carroll

This book traces the significance that the modulations of sensory perception have had for thinking about aesthetics and art in the last two and a half centuries. Beyond a discussion of the philosophical significance of beauty, or of the puzzle of aesthetic representation, aesthetics is conceived broadly as a means of describing our relationship to the world in terms of the habits of perception, and indeed the overturning of these habits, as in the modernist aesthetic of defamiliarisation. In the light of the ideas of the contemporary German aesthetic theorist, Wolfgang Welsch, this book offers the first discussion of the theory and practice of art that operates at the poles of perception: sensory experience that exceeds conceptual organisation, and the imperceptible, or what Welsch calls the ‘anaesthetic’. These seemingly opposite poles have many parallels: a comparable indeterminacy of meaning and a similar challenge to representation, but also a shared focus on the habits and modulations of sensory perception and a similar interrogation of the boundary between art and that which surrounds it. The author applies the categories discussed to art practice, in particular to the theatre of Peter Handke, Samuel Beckett and Heiner Müller.
Contents: Transcendental or marginal aesthetics – Aesthetics beyond aesthetics: the theoretical contribution of Wolfgang Welsch – The sensory and super-sensory: Wolfgang Welsch’s precursors in philosophical aesthetics – Welsch and the aesthetics of the sublime – The ideology of the anaesthetic – Applied anaesthetics: the art of the imperceptible – Theatre of excess: a ‘poetry of the senses’.