Title, Author & Summary



March 26, 2015

Comparative Literature and the Public Sphere

Doris Sommer

Interpreting art, appreciating its power to shape the world, can spur and support urgently needed change. This is not a deviation from humanistic attention to the mechanisms of art production and reception. It is a corollary and a homecoming to civic education. Acknowledging art’s work makes us cultural agents: those who make, comment, buy, sell, reflect, allocate, decorate, vote, don’t vote, or otherwise lead social, culturally constructed lives. Social change begins with incremental work to change hearts and mind, what the Enlightenment called taste or aesthetic judgment.

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January 15, 2015

Aesthetic Humanity and the Great World Community: Kant and Kang Youwei

Ban Wang

Can we speak of an aesthetic that matters both to Kant and Kang Youwei and that makes sense to China and the West? Can we speak about a common culture while attending to specific traditions? In the current talk of a world literary republic, distinctive cultural difference is to be superseded in order to attain to an overview or superstructure that transcends national and historical distinctions. Although the aspiration to a worldwide culture may go beyond the boundaries of a national tradition, the quest for the universal has to work through the particularity of a specific culture in order to access a common ground. While access to the common world seems more dream than reality, the road to the commons must begin from home: it is to engage one’s native culture reflectively and creatively.

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