Beautiful, Bright, and Blinding
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Through a careful analysis of concrete examples taken from everyday experience and culture, Beautiful, Bright, and Blinding develops a straightforward and powerful aesthetic methodology founded on a phenomenological approach to experience—one that investigates how consciousness engages with the world and thus what it means to take such things as tastes, images, sounds, and even a life itself as art. H. Peter Steeves begins by exploring what it means to see, and considers how disruptions of sight can help us rethink how perception works. Engaging the work of Derrida, Heidegger, and Husserl, he uses these insights about "seeing" to undertake a systematic phenomenological investigation of how we perceive and process a range of aesthetic objects, including the paintings of Arshile Gorky, the films of Michael Haneke, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, zombie films, The Simpsons, the performance art of Rachel Rosenthal and Andy Kaufman, and even vegan hot dogs. Refusing hierarchical distinctions between high and low art, Steeves argues that we must conceptualize the whole of human experience as aesthetic: art is lived, and living is an art.

Section 1. Painting, Seeing, Concepts

1. Gone, Missing

2. Arshile’s Heel, Gorky’s Line

3. “You Are Here” and Not Here: The Concept of Conceptual Art

Section 2. Moving Pictures and Memory

4. The Doubling of Death in the Films of Michael Haneke

5. Yep, Gaston’s Gay: Disney and the Beauty of a Beastly Love

6. And Say the Zombie Responded? or, How I Learned to Stop Living and Unlove the Undead

Section 3. Other Animal Others

7. The Man Who Mistook His Meal for a Hot Dog

8. Rachel Rosenthal Was an Animal

Section 4. Laughing Beyond Modernity

9. “It’s Just a Bunch of Stuff that Happened”: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Postmodern Comedy

10. Quantum Andy




Publié par
Date de parution 27 octobre 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781438466552
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Beautiful, Bright, and Blinding
H. Peter Steeves
Cover and page i illustrations: details from The Human Genome Projection, H. Peter Steeves, 2008.
Photos courtesy of John Sisson Photography,
Published by
© 2017 State University of New York
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
For information, contact State University of New York Press, Albany, NY
Production, Laurie Searl
Marketing, Anne M. Valentine
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Steeves, H. Peter, author.
Title: Beautiful, bright, and blinding : phenomenological aesthetics and the life of art / H. Peter Steeves.
Description: Albany, NY : State University of New York, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016047188 (print) | LCCN 2017033601 (ebook) | ISBN 9781438466552 (e-book) | ISBN 9781438466538 (hardcover : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Aesthetics, Modern. | Art—Philosophy. | Arts—History and criticism. | Phenomenology.
Classification: LCC BH151 (ebook) | LCC BH151 .S74 2017 (print) | DDC 111/.85—dc23
LC record available at
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For Ursa Minor
Section 1: Painting, Seeing, Concepts
1 Gone, Missing
2 Arshile’s Heel, Gorky’s Line
3 “You Are Here” and Not Here: The Concept of Conceptual Art
Section 2: Moving Pictures and Memory
4 The Doubling of Death in the Films of Michael Haneke
5 Yep, Gaston’s Gay: Disney and the Beauty of a Beastly Love
6 And Say the Zombie Responded? or , How I Learned to Stop Living and Unlove the Undead
Section 3: Other Animal Others
7 The Man Who Mistook His Meal for a Hot Dog
8 Rachel Rosenthal Was an Animal
Section 4: Laughing Beyond Modernity
9 “It’s Just a Bunch of Stuff that Happened”: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Postmodern Comedy
10 Quantum Andy
Even the Mona Lisa was a team effort. As with any human undertaking, this book is not merely indebted to a community but could not exist in any way without that community. To my family, friends, and colleagues, I extend my most sincere gratitude.
Some chapters, and parts of some chapters, have appeared elsewhere, typically in a much-truncated or altered form. My thanks to Dawne McCance, editor of Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, who published versions of chapters 1 and 8 in her journal as, respectively, “Gone, Missing,” v. 46, n. 3 (Sept. 2013): 1–26; and “Rachel Rosenthal Is an Animal,” v. 39, n. 4 (Dec. 2006): 1–26. Popular Culture Review has published abridged versions of chapters 3 through 6 in the following forms: “The Concept of Conceptual Art: ‘You Are Here’ and Not Here,” v. 24, n. 1 (Winter 2013): 5–24; “The Doubling of Death: Human, Animal, the Real, and the Irreal in the Films of Michael Haneke,” v. 22, n. 2 (Summer 2011): 15–26; “Yep, Gaston’s Gay: Disney and the Beauty of Beastly Love,” v. 16, n. 1, (Winter 2005): 125–45; and “And Say the Zombie Responded? Or, How I Learned to Stop Living and Unlove the Undead,” v. 23, n. 2 (Summer 2012): 5–26. Sections of chapter 7 appeared in a different form online in “The Man Who Mistook His Meal for a Hotdog,” Between the Species , Issue IX, October 2009: . Various parts of chapter 9 have appeared in two places: “Postmodernity, Postmodernity, Does Whatever Postmodernity Does: A Post-Ironic Look at ‘The Simpsons,’ ” Television Quarterly: The Journal of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences , v. XXXIX (Fall 2010): 12–18; and “ ‘It’s Just a Bunch of Stuff That Happened’: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Postmodern Comedy,” in The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed , edited by Mary M. Dalton and Laura R. Linder (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005), 261–71. My thanks to Mary and Laura, whose sitcom reader opened up the field for many of us years ago. Finally, chapter 10 , part of which was written for “Why So Serious? A Conference on Philosophy and Comedy” that Russell Ford and I organized at DePaul University in 2012, went on to be featured online in Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities (v. 21, n. 3 [July 2016]). My thanks to Russ, the guest editor of Angelaki ’s special issue that was our conference proceedings, as well as Helen Gough and the staff at Taylor and Francis.
My special thanks to Matthew Girson for allowing me not only to reprint images of so many of his oil paintings here, but for having created those paintings in the first place. I’ve been commenting on his work—riding the coattails of a real artist—for more than a dozen years now, and I look forward to decades more of the same garment travels. I am grateful, as well, to Felicia Campbell for many reasons, including being the model of a generous host and friend. Felicia created and has run the Far West Popular Culture Association conference for thirty years—a conference where brief, twenty-minute bits of some of these chapters were presented. She’s amazing for a thousand reasons. I am grateful to Hazel Antaramian Hofman and the Fresno Armenian Art Museum for inviting me to present a lecture on the artwork of Arshile Gorky that became the skeleton of chapter 2 , and to Dolores Wilbur and the Chicago Culture Center for inviting me to create an installation art exhibit at the Center as part of their “Site Unseen” exhibition, images of which appear in chapter 3 that were taken by Monika Lozinska and John Sisson—to whom I am also grateful for lending their artistic photographic talents. Jack Rutberg of Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Inc., in Los Angeles was kind and generous with his time in locating the owners of the two Gorky images for me; I am very grateful for his help. Patrick Whistler and Bruce McDonald graciously provided the images from Pontypool ; Jordan French and Jay Ives at BeeHex were so kind as to provide an image of their 3D pizza printing machine; and Claudia Pollak at WEGA-Filmproduktionsges.m.b.H was wonderful to work with in procuring the images from Michael Haneke’s films. My thanks as well to DePaul University for providing me with a Faculty Research and Development Grant from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in summer 2014 to support work on this book. And very special thanks to DePaul’s Father Edward Udovic (and the Vincentian Endowment Fund) for offering the financial support that made it possible to include the Arshile Gorky images in this book and to publish all of the book’s images in color. It would be a gray world without Fr. Udovic’s generosity.
At SUNY Press, my most sincere thanks to James Peltz, Andrew Kenyon, Daniel Otis, Anne Valentine, and Laurie Searl. I am truly grateful for their guidance and support seeing this book through to the end. It has been wonderful to work with Laurie once again on the production and design of a book, and I wish her the very best in her (semi-)retirement.
Rachel Rosenthal, the focus of chapter 8 , entered my life in 2001 and was, until she passed away in 2015, my dear friend and the Platonic Ideal to me for what it means to be an artist, a human, and an animal. I miss her every day; the world is far less beautiful and bright without her. And though I never had the privilege of knowing Andy Kaufman personally, the same could be said of him. Chapter 10 is about, and is dedicated to, Andy. Today, I am lucky to call his sister, Carol Kaufman Kerman, my friend. My thanks to Carol, Michael, Pru, their entire family—and the spirit of Andy that is always, I hope, operative in my life.
To all of the people who have spoken with me over the years about this work and have provided inspiration of different sorts, my sincere thanks (and my apologies to all who are left off this list—a function of my slipping mind and not a lack of gratitude): Dennis Rohatyn, Bill Martin, Michael Naas, Anna Vaughn Clissold, David Wood, James Hart, Charles Klingler, Nicole Anderson, Bill and Charlotte Nickell, Robert Maldonado, Steve Ingeman, and especially Marinés Fornerino. Finally, my thanks to Maryse Meijer and Danielle Meijer, who helped coauthor a conference talk on Michael Haneke that led me to chapter 4 . Maryse is one of the finest fiction writers of her generation: if you’re looking for good art that will utterly blind you with truth and beauty (and maybe a dull butter knife when your back is turned), stop reading these acknowledgments and go buy her books immediately. And Danielle—she is my partner, sounding board, coconspirator, life coach, encourager, collaborator, wife, band mate, anarchic comrade in arms, fleshed-out horizon, love, and ultimate telos. Without her, I quite simply would not be here.
The history of aesthetics is, for the most part, the history of metaphysics. From Plato on, if one wanted to know something about the nature of art, what constitutes beauty, or how a work of art “works,” one turned to metaphysics. The questions have always been: What, exactly, is beauty? What is an aesthetic object and how is it different from a regular object? What is art, what is its purpose, and how is art made and received? All of these “is” questions mark the pursuit as one th

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