Day 1, July 24—Romanticism and Aesthetics: Critical reflections on art, culture and nature
2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Whalley: poet, war hero, and scholar. In recognition of Whalley’s contributions to the study of British Romanticism through his work on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and his commitment to “aesthetics, the philosophy of art, and the question ‘What does art convey about reality?’” (Annick Hillger), the Department of English at Queen’s University invites you to participate in an interdisciplinary conference on Romanticism and Aesthetics. In his now archived notes in preparation for the broadcast of his 1955 television special, “An Introduction to Aesthetics,” a part of CBC’s Exploring Minds series, George Whalley wrote:
Aesthetics, like any other kind of philosophy, is the affectionate search for truth. The Truth it is looking for is the Truth to do with works of art, and to see how the work of artists fits into the structure of reality, where it belongs in the world, what it does for us, and what it does to us.
This fragment could serve as an epigraph to Whalley’s career and the critical tradition of “aesthetics” that followed. In the spirit of Whalley’s “affectionate search for truth” we ask now, what is art? How ought one to speak of the experience and value of art—including literary art—without, as Whalley feared, “treating works of art as ‘things’” (Poetic Process) of scientific study. Likewise suspicious of the intrusion of the mechanics of scientific study, Coleridge laments of the imaginative consciousness that “We have purchased a few brilliant inventions at the loss of all communion with life and the spirit of nature” (Lay Sermons). How does one then frame the question in inquiring after the truth-claims or the definition of art? What is the manner and purpose of this inquiry, which we call “aesthetics”? What happens at the intersection of art, culture, and nature? We invite proposals addressing the following possible areas of study:
a) Symbols in Life and Art
b) The Significance of Poetry to the Romantics
c) Beauty as a Criterion for Definition [: Whither Beauty?]
d) Modern Art Criticism and its Romantic Relations
e) The Limits/ Boundaries of Imagination and Genius
f) Why study “Aesthetics”?
Proposals should be no more than 500 words, and include a brief biography of the presenter(s).
The deadline for proposals is 15 January 2015.