Aesthetics and Political Economy

Zeynep Çelik Alexander

This seminar tries to understand the historical links between two discourses that emerged simultaneously in Europe in the late eighteenth century: aesthetics and political economy. How was land (a source of economic value) conceptually separated from landscape (an object of aesthetic enjoyment) in Europe and in the colonies? What does the history of taste, the aesthetic faculty of discrimination, look like when understood against the background of global commodities (sugar, coffee, tea, etc.) that Europeans came to enjoy? What is the historical relationship between aesthetic value and economic value? This graduate seminar examines global contexts, texts, and artworks in the long nineteenth century in an attempt to understand concepts that developed in tandem in discourses of aesthetics and political economy.