Aesthetics (i) (2011/2012)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Giorgio Franck
Giorgio Franck
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
I semestre dal Oct 3, 2011 al Jan 27, 2012.

Lesson timetable

Learning outcomes

Relation between artistic creation and melancholy will be the object of the course. Under an aesthetical point of view, melancholy – which is a mournful representation of a lost and irretrievable object – is an expression of the Absolute’s nostalgia which art often originates. Preliminary lessons will be dedicate to a general analysis of the several traditions joined to melancholy in different fields (philosophy, medicine, astrology, literature, art) from Aristotle to medieval culture to humanism. A synthesis of these traditions is expressed in Melencolia I (1514) – a famous and meaningful Dürer’s engraving.
In the course’s following part, we will analyze XIX century modern culture – with special reference to Baudelaire’s and Huysmans’s works – developing Dürer’s engraving chief motif. It represents the sorrow of the inactive artist, paralyzed and devoid of inspiration: an emblematic figure which can be assumed – with different meanings bound to it – both as an image of the barren decadent aesthete and of the modern poet unable to carry out his work but attempting to overcome his difficulties.


Course’s contents: (I) Aristotle: melancholy and the genius. – The doctrine of four humours. – Saturn, planet of melancholy. – The midday’s demon: the Fathers of Church and the sloth as a sin. – Eros and melancholy. – The doctrine of four humours in Dürer. – Traditional motifs in Melencolia I. – Meanings of the engraving.
(II) Modern world and the type of the inactive artist: Baudelaire and the “poor monk”. – XIX century’s disease: boredom as emblematic sign of modernity. – Metropolitan wilderness. – Melancholy and phantasmagoria: the commodity. – The sumptuous jail of boredom: Baudelaire and the king of the “rainy country”. – Ornithology of exile: the albatross and the swan. – Melancholy and allegory. – Melancholy and irony. – A symbol of the humbled artist: the clown. – Aureole’s loss and the prosaic world. – From melancholy to elation: the “land of plenty” and the poetic of luxury. – Melancholy and memory: the paradise lost. – Huysmans: the aesthete’s house. – The artist as internal decorator. – The cloister and the jail. – Life as art. – The collector against chaos. – The library and the picture-gallery. –Salomé. – Apology of artifice. – Nature as a mad garden. – Pessimism and decadence. – The end of the Ideal. – Imagination and boredom. – The neurosis. – The impossible journey.

Assessment methods and criteria

oral examination.