‘The Endgame of Aesthetics: From Hegel to Beckett’ by Mladen Dolar | Concept/s: Hegel’s Aesthetics Conference | AUFHEBUNG | 12 January 2018 | Video

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Concept/s: Hegel’s Aesthetics Conference
Ljubljana 11-14 January 2018
Hosted by Aufhebung
International Hegelian Association


Abstract:

One of the last great texts published by Samuel Beckett bears the title Worstward Ho (1983), heading for the worst, to make it quick. Taking the cue from there one may introrespect place Hegel’s Aesthetics under the slogan ‘bestward ho’, heading for the best. It seems to be entirely ruled by a teleology and a hierarchy: first, art is placed onto the vector of spiritual progression starting with art, moving on to religion and culminating in philosophy. The history of art seems to be driven by the progress from the symbolic stage via the classical one to culminate in romantic art. Various branches of art seem to obey the analogous progression from architecture via sculpture to painting, music and poetry. By a gradual spiritualization which coincides with the graducal process of liberation we seem to be heading for the best (and the notorious end of art is part of this scheme). So how come that this heading for the best has turned over into the heading for the worst a century and a half later? Is Beckett’s ‘worst’ the end of the project of Hegelian aesthetics? How can one head for the best, how can one head for the worst, and where are we heading?


Mladen Dolar (b. 1951), born in Maribor, Slovenia, is a senior research fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS. Dolar’s area of research is within German classical philosophy, German idealism, theoretical psychoanalysis, structuralism, and the philosophy of music and film.

After obtaining a diploma in Philosophy and French from the University of Ljubljana in 1978, Dolar continued his studies at the Université de Paris VIII-Vincennes Saint-Denis (1979–80) and at the University of Westminster, London (1989–90). In 1992, he received a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Ljubljana with a dissertation entitled Heglova Fenomenologija duha. Dialektika zavesti in samozavedanja (Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Dialectic of Consciousness and Self-consciousness). A member of the Philosophy Department since 1980, Dolar was appointed assistant professor in 1984, “docent” of German Classical Philosophy in 1992, associate professor of Philosophy and Theoretical Psychoanalysis in 1996, and, in 2002, took up his current position as Senior Research Fellow. Other academic appointments include a research stay at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut, Essen, Germany (2000–01), at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands (2010–12), where he served as an advising researcher on the project After Hegel,and, in the fall of 2013, an appointment as Visiting Scholar in the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago.

Together with Slavoj Žižek and Rastko Močnik, Dolar founded the infamous “Ljubljana School of Psychoanalysis” in the late 1970s. Their aim was, and continues to be, to combine German Idealism (Hegel in particular), Marxism (with and through the Frankfurt School), and the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan and Structuralism as a form of analysis in addressing contemporary issues. He is also one of the founders of the Ljubljana-based, and closely affiliated, Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, as well as of the Society for Cultural Studies. In addition, Dolar is an editorial board member of both the bi-monthly periodical Problemi, which focuses on psychoanalytic theory, philosophy, and cultural studies, and of the Analecta book series, focusing mainly on translations of key works into Slovenian as well as on the work of Slovenian writers in the field; both are published by the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis.

The author of ten books in Slovenian, Mladen Dolar is perhaps best known internationally for Opera’s Second Death (co-authored with Slavoj Žižek, Routledge, 2001) and A Voice and Nothing More (MIT Press, 2006). In the former, “a passionate exploration of opera––the genre, its masterpieces, and the nature of death,” the two authors “explore the strange compulsions that overpower characters in Mozart and Wagner as well as our own desires to die and to go to the opera.” A Voice and Nothing More, which has been translated into six languages thus far, “goes beyond Derrida’s idea of ‘phonocentrism’ and revives and develops Lacan’s claim that the voice is one of the paramount embodiments of the psychoanalytic object (objet a). […] He investigates the object voice on a number of different levels—the linguistics of the voice, the metaphysics of the voice, the ethics of the voice (with the voice of conscience), the paradoxical relation between the voice and the body, the politics of the voice—and he scrutinizes the uses of the voice in Freud and Kafka. With this foundational work, Dolar gives us a philosophically grounded theory of the voice as a Lacanian object-cause.”

Mladen Dolar has published over one hundred papers, articles, and book chapters, many of which have been translated. Some of his most recent publications include the essay/book What’s in a Name (edited by Janez Janša, Aksioma 2014), “There Are More Important Things Than Childhood,” a text “on the glorification of childhood through Kafka and Oedipus” (in Janez Janša, Life II [in Progress], Maska 2014), and “To Be or Not to Be? No, thank you,” in Lubitsch Can’t Wait: A Collection of Ten Philosophical Discussions on Ernst Lubitsch’s Film Comedy, which he co-edited with Ivana Novak and Jela Krecic (Slovenska kinoteka, 2014). Forthcoming by Duke University Press is Dolar’s latest book, The Riskiest Moment.