Lewis E. Hahn Lectures, July 9, 2022: Richard Shusterman, Somaesthetics, and Ars Erotica

Hahn Lectures 2022: Richard Shusterman

The AIPCT and the Foundation for the Philosophy of Creativity (FPC) are pleased to announce the 2022 Lewis E. Hahn lectures, honoring the work and ideas of Richard Shusterman. The particular focus will be Shusterman’s work applying his somaesthetics to the Ars Erotica. This year, in addition to Professor Shusterman, we welcome Crispin Sartwell and Megan Volpert to speak on the honoree’s work.

To attend on-line, send a request for a Zoom link to: personalist61@gmail.com


2:00 PM Central Time (US):

Megan Volpert, Shusterman Goes to Camp: An Ars Erotica of Somaesthetics in Drag Culture

3:30 PM Central Time (US):

Crispin Sartwell, The Erotic and the Political: The Somaesthetics of Sex in Social Context

5:00 Pizza for the in-person attendees, courtesy of FPC

6:30 PM Central Time (US):

Richard Shusterman, “Ars Erotica: Sex and Somaesthetics

The Lectures

Richard Shusterman, “Ars Erotica: Sex and Somaesthetics

The term ars erotica refers to the styles and techniques of lovemaking with the honorific title of art. But in what sense are these practices artistic and how could they contribute to the aesthetics and ethics of self-cultivation in the art of living? Although severely blemished by the predatory sexism and misogyny of the patriarchal cultures they served, the traditional arts of lovemaking also offer insights into how erotic desire can elevate us to embodied acts of beauty, loving care, and respect for others. Building on his recent book, Ars Erotica: Sex and Somaesthetics in the Classical Arts of Love, Shusterman explains how a new somaesthetic approach could channel the power of eros to cultivate qualities of courtesy, grace, skill, self-mastery, and sensitivity to the feelings of others. Through such an approach, we can imagine a richer, more positive vision of sex education than we have today. Although Shusterman’s book explores ars erotica in seven premodern traditions (the ancient Greco-Roman tradition, the Judaeo-Christian biblical tradition and the classical erotic theories of Chinese, Indian, Islamic, and Japanese cultures, concluding with medieval and Renaissance Europe), today’s Hahn lecture will focus on explaining his somaesthetic approach to eroticism. He will do so by contrasting it to currently dominant discourses on sexuality by highlighting its aesthetic and melioristic dimensions and by exemplifying its genealogical method through an examination of the complex cultural forces shaping the polymorphous erotic ideologies of ancient Greece.

Crispin Sartwell “The Erotic and the Political: The Somaesthetics of Sex in Social Context

Richard Shusterman’s work is remarkable, among other things, for extending the range and power of the discipline of aesthetics, conceived by him as fundamental to many dimensions of human experience. Indeed, he has driven aesthetics into entirely new ranges of phenomena and strategies for research, and also perhaps returned to an ancient sense of the centrality of aesthetic concepts such as beauty to virtually every human endeavor. In many ways, I think, Shusterman is fulfilling John Dewey’s vision as expressed in Art as Experience, as well as spelling out in detail the implications of his own early book Pragmatist Aesthetics, exploring the aesthetic dimensions of all sorts of human activities. Shusterman’s somaesthetics, however, takes what we might call the aesthetics, or ordinary experience, and centers it on the body in a way that Dewey could not have foreseen. His book might have been titled The Aesthetics of Sex, and as soon as he broaches the topic it strikes one that this subject has been remarkably neglected within philosophical aesthetics, or even in Western philosophy as a whole. Considered as dimensions or arenas of human experience, the aesthetic and the erotic, as Shusterman shows in replete multi-cultural detail, are bound up entirely and from the origins in many or even all cultures.

Megan Volpert, “Shusterman Goes to Camp: An Ars Erotica of Somaesthetics in Drag Culture

This lecture aims to patch a gap in the emerging field of somaesthetics, which suffers from a blind spot when it comes to queerness. Even when it occasionally gestures toward homosexuality as a part of global ars erotica, philosophers have ignored the virtues exemplified by drag cultural excellence. Campiness and queening are a valuable locus for further analytical, pragmatic and practical conversation about the art of living one’s best life.

The Lecturers

Richard Shusterman is the Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Florida Atlantic University. He received a B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a doctorate in Philosophy from St. John’s College, Oxford University. He served three years as an officer in the Israeli Army, in military intelligence. A tenured academic in Israel until the mid-1980s, he moved to Temple University and from 1998-2004 served as chair of its Philosophy Department, for five of those years he was also a Directeur de programme at the Collège International de Philosophie. In 2005 he became the Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar Chair in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and English at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, where he founded the Center for Body, Mind, and Culture in 2006 and has directed it ever since. Its main focus is interdisciplinary and multicultural research in somaesthetics, a field of theory and practice that emerged from Shusterman’s work in pragmatism. From this center at FAU, somaesthetics has grown into an international field of research with parallel hubs in Shanghai, Aalborg (Denmark), Budapest, and Krakow.

A much-translated author, Shusterman is fond of crossing national and disciplinary boundaries. A Fulbright professor in Berlin (1995-1996), he has also had visiting appointments at universities in Paris, Rome, Vienna, Oslo, Aalborg, Wroclaw, Hiroshima, and Shanghai. His Pragmatist Aesthetics is published in fifteen languages. His more recent books in English include Body Consciousness, Thinking through the Body, and Sex and Somaesthetics (all with Cambridge University Press). He was chosen to direct two projects for UNESCO’s division of culture. Honored by the French government with an academic knighthood for his work in the philosophy of culture, he also received honorary doctorates from the University of Aalborg and the University of Szeged (Hungary) for his pioneering research in somaesthetics. Shusterman’s work has been the topic of anthologies, monographs, and documentary films.

Shusterman’s academic research in somaesthetics finds inspiration from his artistic practice and work in somatic therapy. His extended project of performance art (in collaboration with a Parisian artist) has issued in photographs and short films exhibited in galleries. It also resulted in an illustrated novella (The Adventures of the Man in Gold). Certified in the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education and therapy, Shusterman applies that training in his practical workshops in somaesthetics (which he has given for academic institutions in the arts, physical therapy, and interactive design). Shusterman has reviewed books for The Nation, published essays in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and has written for Dokumenta and other contemporary art venues.

Crispin Sartwell is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dickinson Colleges. He is a journalist, popular blogger, frequent TV guest on politics and cultural news shows. He has contributed op ed pieces to The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the New York Times, and other widely read media outlets. Sartwell has held professorial appointments at Vanderbilt, the University of Alabama, the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg, and the Maryland Institute College of Art, during his long career. He is the author of over a dozen books and many articles. The books include Political Aesthetics (Cornell University Press, 2008), Act Like You Know: African American Autobiography and White Identity (University of Chicago Press, 1998), and Six Names of Beauty (Routledge, 2004). More recently his ambitious exploration of metaphysics was called Entanglements (SUNY Press 2017).

Megan Volpert is a frequent contributor to PopMatters and an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Kennesaw State University, where she specializes in Gender and Americana. She earned an MFA from Louisiana State University and has written or edited over dozen books on popular culture, including Perfume: Object Lessons (Bloomsbury Academic, 2022), Closet Cases: Queers on What We Wear (Et Alia, 2020), and Boss Broad (Sibling Rivalry, 2019). Her awards include Georgia Author of the Year, Teacher of the Year, two Lambda Literary finalists and an American Library Association honoree. Volpert’s philosophical pursuits as a cultural critic run the gamut from high to low in music, television and fashion, usually emphasizing her queerness at some intersection with existentialism, psychoanalysis, or performativity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *