Pembroke Research Seminar

The Pembroke Research Seminar



Student Fellowship

Student Fellowship


2014-15 Pembroke Research Seminar

“Aesthetics and the
Question of Beauty”

Seminar Leader: Marc Redfield
Professor of English and Comparative Literature

The question of the beautiful has preoccupied Western thought since Plato, and remains a rich area of inquiry in today’s world.  Manifestos affirming the cultural or ethical importance of aesthetic experience appear regularly; philosophers, artists and art historians, culture and media theorists, anthropologists, and sometimes even evolutionary biologists encounter—in various ways, of course, and with varying frequency and intensity—the question of what it means to say that someone or something is beautiful.  This question can even be said to have inscribed itself in the workings of consumer society itself, where some of the most ancient problems and patterns of aesthetic discourse find themselves writ large, in neon. (Is there such a thing or event or experience as “the beautiful” that would be separable from rhetorical manipulation; from technical reproducibility; from commodity fetishism and acquisitive desire; from the objectification of the female body?)

In 2014-15 the Pembroke Seminar will explore the topic of the beautiful from as many disciplinary and discursive perspectives as possible.  Traditional philosophical questions (such as, e.g., the degree to which the event or experience of beauty is culturally determined) will be taken seriously but submitted to counter-questioning from multiple angles. Can philosophical aesthetics and Darwinian evolutionary theory speak productively to each other? Do judgments or experiences of the beautiful inevitably refer back to being-human in a human body, or do they exceed anthropomorphic limits?  To what extent does the question of the beautiful overlap with that of art, even after a century of anti-aesthetic avant-garde movements? How best to interpret the predilection of traditional aesthetic discourse for gender-marked binary oppositions and for metaphysical affirmations of the human?   

We invite applications from scholars working in all disciplines and fields, including Anthropology, Philosophy, Literary Studies, Classics, History of Art, Cinema and Media Studies, Music, Gender and Women’s Studies, Science Studies, Religious Studies, and across all historical periods and traditions.

The Pembroke Research Seminar meets on Wednesdays, from 10:00 am – 12:20 pm.

For more information contact: or phone 401-863-2643

To Apply for... Submission Deadline
Award Date
Postdoctoral Fellowship 
in Residence
December 5, 2013 March, 2014
Brown Faculty 
Research Fellowship
January 17, 2014 February, 2014
Graduate Student 
Research Fellowship
March 20, 2014 April, 2014
Undergraduate Student 
Research Fellowship
March 20, 2014

April, 2014
Seminar Leadership Closed Closed