August

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Lecture 8- Feminism and Aesthetics

A report by Shreya Sharma

 

The lecture focused on the concept of Gender and Genius and how the complex history links genius to models of creativity, and also to accounts of sexual difference and procreativity. Dr. Battersby started the lecture with tracing the meaning of the term ‘genius’ and its connotations and its modern-day usage. She then proceeded to outline the two dominant traditions of understanding creativity in European intellectual history.

 

The first tradition derives from ancient Greece. The greeks regarded god to be a creator who imposes form on unformed material (hyle). This formative force was referred to as logos. In this model of creative expression, self expression and originality were not highly valued, instead talent was given precedence. The artist was seen as a craftsperson who mirrored nature through his art. This model ultimately held the view that women’s procreativity limited their capacity as creatives. 

 

The second model of creativity finds its roots in the Hebrew old testament scriptures, where God creates matter and shapes preexisting matter. The artist and author were compared to a lamp, for just like a lamp, they brought light into darkness. This tradition focused on the individuality- the I AM of the artist and its expression in the work of art. However, women were considered to be unable to develop the right kind of individuality for artistic production. Males were seen to be able to transcend their biology, but women, supposedly could not do so.

 

Dr. Battersby then talked about the five models of genius and how the notions of genius have been formulated more recently. These five models can be summarised as-

i) “Genius Loci” or Genius of place

ii) Genius as a personality type- an “outsider” who is near to madness

iii) Genius as the sublimation of male sexual energies

iv) Genius as great talent and/or high IQ

v)Genius in the Kantian sense.

 

Dr. Battersby Interrogated of how the term "genius" and its trappings (the sublime, the brilliant, etc.) have been exclusively bestowed onto men, and particularly, feminine men, this exposes how misogyny has infected most forms of aesthetics.

She focused the lecture on an exploration of the complex history that links genius to models of creativity, and also to accounts of sexual difference and procreativity and how the notion of “genius” must expand in order to include women, especially those from marginalised races and ethnicities

Reading list

  1. Battersby, Christine, 'Feminist Aesthetics and the Categories of the Beautiful and the Sublime', in The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy, eds Ann Garry, Serene J. Khader, Alison Stone, New York: Routledge, 2017, ISBN-10: 1138795925; ISBN-13: 978-1138795921, pp. 485-497.

  2. Battersby, Christine. Gender and Genius. London: The Women's Press, 1989 (h.b. ISBN 0-7043-5039-4) and 1994 (revised ed. p.b. ISBN 0-7043-4300-2); Indiana University Press, 1990 (h.b. 0-253-31126-8; p.b. 0-253-20578-6). (Currently only available 2nd hand, including from AbeBooks. A digital version will be available online in 2022 in the Bloomsbury Philosophy Library in the proposed Contemporary Aesthetics section.)

  3. Battersby, Christine, ‘Genius and Feminism' in The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (2nd ed.), ed. Michael Kelly, Oxford University Press, 2014. Print ISBN-13: 9780199747108; eISBN: 9780199747115.

  4. Battersby Christine, “Introduction: Fleshy Metaphysics”, Chapter 1 of   The Phenomenal Woman: Feminist Metaphysics and the Patterns of Identity, London: Polity Press; New York: Routledge, 1998, 1-14. ISBN p.b. (UK) 9780745615554; ISBN h.b. (UK.) 9780745615547; ISBN p.b. (USA) 978-0-415-92036-0; ISBN h.b. (USA) 978-0-415-92035-3; ISBN eBook 978-0-203-72427-9 or 0203724275.

  5. Battersby, Christine, ‘Situating the Aesthetic: A Feminist Defence’, Art and Interpretation, ed. Eric Dayton, Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1999, 213–17. ISBN: 9781551111902 / 155111190X. For Google Preview see Broadview Press Table of Contents.

  6. Battersby, Christine, “A Terrible Prospect’, Chapter 1 of The Sublime, Terror and Human Difference, London and New York, Routledge, 2007, 1 - 20. ISBN p.b. 978-0-415-14811-5; ISBN h.b. 978-0-415-14810-8; eBook ISBN10: 0203945611; eBook ISBN13: 978-0-203-94561-2.

  7. Brand, Peg (2007). Feminism and Aesthetics. In Linda Alcoff & Eva Feder Kittay (eds.), The Blackwell Guide to Feminist Philosophy. Blackwell.

  8. Brand, P., & Devereaux, M. (2003). Introduction: Feminism and Aesthetics. Hypatia, 18(4), Ix-Xx. Retrieved July 25, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3810970

  9. Brand, Peg and Mary Devereaux (eds.), 2003. Women, Art, and Aesthetics, special issue of Hypatia, 18(4).

  10. Carroll, Noël, 1995. “The Image of Women in Film: A Defense of a Paradigm,” Feminism and Tradition in Aesthetics, Peggy Zeglin Brand and Carolyn Korsmeyer (eds.), University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 371–391.

  11. Hein, H. (1990). The Role of Feminist Aesthetics in Feminist Theory. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 48(4), 281-291. doi:10.2307/431566

  12. Korsmeyer, Carolyn, 2004. Gender and Aesthetics: An Introduction, London: Routledge.

  13. Korsmeyer, Carolyn and Peg Brand Weiser, "Feminist Aesthetics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2021/entries/feminism-aesthetics/>.

  14. LINTOTT, S. (2010). Feminist Aesthetics and the Neglect of Natural Beauty. Environmental Values, 19(3), 315-333. Retrieved July 25, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25764253

  15. Nochlin, Linda. Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? 1971, ARTnews. Retrieved July 25, 2021, from https://www.artnews.com/art-news/retrospective/why-have-there-been-no-great-women-artists-4201/

  16. Raymond, C. (2017). Women Photographers and Feminist Aesthetics (1st ed.). Routledge.

  17. Zarzycki, Lili 'Interview with Christine Battersby' on Gender and Genius, in The Architectural Review, 20 March 2020, Digital Edition on Masculinities. URL = https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/profiles-and-interviews/interview-with-christine-battersby

Lecture 9- Feminism and Religion

A report by Hina Mushtaq

 

Ms. Ambar Ahmed had divided her lecture into three parts. Her first part of the lecture was based on defining what the terms feminism and religion mean. Her second part consisted of relating these two terms in postmodern discourses. Lastly, she talked about Islamic feminism, its strategies, its success and its failures. She argues that as there is no single category to put women into, similarly there are different feminisms for dealing with different sorts of problems women face. She mentions four points on which every feminist would agree, one is that we live in the world where patriarchy is intrinsic to the structure and it becomes difficult to separate it from the workings of the world. The second is that there is nothing natural and inescapable about patriarchy, it is human-made and can be eliminated.  Third is that patriarchy is unjust and it treats different humans differently, so it needs to be challenged. The last point is feminism should be able to imagine the marginality to every hegemonic centre. Coming to religion she said, religion also cannot be categorized universally, it has different meanings for different people. She defines that there are three stances when it comes to religion and feminism. One theory says that religion cannot be anything other than an oppressive source. Second theory says that religion cannot remain part of public domain but there is no problem if it remains part of personal lives. Last theory suggests that one cannot do away with religion; religion plays an important role in the lives of individuals. Clearing the assumption that it is only religion that has done harm to women, she believes that secularity has also been offensive to women. In the secular states, women are not given the choice of wearing or following what they want. They have been deprived of their agencies even under secular governments. She moves to the last part of her lecture which is Islamic feminism. She believes in reinterpretation of religious laws (Ijtihad) according to social, economic, political context of the times in keeping with Islamic framework. The reinterpretation of holy texts can become a powerful source of gender justice. She talks about asbab ul- nuzul which means looking at the context of the verse revelation to the Prophet to get the idea behind the particular verse. She concludes by saying that Islamic feminism has definitely helped women who were ignored by calling their struggle as western and not relevant. She focuses that Islamic feminism has given power to women to be religious and feminist at the same time.

Reading list

 
  1. Paludi, M. A., & Ellens, H. J. (2016). Feminism and Religion: How Faiths View Women and Their Rights (Women’s Psychology). Praeger.

  2. Mahmood, S. (2001). Feminist Theory, Embodiment, and the Docile Agent: Some Reflections on the Egyptian Islamic Revival. Cultural Anthropology, 16(2), 202–236. https://doi.org/10.1525/can.2001.16.2.202

  3. Ahmad, A. (2015). ISLAMIC FEMINISM – A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS? FES INDIA PAPER. Published.

  4. Frankenberry, Nancy, "Feminist Philosophy of Religion", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/feminist-religion/>.

Lecture 10- Feminism and Media

A report by Puja Raj

The Lecture focused on the category of woman and how it is represented in Hindi cinema in relation to Tawaif/Prostitute. Dr. Bhatkar while mapping the journey of Hindi cinema of five decades tried to present how the understanding of Tawaif/prostitute has evolved and how it is represented now in Hindi cinema. 
He divided his lecture into four sections to showcase the identity, construction, evolution and transformation of Tawaif/Prostitute in Hindi Cinema.
In the first section, he addressed the notion of how the Hindi cinema presented Tawaif/Prostitute and Woman as two distinct gender identities which are separated as public and private affairs in relation with the male world. Comparatively, Tawaif/prostitute have way more control over her body, her own identity and have a higher degree of independence than the traditional heroines. However, through these films, it was made explicit that the moment they are Tawaif/prostitute, they can no longer become a traditional woman like getting married or leading a happy life of motherhood or womanhood in the patriarchal setup.
The second section dealt with how the Hindi cinema narrated the construction of a Tawaif/Prostitute which often showcased the tragic past and victimhood as the reason for a woman to become a tawaif/prostitute. From a morally pure background to being a Tawaif/Prostitute who is immoral and impure, the transformation or construction of a Tawaif/prostitute is a leap of linearity.
In the third section, Dr. Bhatkar highlighted the tragic ending and ambiguity in Hindi Cinema when there is an attempt for transformation from a Tawaif/Prostitute into a woman. He emphasized how cinema is problematized when a tawaif/prostitute tries to renounce to remain a Tawaif and an object of eroticism by bringing her ambiguous sexual and personal past. He questioned Judith Butler’s idea of gender as performative, and posed the question if tawaif stop being a tawaif when she simply renounces her tawaifhood?
The essence of being ‘Woman’ was emphasized to demean the identity of Tawaif/prostitutes. 
In the final section, he talked about the evolutionary change in the representation of Prostitutes after the 2000s which brings a transformative power as feminine. Given the examples of many films such as Dev D, Chingaari, Bombay to Bangkok, Laga Chunari Mein Daag, etc. it was seen how the subversive Hindi cinema has moved way beyond this question if a prostitute is a woman and equated Prostitute from being an ordinary mortal being to being Shakti- the power which runs the entire gamut of creation. 

Reading list

  1. Prasad, Madhava.1998. Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction. Delhi: Oxford University Press

  2.  Booth Gregory. 2007. "Making a Woman from a Tawaif: Courtesans as Heroes in Indian Cinema" New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 9, 2 (Dec, 2007)

  3. Prabhu, Manjiri. 2001. Roles: Reel and Real - Image of Woman in HIndi Cinema, Delhi: Ajanta Books International

 

Lecture 11- Feminist Political Philosophy

A report by Gauri S Kumar

In this lecture, Prof. Mary John discussed some ways to take forward the relationship between feminism (taken as a short-hand term for the theories, practices, politics and debates that connect to questions of women and gender in society) and philosophy (the discipline as it is now institutionalised in academics, higher education and public intellectual discourses).


In the first part, she presented an example of how a major field of modern political philosophy, namely liberal contract theory, has been the subject of critique from a feminist perspective by the political philosopher Carole Pateman in her book The Sexual Contract.  In this book, Pateman argues that the newly minted liberal ideas regarding a new relationship between civil rights and the modern state has repressed a prior sexual contract.  This is explained by looking at theories of patriarchy and distinguishing between older forms of classic patriarchalism (the rule of the father under the "king" or head of the tribe), and a new modern, fraternal patriarchy that grants sons rights through a sexual contract (through birth or marriage) over women. Pateman brings this out as the underside of what are otherwise much discussed dimensions of men's liberal rights in civil society in relation to the modern state. Professor John emphasised that Pateman is an excellent example of what feminist political philosophy can achieve.


The second part of the presentation looked at the relationship between feminism and philosophy from the other side:  What can philosophy offer feminism? According to Professor John’s, gender and its explication as a philosophical category that offers more scope to feminist theorising than the focus on "women" alone.  She also spoke of how the invisibility of women has been a major plank for a feminist politics and in feminist theorizing and in academic research.  The lecture demanded attention on what can be gained by a focus on gender and what kinds of philosophical investigations into gender can be fruitfully undertaken. In response to this question, the discussion turned to how the lens of gender reveals that while men are attributed with a false universality, women are seen as incapable of embodying the universal and are capable of providing only particular and limited epistemic value. Professor John concluded the lecture by indicating that feminism, while benefiting from philosophical insights, needs to go beyond any particular discipline in order to make its claims and engage in historical and social investigations to bring out most fully what she calls the "paradox of gender" in modern times.

Reading list

  1. Carole Pateman's The Sexual Contract.

  2. Judith (1990). Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge. 

  3. Sterling, Anne (2000). Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the struction of Sex. New York: Basic Books.

  4. De Beauvoir, Simone (1949). The Second Sex. (translated by H M Parshley, Penguin 1972.) 

  5. Moore, Henrietta, L. (1994). A Passion for Difference: Essays in anthropology gender. Indiana University Press.

  6. Rubin, Gayle (1974). "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the Political Economy Sex". In Rayna R. Reiter (Ed.), Towards an Anthropology of Women. Boston: Beacon Press.

  7. Wollstonecraft, Mary (1792). Vindication of the Rights of Womani www.jstor.org/stable/1 0.2307/3735238.

  8. Moi, Toril (2000). What is a woman? New York: Oxford University Press.

  9. IGNOU text book on Gender