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Aesthetics and Criticism

Code: 100278 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
2500246 Philosophy OT 3 0
2500246 Philosophy OT 4 0
The proposed teaching and assessment methodology that appear in the guide may be subject to changes as a result of the restrictions to face-to-face class attendance imposed by the health authorities.


Gerard Vilar Roca

Use of Languages

Principal working language:
catalan (cat)
Some groups entirely in English:
Some groups entirely in Catalan:
Some groups entirely in Spanish:


Ager Perez Casanovas


English competences with fluid reading comprehension are strongly recommended.

Objectives and Contextualisation

This course aims to provide the student with the essential theoretical, methodological and instrumental tools to analyze the relationship between art and criticism, in the double sense of the critical task that art can do and in the sense of the practice of criticism of art. Therefore, it seeks to improve the vocabulary of the student when writing and talking critically about art, especially about contemporary art. In this sense, it is conceived as both a theoretical and practical subject.

This year, the course will focus on the problems of aesthetics and the criticism of images, examining to what extent images constitute a possibility of thought that resists the disciplinary nature with which the treatment of images has been addressed, especially by the methodology of art history. In this sense, it seeks to promote an understanding of "criticism" conceived not merely as an activity consisting of judging ideas, artistic practices or social movements, but rather as one that investigates the conditions of possibility.

The specific objectives of the subject are the course:

  1. Understanding the main problems of aesthetic criticism
  2. The knowledge of the main theoretical approaches in the discussion of these problems
  3. The familiarization with the main texts and discourses of the tradition from the 18th century to the present
  4. Knowing the vocabulary and the argumentation deployed in the past with current validity
  5. Establishing a dialogue between the texts and ideas of tradition and the present as history
  6. Cultivating the critical sense in the student as a central element of the understanding of art and aesthetic phenomena
  7. Cultivating the student's skills and abilities for written criticism 


  • Analysing and summarising the main arguments of fundamental texts of philosophy in its various disciplines.
  • Developing critical thinking and reasoning and communicating them effectively both in your own and other languages.
  • Identifying the main philosophical attitudes in the field of aesthetics and critically applying them in the art world.
  • Recognising and interpreting topics and problems of philosophy in its various disciplines.
  • Respecting the diversity and plurality of ideas, people and situations.
  • Students must be capable of applying their knowledge to their work or vocation in a professional way and they should have building arguments and problem resolution skills within their area of study.
  • Students must be capable of collecting and interpreting relevant data (usually within their area of study) in order to make statements that reflect social, scientific or ethical relevant issues.
  • Students must be capable of communicating information, ideas, problems and solutions to both specialised and non-specialised audiences.
  • Students must develop the necessary learning skills to undertake further training with a high degree of autonomy.
  • Students must have and understand knowledge of an area of study built on the basis of general secondary education, and while it relies on some advanced textbooks it also includes some aspects coming from the forefront of its field of study.
  • Thinking in a critical and independent manner on the basis of the specific topics, debates and problems of philosophy, both historically and conceptually.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Accurately describing an artistic object with the specific language of art criticism.
  2. Analysing and summarising information.
  3. Analysing the fundamental concepts of Theory of Art with a critical eye.
  4. Applying philosophical rigour in a written text following the international quality standards.
  5. Autonomously searching, selecting and processing information both from structured sources (databases, bibliographies, specialized magazines) and from across the network.
  6. Carrying out a planning for the development of a subject-related work.
  7. Carrying out oral presentations using an appropriate academic vocabulary and style.
  8. Correctly, accurately and clearly communicating the acquired philosophical knowledge in oral and written form.
  9. Demonstrating a personal stance over a problem or controversy of philosophical nature, or a work of philosophical research.
  10. Developing self-learning strategies.
  11. Discriminating the features that define the writer's place in the context of a problem and reorganising them in a consistent diagram.
  12. Distinguishing and analysing classical and current debates of the History of Art.
  13. Effectively communicating and applying the argumentative and textual processes to formal and scientific texts.
  14. Engaging in debates about philosophical issues respecting the other participants' opinions.
  15. Establishing relationships between science, philosophy, art, religion, politics, etc.
  16. Explaining the specific notions of the History of Philosophy.
  17. Identifying the artistic imagery, placing it into its cultural context.
  18. Identifying the main and secondary ideas and expressing them with linguistic correctness.
  19. Identifying the regulatory, stylistic or argumentative errors of a text.
  20. Interpreting the contents of a text about Theory of Art.
  21. Mastering the relevant languages to the necessary degree in the professional practice.
  22. Producing an individual work that specifies the work plan and timing of activities.
  23. Reading basic philosophical text thoroughly.
  24. Recognising, with a critical eye, aesthetic referents of the past and present and assessing its importance.
  25. Relating elements and factors involved in the development of scientific processes.
  26. Solving problems autonomously.
  27. Submitting works in accordance with both individual and small group demands and personal styles.
  28. Using specialized knowledge acquired in an interdisciplinary context when debating.
  29. Using suitable terminology when drawing up an academic text.


The course revolves around the philosophical problem of non-propositional forms of knowledge, focusing on the problems of aesthetic epistemologies and the criticism of images, investigating to what extent images constitute a possibility of thinking that resists the disciplinary nature with which the treatment of images is usually addressed, especially by the methodology of art history. In this sense, it seeks to promote an understanding of  "critique" not merely conceived as an activity consisting of judging ideas, artistic practices or social movements, but rather as one that investigates the conditions of possibility and the modes of creation. within the framework of an expanded conception of what can be considered "knowledge".


1. Images as a triple possibility of thinking.

2. Crisis of representation

3. The unrepresentable

4. The society of the spectacle

5. The image as a symptom.

6. The creation of thought-images.

7. Thinking with images


The methodology works on three fronts:


1. Theoretical class/ Lecture The program is configured according to a calendar. Each day the teacher will present a topic that the students must have prepared. The session will be carried out from a digital presentation with concepts and texts and will include the discussion with the students.


2. Tutorial system to be carried out through individual or small group meetings


3. Elaboration of personalized learning itineraries for the autonomous work of the student.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Lectures 45 1.8 3, 2, 9, 15, 13, 7, 19, 20, 23, 24
Type: Supervised      
Tutorials and personalized learning development 26 1.04 5, 22, 6, 16, 7, 27
Type: Autonomous      
Home work 71.5 2.86 10, 21, 22, 6, 27, 26


There will be a continuous assessment which consists of the following three parts:


1. Realization of two partial exams

Partial 1 
Partial 2 

2. Writing of a short essay of 2000 words

General information

- At the beginning of the course, the format to be followed for the writing of the philosophical essay and an expanded list of recommended readings will be provided.

- In the calendar of activities that will be available at the beginning of the course, the dates of sitting of the written exams and the submission deadline for the remaining exercises are indicated. For a correct continuous evaluation, submissions outside the set deadlines will not be accepted. For more information, see the re-assessment criteria.

- Any change in the dates of evaluation or content will be notified with sufficient time in advance in class.

- In the event that tests or exams cannot be taken onsite, they will be adapted to an online format made available through the UAB’s virtual tools (original weighting will be maintained). Homework, activities and class participation will be carried out through forums, wikis and/or discussion on Teams, etc. Lecturers will ensure that students are able to access these virtual tools, or will offer them feasible alternatives.

- In the event of a student committing any irregularity that may lead to a significant variation in the grade awarded to an assessment activity, the student will be given a zero for this activity,
regardless of any disciplinary process that may take place. In the event of several irregularities in assessment activities of the same subject, the student will be given a zero as the final grade for this subject.



Students who do not sit at least one of the two partial exams will not be evaluated at the end of the course, unless they contact the personresponsible for the course sufficiently in advance, in order to consider an alternative form of evaluation. agreed between the teacher and the student.

Reassessment criteria

To have a final grade, it is necessary for the student to be evaluated of both the partial exams and the essay submission.

Reassessment date: to be determined.


Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
3 Proofs 25 % each of the three 7.5 0.3 2, 4, 8, 28, 1, 11, 12, 21, 16, 29, 19, 17, 18, 25
Attendance and participation in lectures 25 % 0 0 3, 2, 5, 8, 28, 9, 1, 10, 11, 12, 22, 15, 6, 16, 13, 7, 29, 19, 17, 20, 23, 14, 27, 24, 25, 26


Basic compulsory readings

(Students must check the teacher's website at the beginning of the course to see if there are any changes regarding the readings and contents of the course)


Module 1:


Hans Belting, «Image, Medium, Body », Critical Inquiry  31 (2005): 302-319. full text.

W.T.J. Mitchell, « what is an image ». full text.

Horst Bredekamp, Teoría del acto icónico, Madrid, Akal, 2017, pp. 15-39.


Modeule 2:


George Steiner, « La crisis del lenguaje », en Presencias Reales, Destino, 1989, pp. 111-145.

Walter Benjamin, “La obra de arte en la época de su reproductibilidad técnica” en Obras, I.2, Madrid, Abada Editores, 2008.

Michel Foucault, Esto no es una pipa. Ensayo sobre Magritte, Barcelona, Anagrama, 1981, pp.47-51.



Jacques Rancière, « Si existe lo irrepresentable ». Todo.


Module 4:

Guy Debord, La sociedad del espectáculo. [selected fragments] Ensayos, Madrid: Siruela, 2007.

Jacques Rancière, “Crítica de la crítica del espectáculo”, en: VV.AA, Pensar desde la izquierda, Madrid, Errata Naturae, 2012. Full text.


Module 5: 

Sigmund Freud, “Un recuerdo infantil de Leonardo da Vinci”, Obras Completas. fulltext.

Jacques Rancière, “La imagen  intolerable”, en El espectador emancipado, pp. 87-106.


Module 6:

Nelson Goodman, "Ways of worldmaking", chap 1.

Gilles Deleuze, « Qué es un acto de creación ». full text.


Module 7:

Jacques Rancière, “Imágenes pensativas” en: El espectador emancipado, Castellón, Ellago, 2010, pp. 107-129.



Further reading 

Azoulay, Ariella, “What is a Photograph?”, Philosophy of Photography, 1 (2010), pp. 9-13.

Barthes, Roland, La cámara lúcida, Buenos Aires, Editorial Paidós, 2005.

Bellour, Raymond, Entre imágenes: foto, cine, video, Buenos Aires, Colihue, 2009.

Benjamin, Walter, Sobre la fotografía, Madrid, Pre-textos, 2004.

Brea, José Luis, Estudios visuales. La epistemología de la visualidad en la era de la globalización, Madrid, Akal, 2005.

Brea, José Luis, Las tres Eras de la imagen. Imagen-Materia, Filme, E-Imagen, Madrid, Ediciones Akal, 2010.

Debray, Regis, Vida y muerte de la imagen. Historia de la mirada en Occidente, Barcelona, Editorial Paidós, 1994.

Denisova, Anastasia, Internet Memes and Society, Routledge, 2019.

Didi-Huberman, Georges, La imagen superviviente. Historia del arte y tiempo de los fantasmas según Aby Warburg, Madrid, Abada Editores, 2009.

Elkins, James, “Un seminario sobre teoría de la imagen”, Revista Estudios Visuales,7, pp.132-173, 2010.

Foucault, Michel, Las palabras y las cosas. Una arqueología de las ciencias humanas, Madrid, Siglo XXI, 2010.

García, Ana María (Ed.) Filosofía de la imagen. Salamanca, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2011.

Guasch, Ana María, “Los estudios visuales. Un estado de la cuestión”, Revista Estudios Visuales, 1, pp. 8-16, 2003.

Heidegger, Martin, La época de la imagen del mundo, Santiago, Ediciones de los Anales de la Universidad de Chile, 1958.

Melot, Michel, Breve historia de la imagen, Madrid, Ediciones Siruela, 2010.

Mitchell, W. J. T. What do pictures want?: the lives and loves of images, Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Nancy, Jean-Luc “The image-the distinct” en The Ground of the image, New York, Fordham University Press, 2005.



The main reading materials for the course and a complete bibliography are available in the teacher's website: greta.cat/grau