A sampling of presentations and publications:

“Between Theory and Praxis: Art as Negative Dialectics”
Studies in Social and Political Thought (2013): 26 -51

This paper takes up Adorno’s aesthetics as a dialectic between philosophy and art. In doing so, I argue that art provides a unique way of mediating between theory and practice, between concepts and experience, and between subjectivity and objectivity, because in art these relations are flexible and left open to interpretation, which allows a form of thinking that can point beyond itself. Adorno thus uses reflection on art as a corrective for philosophy and its tendency towards ideology.

“Dilthey and the Rise of Modernism”
Rebecca Longtin Hansen
Eastern Division of American Society for Aesthetics
Philadelphia, PA
April 2013

What role does art play in our everyday lives and in coming to understand the world in which we live? My paper addresses this question by applying the aesthetic theory of Wilhelm Dilthey (1833 – 1911) to issues within contemporary everyday aesthetics. For Dilthey, art is a transformative experience that allows us to reflect on and understand the significance of our everyday lives. By discussing Dilthey’s aesthetic theory in terms of the distinction between the ‘everyday’ and the ‘aesthetic,’ my project addresses the larger implications of everyday aesthetics and argues for the need to situate art within the broad and diverse concerns of human experience.

“Film As Phantasm: Nietzsche’s Stoicism and the Belief in Cinema in ‘Dogville'”
Rebecca Longtin
Film-Philosophy Conference 2012
King’s College and Queen Mary University of London
September 2012

In The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006), Slajov Žižek describes Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003) as a film about the very possibility or impossibility of creating a film. Žižek’s statement is apt given the ways in which Dogville seems to defy the very idea of cinematic magic. The film constantly draws our attention to the fact that it is a created illusion and that the events unfolding before our eyes are not real. The events unfold on a minimalist set, which requires actors to mimic the actions of moving through spaces where there are no real boundaries and of handling objects that are not really there. As a result, Von Trier never lets his audience forget that we are viewing a film. The audience does not have the opportunity to accept the images as real. For this reason, as Žižek explains, Dogville is about “the question of believing in cinema itself: How to make today’s people still believe in the magic of cinema?”[1]  In response to this question, my paper addresses how Dogville frames the possibility or impossibility of belief itself. First, I will discuss how the film deconstructs and undermines sources of belief, especially religion and philosophy, in its plot and visual devices. Secondly, I will explore philosophical ideas that the film references implicitly in its plot and visuals (Nietzsche) and explicitly in its dialogue (the Stoics). In articulating these ideas and their relations beyond the film, I will describe the possibility of believing in what we know to be an illusion.

[1] The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Dir. Sophie Fiennes. Starring Slavoj Žižek. Mischief Films and Amoeba Film. 2009.

“The Dynamism of Form in the Critique of the Power of Judgment:
Reflections on Kant’s Formal Aesthetics”
Rebecca A. Longtin
North American Kant Society First Biannual Conference
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
June 2011

My paper is an attempt to defend Kant’s formal aesthetics by reexamining how form functions in the third critique. Contrary to the criticism that Kant’s aesthetics is a subjective framework devoid of actual content, I argue that such readings of the third critique rest on a misunderstanding of aesthetic form. In examining the distinctions between form in the first critique and the third critique, we can discern an expanded notion of form in Kant’s aesthetics that is dynamic rather than abstract, and reflective without being merely subjective. I then take up Kant’s aesthetic form in light of Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms to demonstrate the possibilities, rather than limitations, presented by Kant’s formal aesthetics.

“The Aesthetic Dimension of Archaeology: Visualizing History in Foucault and Agamben”
Rebecca A. Longtin
Society for European Philosophy
Rome, Italy
July 2010

As Deleuze describes in an interview: “archaeology is to do with archives, and an archive has two aspects, it’s audio-visual. A language lesson and an object lesson. It’s not a matter of words and things (the title of Foucault’s book [Les mots et les choses] is meant ironically). We have to take things and find visibilities in them” (Negotiations). My paper explores philosophical archaeology as a method of finding visibilities. In particular, I will discuss this visual method as an aesthetic practice insofar it draws attention to the shape of our thought and opens new spaces for thinking. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate how understanding archaeology as an aesthetic practice allows us to see its possibility for constructing new histories and new visual practices.

“Beyond Reflection: Tragedy, Pessimism and Infinite Resignation in Nietzsche and Kierkegaard”
Rebecca A. Longtin
Duquesne Graduate Student Conference, “Thinking Desire”
April 2010

            My paper addresses the possibility of re-uniting passion and intellect through tragedy. Whereas Plato expelled the tragic poets from his ideal republic through the rule of reason, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche treat tragedy as a confrontation with the real that exceeds the understanding and reveals the limits of pure reflection. Tragedy is not inferior to the insight of reason; tragedy is a challenge to the limits of reason. My paper presents these two thinkers’ separate accounts (in Fear and Trembling and The Birth of Tragedy) of how tragedy can overcome the limits of rational ethics to arrive at a higher philosophy—a philosophy that does not exclude the emotions, but relies upon them. By using Nietzsche’s figure of the tragic hero Dionysos in comparison with the knight of faith, we can see how the contradiction and suffering of tragedy exceeds the limits of reason and arrives at a higher truth: amor fati for Nietzsche and faith for Kierkegaard. In this way, thought cannot reach past the emotions, but finds its nature and essence in distress and contradiction. Philosophy is not simply prompted by tragedy; philosophy is tragic.