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15.03.2023   kl. 11:15 - 12:15

DIAS Lecture: Martial Aesthetics - How War Became an Art Form

Anders Engberg-Pedersen, Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department for the Study of Culture, an affiliate of the Center for War Studies at SDU, and DIAS Chair of Humanities

Martial Aesthetics: How War Became an Art Form

This talk presents a new book that just appeared with Stanford University Press. It grows out of two collective research projects funded by Velux and Carlsberg that examined the relations between warfare and aesthetics.

A common approach in the humanities has been to trace the impact of war on broad range of art works. But the pervasive militarization of aesthetics in the twenty-first century raises a different set of questions: what is the impact of aesthetics on war? To what extent is warfare itself an aesthetic phenomenon? And how has the creative world-making of art been co-opted by military institutions and merged with the destructive forces of war?

Martial Aesthetics examines the origins of this unlikely merger, showing that today's creative warfare is merely the extension of a historical development that began long ago. Indeed, the emergence of martial aesthetics harkens back to a series of inventions, ideas, and debates in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

Already then, military thinkers and inventors adopted ideas from the field of aesthetics about the nature, purpose, and force of art and retooled them into innovative military technologies and a new theory that conceptualized war not merely as a practical art, but as an aesthetic art form. The talk gives an overview of the book and presents some of its key findings.

Anders Engberg-Pedersen's research centres on the cultural forms of warfare from the 17th century until today. They include the fields of literature (German, French, Russian, Scandinavian), aesthetics, the history of knowledge, and technology and media.

Among several volumes, his books on war and knowledge, war and aesthetics, and war and literary studies are published by Harvard University Press, Stanford University Press, and Cambridge University Press. He serves as editor of the book series ‘Prisms: Humanities and War’ with MIT Press.

Current research includes a project on the rise of a martial philosophy in France in the 1970s and 1980s and a project on compromised authors (from Céline to Handke). He also has a long-standing interest in debates about the role and value of the humanities in society.

The lecture takes place in the DIAS Seminar Room, Fioniavej 34. Everybody is welcome and no registration is needed.