Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
Within the conceptual framework of biopolitics and political theology, the author draws from the work of Foucault, Agamben, Derrida, Benjamin, and Schmitt to discuss the historical and theoretical conditions for an aesthetic theory structured according to a legal logic. The thesis discusses the two contrary positions of Foucault and Derrida on the historical specificity of madness, in order to argue that the same theoretical and methodological impasse emerges in subsequent discussions of biopolitics and the ontology of law. Agamben’s third position, in which Derrida’s deconstruction of law and Foucault’s historical analysis of the biopolitical law are given equal truth value, is then seen as a possible solution to the perceived incompatibility of an ontological and historical understanding of law – and of order in general, be it literary, aesthetic or juridical. In two essays the thesis then examines, in the first essay, an early text by Immanuel Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime from 1764 and, in the second, the novel Spader Dame from 1824 by the Swedish Romantic writer Clas Livijn. The author argues that these two texts articulate two different ways of classifying aesthetic phenomena – such as the sublime, beauty, poetry, etc. – in order to demonstrate the emergence of a juridical paradigm of aesthetic genre. In the Observations, Kant is shown to anticipate Lessing’s ontological system of historically conditioned aesthetic distinctions as based on the distinction between the two primary ontological qualities of the beautiful and sublime. Kant’s text is then contrasted with the juridical paradigm present in his critical writings and the writings of Friedrich Schlegel. In Livijn’s Romantic novel, on the other hand, a contingent system of norms is shown at work in the articulation of a concept of poetry as distinct from, but fundamentally dependent on, a juridical discourse. This paradigmatic shift between the two systems of aesthetic genre – one based on ontology and the other on contingent norms – is tied to the biopolitical shift in the juridical discourse which Foucault traces to the second half of the eighteenth century, in which the juridical subject is replaced by the subject of political economy. These two readings are aimed at illustrating the possibility of understanding order – in this case aesthetic orders – as both possessing historically distinctive traits, as claimed by Foucault, and as adhering to the logical structures, which in the thesis are referred to as ontological, described by Derrida.