New Book | Rethinking Lessing’s Laocoon

Posted in books by Editor on March 26, 2018

From Oxford UP:

Avi Lifschitz and Michael Squire, eds., Rethinking Lessing’s Laocoon: Antiquity, Enlightenment, and the ‘Limits’ of Painting and Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 480 pages, ISBN: 978-0198802228, $110.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing first published Laokoon, oder uber die Grenzen der Mahlerey und Poesie (Laocoon, or on the Limits of Painting and Poetry) in 1766. Over the last 250 years, Lessing’s essay has exerted an incalculable influence on western critical thinking. Not only has it directed the history of post-Enlightenment aesthetics, it has also shaped the very practices of ‘poetry’ and ‘painting’ in a myriad of different ways.

In this anthology of specially commissioned chapters—comprising the first ever edited book on the Laocoon in English—a range of leading critical voices has been brought together to reassess Lessing’s essay on its 250th anniversary. Combining perspectives from multiple disciplines (including classics, intellectual history, philosophy, aesthetics, media studies, comparative literature, and art history), the book explores the Laocoon from a plethora of critical angles. Chapters discuss Lessing’s interpretation of ancient art and poetry, the cultural backdrops of the eighteenth century, and the validity of the Laocoon‘s observations in the fields of aesthetics, semiotics, and philosophy. The volume shows how the Laocoon exploits Greek and Roman models to sketch the proper spatial and temporal ‘limits’ (Grenzen) of what Lessing called ‘poetry’ and ‘painting’; at the same time it demonstrates how Lessing’s essay is embedded within Enlightenment theories of art, perception, and historical interpretation, as well as within nascent eighteenth-century ideas about the ‘scientific’ study of Classical antiquity (Altertumswissenschaft). To engage critically with the Laocoon, and to make sense of its legacy over the last 250 years, consequently involves excavating various ‘classical presences’: by looking back to the Graeco-Roman past, the volume demonstrates, Lessing forged a whole new tradition of modern aesthetics.

Avi Lifschitz is Associate Professor of European History and Fellow of Magdalen College at the University of Oxford. Among his publications are Language and Enlightenment: The Berlin Debates of the Eighteenth Century and the edited volumes Engaging with Rousseau and Epicurus in the Enlightenment (the latter co-edited with Neven Leddy). Michael Squire is Reader in Classical Art at King’s College London. His books include The Iliad in a Nutshell: Visualizing Epic on the Tabulae Iliacae and The Art of the Body: Antiquity and Its Legacy.


List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Note on Laocoon Editions

Foreword: Why Lessing’s Laocoon Still Matters, W. J. T. Mitchell
1  Introduction: Rethinking Lessings Laocoon from across the Humanities, Avi Lifschitz and Michael Squire
Laocoon Today: On the Conceptual Infrastructure of Lessing’s Treatise, David Wellbery
Laocoon among the Gods, or: On the Theological Limits of Lessing’s Grenzen, Michael Squire
4  Lessing’s Laocoon as Analytical Instrument: The Perspectives of a Classical Archaeologist, Luca Giuliani
5  Sympathy, Tragedy, and the Morality of Sentiment in Lessing’s Laocoon, Katherine Harloe
6  Mendelssohn’s Critique of Lessing’s Laocoon, Frederick Beiser
7  Naturalizing the Arbitrary: Lessing’s Laocoon and Enlightenment Semiotics, Avi Lifschitz
8  Temporalizationa Lessing’s Laocoon and the Problem of Narration in Eighteenth-Century Historiography, Daniel Fulda, translated from the German by Steven Tester
9  Criticism as Poetry? Lessing’s Laocoon and the Limits of Critique, Élisabeth Décultot, translated from the German by Steven Tester
10  Suffering in Art: Laocoon between Lessing and Goethe, Ritchie Robertson
11  Transparency and Imaginative Engagement: Material as Medium in Lessing’s Laocoon, Jason Gaiger
12  Lessing’s Laocoon and the ‘As-If’ of Aesthetic Experience, Jonas Grethlein
13  Art and Necessity: Rethinking Lessing’s Critical Practice, Paul Kottman
14  Image and Text in Lessing’s Laocoon: From Friendly Semiotic Neighbours to Articulatory Twins, Jurgen Trabant
15  Envoi: The Two-Fold Liminality of Lessing’s Laocoon, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

Notes on Contributors



Chatsworth Reopens after £33m Restoration

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on March 26, 2018

Before and after restoration at Chatsworth, from Treasure House of England.

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Press release, via Art Daily (24 March 2018) . . .

Chatsworth Renewed: The House Past, Present, and Future
Chatsworth, 24 March — 21 October 2018

With its gold leaf and pale yellow stonework glinting in the spring sunshine, Chatsworth reopens on 24 March 2018 following the biggest restoration and conservation of the house, garden, and park since the 1820s. The 10-year long programme, costing more than £32m, sees Chatsworth restored to its full glory, inside and out. The Chatsworth Renewed exhibition, running between March and October, highlights the work of those involved in the restoration process. From rebuilding the Belvedere turrets to replacing vast tracts of lead on the roof, carving the tiniest details in stone using dentistry tools to replacing huge blocks in the walls, careful restoration of priceless artworks to the renovation of famous water features in the garden, over the last decade Chatsworth has been fully restored and made ready for the next century.

The Duke of Devonshire: “The level of forensic research, expertise, and craftsmanship applied by so many people has been absolutely inspiring. It has always been a thrilling moment to see the house come into view as you drive across the park and now that view has been made even more magical. With the years of blackened grime now removed from the stone, it looks truly magnificent.”

In 1981, the charitable Chatsworth House Trust was set up by the 11th Duke to ensure the long-term survival of the house and collection. Since 1949 the entrance money paid by more than 25 million visitors has made a vital contribution to the maintenance of the house and garden, and it is this income, rather than any public funding, that has enabled the current restoration works to be completed.

Visitors will also be able to see the artwork of Linder Sterling, artist-in-residence at Chatsworth and a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award winning artist.

Linder Sterling, Eidothea (left), 2017, and Latona, 2018 (right).

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Her Grace Land by Linder Sterling
Chatsworth, 24 March — 21 October 2018

Award-winning artist Linder Sterling (b. 1954) spent several months over winter 2017 immersing herself in the life of the Chatsworth Estate as the inaugural artist-in-residence. As well as creating a new image bank for future photo montages to take Chatsworth ‘out into the world’, some of the pieces created during her residency will go on display at Chatsworth. Her Grace Land features four installations exploring the female voice at Chatsworth in the centenary year of the Act of Representation.

N.B. — At the risk of puncturing the joke with an explanation, I would note that the former Duchess of Devonshire, Deborah Cavendish nee Mitford (1920–2014), was an ardent Elvis fan. CH

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