Round and Round Go Space and Time: The Afterlife of Lessing in Artistic Practice (Session at AAH 2011)

Date: March 31 – April 2, 2011
Venue: University of Warwick, UK

Session Convenors:

Sarah Lippert, Louisiana State University Shreveport,

Melissa Geiger, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania,

When Gotthold Ephraim Lessing wrote his treatise called Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry in 1766, the theory presented therein offered a systematic differentiation of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of each art. Supposedly so that they could peacefully coexist, Lessing endeavoured to equitably carve out spheres for visual and textual media, in support of Horace’s ut pictura poesis tradition. Painting and poetry were divided based upon the notion that poetry belonged to the realm of time, and painting to the province of space. While many scholars have evaluated the reception of these ideas by subsequent aesthetic theorists and in artistic treatises, as well as parallel theories in Lessing’s time, few have studied its more visceral effects on individual artists and their works, despite their absorption and percolation into artistic instruction and practice, both within and outside of academies of art.

This session hopes to explore artistic responses to Lessing’s aesthetic theory, as well as derivative theories ranging from the eighteenth century to Clement Greenberg and beyond. For instance, how have scholars of the Modern era expanded upon the legacy of these systems? Should we sound the death knell for the theories of Lessing, Greenberg, and their kind in the world of artistic production, or will conceptions of temporality, spatiality, and artistic competition continue to be played out indefinitely in all media, as W.J.T. Mitchell has proposed?

Submissions are welcome from scholars working on eighteenth-century to contemporary subjects in a variety of methodological approaches.

If you would like to offer a paper, please email the session convenor(s) directly, providing an abstract of your proposed paper in no more than 250 words, your name and institutional affiliation (if any). You may only submit an abstract to one AAH session. Please do not send proposals to the conference convenor.

See for submissions details, registration, and all further information:
[Please note: this is an archival entry; conference website may be discontinued.]