Lacan’s, Foucault’s, and Deleuze’s conflicting understanding of the relation between subject and structure nonetheless materialised in a common effort to separate aesthetics and the work of art from traditional metaphysics.
In this one-day intensive course we will compare and contrast the respective stances of these towering figures of twentieth-century French thought on the specific questions of the gaze and the baroque as an exceptional form of art.
We will begin by introducing Lacan’s notion of the gaze as a privileged object of the Freudian drive and focus on how he often discusses it with reference to highly original interpretations of specific works of art (such as Holbein’s The Ambassadors). We will then turn to Foucault’s consideration of the gaze in The Birth of the Clinic and try to identify the reason why Lacan deemed this book to be indispensible reading for a novel psychoanalytic assessment of the visual drive.
This will lead us to compare and contrast Lacan’s and Foucault’s contemporary and extensive engagement with Velázquez’s Las Meninas as a turning point not only in the history of art but also of knowledge and the mode of subjectivity. In the last part of the course we will proceed to examine Deleuze’s and Lacan’s fascination with the baroque.
On the one hand, we will show how they both single it out as an aesthetics eliciting a new conception of the body, the world, and the status of the object. On the other, it will be a matter of evidencing how these surprising similarities still presuppose and sustain almost opposite ontologies – Deleuze’s chaotic and vitalist cosmos of folds; Lacan’s subject of enjoyment as absolute difference.