1st Edition

Gadamer’s Hermeneutical Aesthetics Art as a Performative, Dynamic, Communal Event

By Cynthia R. Nielsen Copyright 2023
    172 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers a sustained scholarly analysis of Gadamer’s reflections on art and our experience of art. It examines fundamental themes in Gadamer’s hermeneutical aesthetics such as play, festival, symbol, contemporaneity, enactment, art’s performative ontology, and hermeneutical identity.

    The first two chapters focus on Gadamer’s critical appropriation and movement beyond Kantian and Hegelian aesthetics. (Chapter 2 also includes a coda on Heidegger’s influence.) The final three chapters argue for the continued relevance of Gadamer’s hermeneutical aesthetics by bringing his claims into conversation with contemporary art and music, as well as the ethical and sociopolitical dimensions of the Artworld and art praxis. The ethical and sociopolitical aspects of art- and music-making are given particular attention in chapters devoted to 20th-century African American artist Romare Bearden, Banksy’s street art, and a range of jazz expressions, from traditional jazz to the complex practice of free jazz.

    Gadamer’s Hermeneutical Aesthetics will appeal to researchers and advanced students working on Gadamer, philosophical hermeneutics, continental philosophy, aesthetics, and the philosophy of contemporary art and music.


    Chapter 1: Kantian Resonances and Dissonances

    Chapter 2: Hegelian Resonances and Dissonances (and A Heideggerian Coda)

    Chapter 3: Romare Bearden’s Collages and Art’s Address: On World De-fabrication and Reconfiguration

    Chapter 4: Banksy, Street Art, and A Benjaminian Coda

    Chapter 5: It’s All About (Hermeneutical) Movement: Play, Leeway, Difference, and a Coda on Free Jazz


    Cynthia R. Nielsen is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dallas, where she teaches courses in the areas of hermeneutics, aesthetics, contemporary continental philosophy, and the history of philosophy. She has two previously published books; a forthcoming co-edited book, Gadamer’s Truth and Method: A Polyphonic Commentary (Rowman & Littlefield, March 2022); and her articles have appeared in journals such as Philosophy Today, Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, and Philosophy and Literature.

    "By placing Gadamer’s hermeneutical aesthetics in critical dialogue with both key aesthetic theories of the philosophical tradition as well as with important contemporary artists and art movements, Nielsen’s well-conceived study develops a vibrant bridge between past and present that clearly demonstrates the continued relevance of Gadamer’s hermeneutics for our comprehension of the experience and understanding of art."

    Daniel L. Tate, St. Bonaventure University, USA

    "Cynthia Nielson’s study of the historical impact of Kant’s aesthetics on Gadamer’s hermeneutical aesthetics and of the application of philosophical hermeneutics to contemporary music and art practice, has transformative implications. By revealing the ontological frameworks which enable the works of Bearden and Bansky to be so effective, her book demonstrates the contemporaneousness of Gadamer’s hermeneutics. This volume is a notable achievement. It offers a doubled disclosure: whilst concretising Gadamer’s philosophical concepts in contemporary art practice, it also shows how art’s images reach beyond their immediacy by instantiating the structures of meaning informing them."

    Nicholas Davey, University of Dundee, UK