Professor of Philosophy
She teaches and writes on aesthetics, the philosophy of art and culture, feminist philosophy, and critical race theory.
She is a recipient of a 2015 Curriculum Diversification Award granted by the American Society for Aesthetics, for her project Theories of the Aesthetic: Rethinking Curricula in Philosophies of the Arts and Culture.
Roelofs is currently co-authoring a book provisionally titled “Aesthetics and Anachronism in Latin America” and completing a new monograph, “Arts of Address.”
Working with contemporary feminist approaches to questions of difference, this course asks what place we should give experiences that seem quite central to everyday cultural life: those of the mysterious, the playful, the funny, the useless, the intimate, and the indifferent. How do these experiences mesh with meanings put into play by language, the senses, performances, critical reason, and the market? How do they link up with alternative kinds of pleasure and desire? What other concepts should we add to the list? Readings in feminist theory will be coupled with discussions of literature, art, and other cultural productions.
Philosophers, cultural critics, and artists often invoke Friedrich Schiller's 1794 letters, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, in accounts of the relation between art and politics. Schiller's view of aesthetic life and its political powers turns out to be highly paradoxical. How do the tensions Schiller navigates reverberate in contemporary approaches to the relations between freedom and constraint, power and powerlessness, autonomy and the social, universality and difference? What do his notions of love, play, and beauty suggest for current perspectives on everyday aesthetic existence and for our capacities for critical participation in public and cultural life? Studying Schiller along with images, sound, and literature, we will read texts by writers such as Anna Julia Cooper, Du Bois, Benjamin, de Man, Kristeva, Ranciere, Lorde, Spivak, Enwezor, Kester, Ahmed, Ngai, and Lispector, among others. Division II and III students only.
This course examines contemporary philosophical questions about the body: What is the significance of the corporeal interdependence we sustain with others and the world? What part does this play in creating bodily orientations, boundaries, and distances? How do discipline, technology, and commerce shape bodies? In what ways is the body linked to language and other aesthetic idioms? To affect and materiality? How does the body signify intersecting forms of difference, such as those of race, class, gender, and sexuality? And how do these differences signify the body? What is at stake in distinctions between human and nonhuman bodies? How do queer and trans subjectivities speak to phantasmatic registers of materiality and vice versa? Why do some senses appear to sustain closer corporeal affiliations than others? What conceptions of power, hierarchy, and sociality do figurations of the body imply? Readings by Merleau-Ponty, Lacan, Fanon, Foucault, Kristeva, Irigaray, Butler, Alcoff, Weiss, Korsmeyer, Ahmed, Salamon, and others.
Along with his compatriot J.L. Borges, Julio Cortazar's writings altered contemporary literature. His fictions are relentlessly self-reflexive: they problematize the representation of reality through various linguistic and stylistic devices, which the course will study in detail. By reconstructing the literary traditions, cultural situations and historical moments in which his texts were produced and circulated we will also ascertain his impact. A particular rich case study will be his short-story "Las babas del diablo,' translated as "Blow-Up." The story became the basis for an intersemiotic translation, Antonioni's film "Blowup," which in turn was "re-made" by De Palma as "Blow Out." We will also pay attention to his collection of flash fiction, Cronopios and Famas, given how increasingly prevalent this genre has become due to the Internet.
Contemporary art, theory, and culture invite reflection on the status of aesthetic desire. Broadening and renewing aesthetics, theorists situate aesthetic desire and distaste in practices of commodification and their rhythms of novelty and obsolescence. Exploring the politics of art and culture, feminist, postcolonial, queer, and critical race theorists highlight pleasures, ambivalences, and oppressive facets of aesthetic phenomena. Artists investigate the role of aesthetic desire in a neoliberal, racial and gendered division of labor and in transnational flows of images that reconfigure space and time, memory and futurity. What concepts enable us to understand these forces and might help us turn them into desirable directions? Through texts by, among others, Kant, Marx, Freud, Adorno, Barthes, Bourdieu, Sarduy, Ranciere, Richard, hooks, Gilroy, Gagnier, Cheng, and Bishop, novels by Lispector and Eltit, and other cultural productions, this course examines contemporary figurations of aesthetic desire and distaste. Div. II and Div. III students only.
Contemporary critical theorists such as Gayatri Spivak turn trajectories for ethical and political life, as do recent writers on participatory art. What are the powers and pitfalls of this approach? What shifts do philosophical understandings of art undergo in the emerging views of material existence or culture? What new configurations of reading, form, critique, relationality, singularity, and experience are arising? This course examines major concepts in the history of aesthetics (through Kant, Hegel, Schiller, Dewey, Lispector, Garca Mrquez, and Kincaid), in contemporary philosophy and in critical race feminism (through Spivak, Mignolo, Davis, Schor, and Cheng) to develop positions in the debates currently raging in aesthetics.
Philosophers and critical theorists such as Fanon, Althusser, Foucault, Butler, Johnson, and Ahmed indicate that subjectivity, embodiment, and social difference emerge within relationships of address among persons, and among persons and objects. Cultural critics place address at the center of the ethical, political, and aesthetic dimensions of artworks and other cultural productions. What can we learn about representation and reading by considering modes in which we address and are addressed? What insights into institutionality, power, and the global does a framework of address make possible? What conceptions of address inform writings by Benjamin, Barthes, Hansen, Bhabha, Kafka, and Cortazar, among others? How is address linked to desire, experience, publicity, collectivity, aesthetic form, perception, materiality, technology, and the senses? These questions form our point of entry into key texts in twentieth- and twenty-first century philosophy and cultural criticism. Prerequisites: Two theory courses required. Division II and III students only.