Queer Beauty: Winckelmann and Kant on the Vicissitudes of the Ideal

In Peg Brand Weiser (ed.), Beauty Unlimited. Indiana University Press. pp. 97-125 (2013)
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The history of modern and contemporary art provides many examples of the "queering" of cultural and social norms. It has been tempting to consider this process of subversion and transgression, or "outlaw representation", as well as related performances of "camp" or other gay inflections of the dominant forms of representation, to be the most creative mode of queer cultural production. Whether or not this is true in the history of later nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, we can identify a historical process in modern culture that has worked in the opposite direction--namely, the constitution of aesthetic ideals, cultural norms that claim validity within an entire society, which have been based on manifestly homoerotic prototypes and significances. There has been little subversion or camp in these configurations. Indeed, perhaps there has been a surfeit of idealizing configuration and normalizing representation. But as Johann Joachim Winckelmann's art history and Immanuel Kant's aesthetics might suggest, such idealization can be no less queer than camp inflections or outlaw representations.



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