Lesson of Darkness: Phenomenology and Lyotard’s Late Aesthetics

Ashley Woodward (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    1 Citation (Scopus)
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    This paper examines the relationship of Jean-François Lyotard’s aesthetics to phenomenology, especially the works of Mikel Dufrenne and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. It argues that this comparison allows a greater understanding of Lyotard’s late aesthetic writings, which can appear gnomic and which have received relatively little critical attention. Lyotard credits Merleau-Ponty with opening the theme of difference in the aesthetic field, yet believes that the phenomenological approach can never adequately account for it. After outlining Lyotard’s early critiques of Dufrenne and Merleau-Ponty, the paper will demonstrate how his late aesthetics can be understood as returning to phenomenological themes but in the form of a reversal. Lyotard’s “lesson of darkness” is that the secret power of art can never be brought into the light of phenomenal appearance, and that artworks do not testify to the birth of perception, but to its death and resurrection.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)104-119
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of the British Society for Phenomenology
    Issue number2
    Early online date9 Sept 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2019


    • Jean-François Lyotard
    • Maurice Merleau-Ponty
    • Mikel Dufrenne
    • Phenomenology
    • aesthetics
    • philosophy of art

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Philosophy


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