27992 - Contemporary Aesthetics

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

Students are expected to acquire knowledge of the main issues of the aesthetics of the last century. They also acquire the essential conceptual and methodological tools in order to investigate crucial issues that are at the centre of contemporary aesthetic debate, according to a predominantly theoretical-problematic approach.

Course contents

This seminar-based module analyses a group of texts that constitute the working notes of the courses Merleau-Ponty gave at the Collège de France between 1953 and 1954. If in the 1945 work, the Phenomenology of Perception, the centre of investigation was represented by corporeality, to which the phenomenon of expression was brought back, even if not reduced, in the context of these courses the relationship between expression, sensibility and language takes centre stage. After an in-depth examination of Merleau-Ponty's references to Saussure's linguistics, to studies on the problems of aphasia and the acquisition of speech in childhood, special attention will be given to the analysis of literary language and to Merleau-Ponty's main authors of reference: Valéry, Stendhal, Sartre and Proust. Using also the direct reading of the sources, of the literary passages commented by Merleau-Ponty, the peculiar philosophical use that Merleau-Ponty makes of literature will be questioned.


Class schedule

First week: introduction to Merleau-Ponty

Second week: reading and commentary of "La prose du monde"

Third week: "Le monde sensible et le monde de l'expression"

Fourth week: "Recherches sur l'usage littéraire du langage"

Fifth week: "Le problème de la parole"


Students are free to choose one mandatory reading from the group 1) and one from the group 2)


M. Merleau-Ponty, La prosa del mondo, a cura di P. Dalla Vigna, Mimesis, Milano-Udine 2019.

- M. Merleau-Ponty, Il mondo sensibile e il mondo dell’espressione, a cura di A.C. Dalmasso, prefazione di M. Carbone, Mimesis, Milano-Udine.

- M. Merleau-Ponty, Recherches sur l’usage littéraire du langage. Cours au Collège de France. Note, 1953, testo stabilito da B. Zaccarello e E. de Saint Aubert, note e prefazione di B. Zaccarello, MetisPresses, Genève 2013.

- M. Merleau-Ponty, Le problème de la parole. Cours au Collège de France. Notes, 1953-1954, MetisPresses, Genève 2020.

2) - G.A. Johnson, M. Carbone, E. de Saint Aubert, Merleau-Ponty’s Poetic of the World. Philosophy and Literature, Fordham University Press, New York 2020.

- L. Vanzago, Merleau-Ponty, Carocci, Roma 2012.


Programm for non-attending students

Non attending students are expected to prepare extra mandatory reading:

E. Caramelli, Merleau-Ponty e la "innere Sprachform". Tra linguaggio filosofico e parola letteraria, «Ermeneutica letteraria», XV (2019), pp. 95 - 106.

Teaching methods

Traditional lectures and discussions with students.

Assessment methods

The final proof will take place in the form of a viva voce examination. During the examination the teacher will assess whether the student has achieved or not some basic educational goals:

– knowledge of the texts and capacity to contextualize authors and works;

– comprehension of the fundamental concepts and capacity to provide a correct interpretation of them;

– clarity in the explanation of concepts and accuracy in the use of philosophical terminology;

– capacity to establish connections between the various themes from both a historical and a strictly speaking conceptual point of view.

As optional, students can prepare a paper. The choice of written paper is strongly recommended. The paper is to be handed in by e-mail at least 10 days before the exam date. In this case, the oral examination will consist in the discussion of the paper.

The students can write: option 1: a paper (20000-25000 characters c.ca, including blank spaces) on a topic to be agreed with the teacher relating to one of the texts in the syllabus; option 2: a book review (max. 15000/20000 characters) on Merleau-Ponty [a text in the syllabus group a) must also be studied]

The paper must deal with one of the topics discussed in class, must be based on a Merleau-Ponty’s text in bibliography and it must be linguistically and stylistically correct. The essay will be evaluated both for form and for content.

During the class, the teacher will provide instructions on how to write the final essay.

For the evaluation of the oral examination/written paper the teacher will assess if the student possesses the abovementioned knowledge and skills in a (more or less) complete, precise and adequate way, or vice-versa in a (more or less) incomplete, vague and superficial way. The final grade will correspondently vary from excellent (30 and honors) to very good (30) to good (27-29) to fairly good (24-26) to more than enough (21-23) to merely enough (18-21) to unsatisfactory (<18).


Students with disabilities and Specific Learning Disorders (SLD)Students with disabilities or Specific Learning Disorders have the right to special accommodations according to their condition, following an assessment by the Service for Students with Disabilities and SLD. Please do not contact the teacher but get in touch with the Service directly to schedule an appointment. It will be the responsibility of the Service to determine the appropriate adaptations. For more information, visit the page:



Teaching tools

All the aforementioned texts (in the specified editions) are an essential tool in order to actively participate in the classes. It is recommended to get hold of the texts before classe because specific parts will be read and commented.

Some texts will be provided via Virtuale

Office hours

See the website of Eleonora Caramelli


Quality education

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.