9781517900748: Hardback
Release Date: 15th October 2017

9781517900755: Paperback
Release Date: 15th October 2017

Dimensions: 140 x 216

Number of Pages: 304

Series Posthumanities

University of Minnesota Press


Making Sense of Life in Science and the Arts

Hardback / £103.00
Paperback / £24.99

In recent years, bioaesthetics has used the latest discoveries in evolutionary studies and neuroscience to provide new ways of looking at art and aesthetics. Carsten Strathausen’s remarkable exploration of this emerging field is the first comprehensive account of its ideas, as well as a timely critique of its limitations. 

Strathausen familiarizes readers with the basics of bioaesthetics, grounding them in its philosophical underpinnings while articulating its key components. Importantly, he delves into the longstanding problem of the “two cultures” that separate the arts and the sciences. Seeking to make bioaesthetics a more robust way of thinking, Strathausen then critiques it for failing to account for science’s historical and cultural assumptions. At its worst, he says, biologism reduces artworks to mere automatons that rubber-stamp pre-established scientific truths. 

Written with a sensitive understanding of science’s strengths, and willing to refute its best arguments, Bioaesthetics helps readers separate the sensible from the specious. At a time when humanities departments are shrinking—and when STEM education is on the rise—Bioaesthetics makes vital points about the limitations of science, while lodging a robust defense of the importance of the humanities.

Carsten Strathausen is professor of German and English and Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair in Humanities at the University of Missouri. He is editor of A Leftist Ontology: Beyond Relativism and Identity Politics (Minnesota, 2009) and author of The Look of Things: Poetry and Vision around 1900, as well as translator of Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of Media by Boris Groys. 

"If you’ve ever wondered how we’ve gotten to the point where virtually every cultural theory field now boasts a ‘bio-’  or ‘neuro-’ subfield, Carsten Strathausen’s Bioaesthetics is an excellent guide. Setting the stage with scrupulous readings of historical controversies, Strathausen then incisively critiques the reductionist ‘biologism’ he finds in ‘literary Darwinism,’ ‘biopoetics,’ ‘neuroaestethics,’ and so on, before judiciously tackling Deleuze and affect theory. A powerful and insightful study, Bioaesthetics rewards the reader with clarifying and careful mappings of important contemporary concepts."—John Protevi, author of Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences