Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: 800854-M-6
Beauty and the Sublime Online
Course info
Course module800854-M-6
Credits (ECTS)6
CategoryMA (Master)
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byTilburg University; Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences; TSH: Department of Culture Studies; Culture Studies;
Is part of
M Culture Studies
prof. dr. O.M. Heynders
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2019
Starting block
Course mode
Registration openfrom 15/01/2020 up to and including 21/08/2020
Through this course students will gain insight into: 
  1. how artistic practices adapt to and develop in digital media and new technologies, and emerge in a digital democratic public sphere in which the roles of producer and consumer (author, editor, reader, debater, reviewer etc) are reinvented,
  2. how knowledge on human experiences and ideas can be distilled from artistic practices and representations in digital environments,
  3. how contemporary online artistic practices relate to offline and historical practices and how rhetorical traditions and aesthetic concepts can be reimplemented in current public and private spheres,
  4. how public spheres develop and transform from an arena for rational debate into a more dynamic, divers and spectacular space in which facts and fictions get hybridized, echoed and fragmented,
  5. how an aesthetic education in the digital world relates to responsibility and imagination, and how there is a ‘double bind’ (a positive/negative connection) between the world and European Enlightenment principles.

Students will also gain knowledge of:
  • various concepts such as aesthetics, sublime, beauty, presence, materiality, experience, representation, imagination,
  • social, ethical and political transformations of art,
  • the way in which social and ethical knowledge is produced and reviewed in online and offline artistic practices and artefacts,
  • the way in which aesthetical and political thinking changes in the digital world which has consequences for practices of living together in a society and on the globe,
  • how artistic practices shape critical thinking about identity, subjectivity, memory, ecology, new transitions, politics and culture
  • how artefacts created by individuals have meaning for collectives in a society.
In the 17th and 18th century the concept of the sublime was used to point at the contradictory and simultaneous feeling of ‘pleasure and pain’, ‘joy and anxiety’ or ‘exaltation and depression’. This feeling was instigated by artistic artefacts causing displacement, indeterminacy and the sensibility of the modern. The sublime was introduced in discussions on painting and literature leading to reflection on what is at stakein art.
Many philosophers and artists have discussed the sublime, and this MA course starts with re-thinking these discussions by reading texts of French philosopher J.F. Lyotard. Leading questions in the discussions will be: what is happening in art and what is experienced in art? Subsequently, we will transpose the ideas on and perceptions of the sublime in art to the sublime on the internet and as experience of social media. Trolling can (perhaps) be considered as ‘pleasure and pain’ mechanism, the convergence of media as presented on screens and websites can be experienced as dynamic (virtual) displacement. 
In the third part of the course, we will distinguish the sublime from ‘ordinary’ beauty, as in make-over vlogs, Instagram photographies, or creative writing and fan fiction websites. We will ask then if and how the dedication to beauty online can lead us back to classical aesthetics.
Contact person
prof. dr. O.M. Heynders
Timetable information
Beauty and the Sublime Online
Required materials
Recommended materials
Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Inhuman, 1988. English translation by Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby, Polity Press.


Kies de Nederlandse taal