2023-2024 / PHIL0034-1

Aesthetics and philosophy of art


30h Th

Number of credits

 Bachelor in information and communication5 crédits 
 Bachelor in history of art and archaeology : general5 crédits 
 Bachelor in history of art and archaeology : musicology5 crédits 
 Bachelor in philosophy5 crédits 
 Bachelor in French and Romance languages and literatures : general5 crédits 
 Master in modern languages and literatures : general (120 ECTS)5 crédits 


Maud Hagelstein

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents


In this course, we will ask a question that is easier to formulate than to solve: What is an image?

To define the image is not an easy operation. One can work on images without always asking the question of what they are (one more often asks the question of what they do). Very interesting specialists of images have kept their fundamental definitions "secret". An art historian like Aby Warburg, for example, never really formulates a philosophical (or ontological) definition of the image: he thinks of the work of art as an "enigmatic organism", an entity in tension, in movement, which is suggestive without being particularly obvious. What is an image after all? According to those who face the question, several possible definitions circulate - and most of these definitions describe "a certain relationship of presence and absence". A rather new relationship in the ontological landscape (the set of things that are around us): the image - we often hear - is the presence of an absence. In other words: the image escapes by staying there. Only ghosts can compete with this kind of existence. Most of the time, we look at images of what is not there. Sometimes this absence invites reconstitution, the reconstitution of a portion of reality or of an absent situation of which the image carries the clues. It is all the work of the investigation on the images (iconographic investigation), which tends to find (identify, comment, etc.) the real that the image manifests. The reflections envisaged will concern mainly artistic images, but also in certain cases "common" images.

The course will propose a crossing of the theory of the image in the 20th century, interweaving the contributions of philosophy with texts from other disciplines in the human sciences (art history, psychoanalysis, anthropology). It will be chaptered by author - one defining proposal per author considered.

Introduction - controversy surrounding an image

Aby Warburg - The moving image

Erwin Panofsky - The image to be deciphered

Sigmund Freud - The overdetermined image

Carlo Ginzburg - The indexical image

Roland Barthes - The image and its punctum

Gottfried Boehm - The silent image  

Tom Mitchell - The critical image

Hans Belting - The body image

Georges Didi-Huberman - The symptom image

Alain Roger - The landscape image

Emanuele Coccia - The Reflected Image

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

The images seem extremely familiar to us. The current culture encourages their production. But even if we are immersed in them, we still don't understand them well. Yet the theorists who have devoted themselves to them have sought to understand as precisely as possible how they are constructed, how they function, and what effects they produce. The philosophical work will allow us here to question this "obvious" reality within which we evolve. We will follow both the definitional exercise (describe, delimit, unfold, nuance - find the concept) and the analytical exercise (look for cases, make the concept operative, problematize) in the authors considered.

The course should allow students to take into consideration the evolution of key concepts in image theory, to promote the understanding and handling of these concepts.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills


Planned learning activities and teaching methods


Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

Length and time period: 30 hours, 1st quadrimester.
Location and schedule : Salle Gothot, Thuesday from 11h to 13h.

Recommended or required readings

A portfolio of readings will accompany the course sessions : before each lesson, a short text will be sent to the students, and available on the online platform. The course slideshows and a detailed outline will also be available. 

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam

Additional information:

Written examination (January, May-June and August-September).

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course



Official instructor
Maud Hagelstein, Senior Research Associate F.R.S.-FNRS
Department of Philosophy
7, Place du 20 Août, 2nd floor, 4000 Liège
Tel. : 04/366.55.64.
E-mail : Maud.Hagelstein@uliege.be

Association of one or more MOOCs