Collaborative Research Seminar: Beauty (Spring 2021)

Cyclades Sculpture, Louvre Museum

This Collaborative Research Seminar approaches beauty, a topic both ubiquitous and perplexing, from multiple disciplines and through a wide variety of materials including literature, the visual and performative arts, aesthetic theory, philosophy, and religion. The aim of the seminar is to investigate the value and function assigned to beauty in different humanist contexts. The course explores possible bases of commonality and influence, and considers whether beauty has been or should be a key critical term for contemporary scholarship.


In the first half of the semester, faculty lead sessions related to their research expertise; topics include Plato, Kant, Tibetan Buddhism, Bach, Japanese photography, and novelistic aesthetics. In the second half, seminar sessions will be split between invited outside speakers whose work takes up the problem of beauty or aesthetics more generally, and graduate student seminar members, who will collaboratively design their own seminar sessions on topics of their choice. Outside speakers include Rob Marks, Richard Moran, Jane Newman, Alexander Rehding, and David Shulman. 

Participating Faculty:

Jacob Dalton (South & Southeast Asian Studies, East Asian Languages & Cultures, Buddhist Studies)

James Davies (Music)

Dorothy Hale (English)

Victoria Kahn (Comparative Literature, English)

Niklaus Largier (Comparative Literature, German)

Alan Tansman (East Asian Languages & Cultures)

Hannah Ginsborg (Philosophy) will join as a guest participant

Enrollment by Application

The seminar is open to graduate students in any year of the PhD program. To apply, please submit a paragraph describing why you are interested in joining the seminar, and a list of courses that you have taken at UC Berkeley or elsewhere that might relate to the work of the seminar. If you have other experience that is relevant, feel free to list that as well. Please email these materials to any one of the participating faculty by December 1, 2020. A draft syllabus can be requested by emailing a participating faculty member.

Accepted students will enroll for the course through the 298 Independent Study option offered through the home departments of participating faculty.