Baudelaire and Philosophy: A Conference sponsored by the British Society of Aesthetics

June 5, 2019 - June 6, 2019
Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths, University of London

Goldsmiths, Univ of London, New Cross
London SE14 6NW
United Kingdom

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  • British Society of Aesthetics
  • Institut Français


Goldsmiths College, University of London

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Baudelaire and Philosophy: A Conference sponsored by the British Society of Aesthetics

5-6 June 2019, Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths, University of London and the Institut Français


Isabelle Alfandary (Paris 3/CIPh)

Jennifer Bajorek (Hampshire)

Patrick ffrench (King’s College London)

Elissa Marder (Emory)

Adrian Rifkin (Goldsmiths)

Richard Rand (Paris)


Charles Baudelaire is a pivotal reference for debates on modernity, criticism and poetics, though in the domains of philosophy and critical theory his work is often approached solely through the prism of contemporary commentary. Baudelaire’s own engagement with the philosophical - for instance in his pairing of Joseph de Maistre and Edgar Allan Poe as critics of the metaphysics of “progress” - has also been insufficiently mined. Yet Baudelaire has been key for thinking about the transformations of the very conditions of aesthetic experience since the 19th century; his writings on the dandy and the poetic significance of intoxication, as well as his work as a critic of fine art and music, have arguably expanded notions of what counts as aesthetic experience, opening it up beyond questions of taste, value, or didactic ends. For Nietzsche, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Lukács, Benjamin, Lacan and others, Baudelaire reimagined the poet and the poetic as inseparable from their relations to the social, psychological, material and sexual and, as such, as figures through which such relations may be reevaluated. After Baudelaire, the urban and the technological are no longer mere themes but the very element in which aesthetic experience and poetic production take shape; after Baudelaire, the poem assumes the form of a crucible for new and altered states of “experience.” This had led to Baudelaire often being made synonymous with the notion of modernity, and in particular with the idea that novelty becomes a (or even the) key category for aesthetic experience and artistic production from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Taking Baudelaire's own references to philosophy seriously, this conference will also explore the complexity of the relation between the received understanding of Baudelaire as a prophet of modernity and his opposition to any idea of progress that would reduce poetic beauty to a vehicle for social and moral development.

The conference will alternate between delving into specific poetic and critical texts by Baudelaire and tackling some of the key interpretations and uses of his work within philosophy and critical theory, from Georges Bataille to Jacques Derrida, Walter Benjamin to Jacques Rancière. The conference aims to do justice to the richness, complexity and ambiguity of Baudelaire’s critical and poetic writing, to explore his relation to philosophy and the philosophical, and to interrogate his place as a synonym for a certain conception of modernity.

Selected papers will be published as an edited collection or special journal issue.


Julia Ng and Alberto Toscano, CPCT, Goldsmiths, University of London

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