Witnessing Goya's Disasters of War: Aesthetics, Testimony, Critique

Event Date: 

Monday, October 13, 2014 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Where: McCune Conference Room (6020 HSSB), Interdisciplinary Humanities Center

When: Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 2:00PM

Across a broad range of engagements with Goya's work, the Disasters are understood today as a powerful exercise in visual testimony, an attempt to bear witness to the truth of war in a series of images that uncannily anticipate the modern photojournalism of armed conflict. This paper aims to reshape this common understanding of Goya's work by arguing that the lasting legacy of The Disasters of War is not so much its ostensibly srtaightforward, unflinching, quasi-documentary representation of war's horrors as it is the artistic complexity of the artist's graphical and lexical meditations on his subject matter.

Drawing on philosophical aesthetics and the phenomenology of the visual arts, Prof. Iarocci develops an account of Goya's prints as examples of aesthetic witnessing, a parodoxical form of testiony that aims to convey urgent truths while at the same time foregrounding art's fundamental untrht: that is, its illusion, its artifice, and its remove from the real world. In turn, this quasi-modernist turn points to the broader context of late eighteenth-century aesthetics from which Goya's arts emerged.

Michael Iarocci is Associate Professor of Spanish and Acting Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UC Berkeley.

Please click here to view the event poster.