October 22, 2021

Professors Jonathan Gilmore and Sandra Shapshay (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)
Professors Jonathan Gilmore and Sandra Shapshay (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

By Bonnie Eissner

For the next five years, the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (JAAC), published by Oxford University Press, considered the leading aesthetics and philosophy of art journal in North America, will be co-edited by two Graduate Center faculty members: Professors Jonathan Gilmore (GC/Baruch, Philosophy) and Sandra Shapshay (GC/Hunter, Philosophy). According to an announcement from the American Society for Aesthetics (ASA), they were selected from among several very strong applicants. Their election by the ASA trustees reinforces the Graduate Center’s strength in the philosophy of art.

“Our department is already top-ranked in the philosophy of art. This is our grand slam,” said Professor Nickolas Pappas, executive officer of the Ph.D. Program in Philosophy. “Sandy and Jonathan are talented and accomplished, and the journal realized what a great job they'll do.”

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to help shape the field, and Sandy and I have extremely complementary interests and forms of expertise — she in the history of philosophy of art and I in the connection of philosophy of art to cognitive science, emotions, the imagination,” Gilmore said. “The co-editors of the journal have not typically been at the same university. That allows us to work very closely.”

Shapshay specializes in aesthetics and ethics in the 19th century, with a focus on Schopenhauer and Kant, as well as environmental aesthetics, theories of the sublime, and the aesthetics and ethics of public commemorative art such as monuments and memorials. She is working on a new book, Bodies in Stone and Steel: An Aesthetics and Ethics of Monuments, for which she was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) summer stipend in 2021. Her recent aesthetics publications include “What is the Monumental?” in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2021) and “A Two-Tiered Theory of the Sublime” in the British Journal of Aesthetics (2021). She has also written about 19th century German philosophy, for example, in a recent monograph, Reconstructing Schopenhauer’s Ethics: Hope, Compassion, and Animal Welfare.

Gilmore writes about the cognitive science of art, the imagination, philosophy of literature, philosophy of painting and sculpture, artistic style, censorship and freedom of expression, 20th-century European philosophy, theories of the emotions, and the history of modern art. In addition to his faculty role at the Graduate Center and Baruch College, he directs the Graduate Center’s M.A. Program in Philosophy and a new Certificate Program in the Philosophy of Art for Graduate Center doctoral and master’s students. His most recent book, Apt Imaginings: Feelings for Fictions and Other Creatures of the Mind, was awarded the Outstanding Monograph Prize from ASA. He also wrote The Life of a Style: Beginnings and Endings in the Narrative History of Art. He regularly contributes articles and chapters to scholarly journals and books and is a widely published art critic. 

The Graduate Center is supporting the new co-editors and giving students a taste of journal editing and administration by offering fellowships to two Graduate Center Ph.D. students who will serve as assistants to the editors. 

“One of the major strengths of our application to be co-editors was the strong institutional support we received both from Nick Pappas, executive officer of the Philosophy program, as well as from the Office of the Provost at the Graduate Center,” said Shapshay. “Jonathan and I are so grateful for their deep commitment to research excellence in aesthetics and philosophy of art.”

Shapshay added, “I am most excited about helping to nurture new, distinctive voices in the field of philosophical aesthetics, voices which will move the field forward in agenda-setting ways.”

In their application for the editor roles, Gilmore and Shapshay described their vision to advance the gains the journal has made in publishing authors and reviewing books by authors who belong to members of minority groups that are underrepresented in philosophy; establish a substantial online presence for the journal; include new types of writing, such as commentaries, exhibition reviews, and short critiques; and draw in new audiences, including curators, artists, and art writers. 

The journal has been published since 1945 as the journal for the ASA, and it features scholarly and critical writings in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Recent special issues have focused on the aesthetics of stand-up comedy, race and aesthetics, environmentalism and aesthetics, printmaking, and songs. 

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