How do we perceive evil? How do we represent evil? In Transgression and the Aesthetics of Evil, Taran Kang examines the entanglements of aesthetics and morality. Investigating conceptions and images of evil, Kang identifies a fateful moment of transformation in the eighteenth century that continues to reverberate to the present day. Transgression, once allocated the central place in the constitution of evil, undergoes a startling revaluation in the Enlightenment and its aftermath, one that needs to be understood in relation to emergent ideas in the arts.
Taran Kang engages with the writings of Edmund Burke, the Marquis de Sade, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Hannah Arendt, among others, as he questions recent calls to "de-aestheticize" evil and insists on a historically informed appreciation of evil’s aesthetic dimensions. Chapters consider the figure of the "evil genius," the paradoxical appeal of the grotesque and the disgusting, and the moral status of spectators who behold scenes of suffering and acts of transgression. In grappling with these issues, Transgression and the Aesthetics of Evil questions the feasibility and desirability of insulating the moral from the aesthetic.
About the author
Taran Kang is an assistant professor of Humanities at Yale-NUS College.