The use and abuse of the sublime: Joseph Beuys and art after Auschwitz

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Interdepartmental Studies

First Committee Member

John Knoblock, Committee Chair


The German artist, performer and pedagogue Joseph Beuys was one of the most innovative and influential figures in postwar European art. His work and the history of its reception is analyzed against the background of major trends of postwar thought and culture, including the contemporary revival of the aesthetic category of the sublime. Close readings of selected Beuys works, including Mountain King (1958-72), Fat Chair (1963), Tram Stop (1976), The End of the Twentieth Century (1983), Plight (1985) and Palazzo Regale (1985) are advanced as evidence that Beuys pioneered a new mode of evoking and avowing the Holocaust through visual and sculptural means. Aspects of this mode and inflections of Beuys' material sensibility are traced in the work of other contemporary artists, including Anselm Kiefer.


Literature, Comparative; Literature, Germanic; Art History; Philosophy

Link to Full Text