Perhaps the beauty of Sendb00ks is the simplicity of its concept. Each month, subscribers receive a book selected by founder Gemma Janes, or a friend of the project, accompanied by a postcard that she has commissioned an artist to design with the title in mind. However, complications recently arose when the French postal service became too unreliable to guarantee deliveries, (Sendb00ks has temporarily halted its sending of books) in the meantime, the virtual doors of Sendb00ks School opened. A weekly online seminar, led by Anitra Louire, lecturer of Philosophy of Art at La Sorbonne, offers the Sendb00ks community a new reason to read for pleasure, by asking the question, ‘What is Beauty?’. From Plato to Baudelaire, Umberto Eco to Jun’ichirō Tanazaki, similar and competing theories that attempt to answer this question are reviewed, with the benefit of Louire’s encyclopaedic knowledge and Janes’ infectious enthusiasm.
To indulge in the subject of beauty – minus any conspicuous consumption – is surprisingly liberating. ‘The content for the class is a combination of the course I teach within the Philosophy of Art curriculum at the Sorbonne and my own desire to reconsider some of the fundamental texts on aesthetics through a contemporary lens,’ explains Louire. ‘As a teacher in the current political and media climate, I wanted to find a way to recognise the value of studying historically Eurocentric corpus while applying a more global and critical perspective.’ For example, how much of Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume’s thought was first uttered by Buddha? Luckily for us, Gemma and Anitra were happy to act out this comic during class.
Participants are given a solid reading list (no comics) while encouraged to share their own recommendations too, as Louire favours abundance, ‘I think it’s important to address the issues surrounding the ethical values of many of the authors and artists studied in most university curriculums (primarily white men) without just censoring or ‘cancelling’ them. So, I try to incorporate multiple views while still analysing some of the philosophical texts that have shaped much of modern aesthetics, making the concepts accessible to anyone who is interested.’
Footnote: If you would like to join Sendb00ks School, there are still spaces available for the remaining classes of Spring term2023, meeting on Mondays at 7pm Paris time (2hrs approx). Classes cost 10 euros per (Zoom) session:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words by Reemé Idris