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390Philosophy and Literature The Boundaries ofArt, by David Novitz; 276 pp. Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1992. $44.95. The ambitious aim ofthis book is to reconsider "the complex relations between art and life." David Novitz claims that "the arts are not an epiphenomenon . . . but deeply integrated into everyday living." He attacks both the notion that the arts should be "removed from life . . . aloof from our everyday, mundane concerns" and that "there are no boundaries at all between art and life." The ten core chapters—which could all read as discrete articles—examine such themes as the notion of pure aesthetic and artistic values; the relationship between die language ofart and its application to people's behavior; grooming, bodily adornment, and image; the aesthetic of character; commitment to "the narratives that govern our lives"; and the claim that philosophy is a variety of literature. Unlike his earlier Knowledge, Fiction and Imagination, Novitz has tried, "very deliberately, to avoid technical philosophical arguments" and strives to be "accessible to anyone with an informed interest in the arts." The last aim alone deserves plaudits, and distances Novitz both from the irresponsible view that philosophy has no bearing on the rest of the world (Richard Rorty's "The World Well Lost") and from the Frenglish deconstructionist morass. The sense of public accountabUity, accessibUity, reasonableness and, indeed, decency of the author, all emerge. Praiseworthy, too, is the conclusion to each chapter which functions as a short-cut for phUosopher, student, and reviewer alike. Yet TL· Boundaries of Art ultimately promises more than it can deliver. Although the text is admirablyjargon-free, Novitz's determination to avoid selfindulgence makes for dry reading and limits appeal to readers outside his discipline. When examining popular art, a prerequisite should be an unashamed , infectious indulgence, as Camille Paglia triumphandy demonstrates. Neidier she nor Kirk Varnedoe and Adam Gopnik, the curators and authors of High and Low, are mentioned. The latter was the most important exhibition of modern art and popular culture ever seen by a mass audience. How did aestheticians and the wider public react to it? WhUe this seems like rebuking Novitz for not writing the book that I wanted, judging from the promised contents I was disappointed with the dearth of material on high and popular art after chapter two. Novitz is happier with phUosophy than with popular art. The core analyses of "life-narratives" and art as seduction might merit a second, and more favorable , review. His treatment of Oscar Wilde's dictum that "Life imitates art" is lucid and fair-minded: "one can craft, model, and shape one's life-narratives, one's appearance, one's behavior, in ways designed to win the approval of, and eventually seduce, an audience." Yet his reference to "the faUure of Cartesian dualism" is too smug and Whiggish. The discussion of Clive Bell also lacks Reviews391 historical sympathy. Novitz chooses a soft target when he berates Bell for the perverse claim that "we need bring with us nothing from life" to appreciate a work of art. Yet the context of this statement in Art was an attempt to render Cézanne intelligible to a large but ignorant British public, reared on Victorian novels in paint; and it worked. Novitz is more persuasive as the embattled liberal, who defends notions of truth and falsehood from Rorty's onslaughts, and who claims that there are important discontinuities between art and life. The conclusion righdy bemoans how Anglo-American philosophy has "lost its audience and voice . . . and the broad mass of people in our culture now consider mainstream analytical philosophy , just as they do much fine art, irrelevant to the world in which they live." Fine art, at least, has Robert Hughes; who is his equivalent in phUosophy? University of CanterburyMark Stocker Through the Shattering Glass: Cervantes and the Self-Made World, by Nicholas Spadaccini and Jenaro Talens; 224 pp. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, $16.95. This book is a collection and English translation of essays the authors have previously published as introductions to editions of Cervantes's works or as individual articles. The essays—dealing with Cervantes's poetry, theater, and narrative—have been retouched to provide a focus on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 390-391
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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