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Aesthetic Ideology

Paul De Man

This long-awaited volume by one of the major figures of twentieth-century thought represents perhaps the most provocative, serious, and important rethinking of “ideology” since the publication of Althusser's essays in the 1960s and 1970s. Aesthetic Ideology offers the definitive resource to de Man's thoughts on philosophy, politics, and history.

The core of Aesthetic Ideology is a rigorous inquiry into the relation of rhetoric, epistemology, and aesthetics, one that presents radical notions of materiality. De Man reads Kant and Hegel with a combination of philosophical rigor, interpretive pressure, speculative daring, and ironic good humor that is unique to him, ultimately reaching the heart of philosophical aesthetics.

The texts collected here were written or delivered as lectures during the last years of de Man's life, between 1977 and 1983. Many of them have never been available previously in any form; these include essays on Kant's materialism, his relation to Schiller, and the concept of irony. A culmination of de Man's thinking on these central issues, Aesthetic Ideology is a necessary and vital component of your humanities bookshelf.  

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Aesthetic Individualism and Practical Intellect

American Allegory in Emerson, Thoreau, Adams, and James

Olaf Hansen

Addressing vital issues in the current revision of American literary studies, Olaf Hansen carries out an exposition of American writing as a philosophical tradition. His broad and comparative view of American culture reveals the importance of the American allegory as a genuine artistic and intellectual style and as a distinct mode of thought particularly suited to express the philosophical legacy of transcendentalism. Hansen traces intellectual and cultural continuities and disruptions from Emerson through Thoreau and Henry Adams to William James, paying special attention to the modernism of transcendental thought and to its quality as a valid philosophy in its own right. Concerned with defining ideas of self, selfhood, and subjectivity and with moral tradition as an act of creating order out of the cosmos, the American allegory provided a basic and frequently overlooked link between transcendentalism and pragmatism. Its "suggestive incompleteness" combined in a highly dialectic manner the essence of both enlightenment and romanticism. Characterized neither by absolute objectivity nor by absolute subjectivity, it allowed speculation about the meaning of reality and about humankind's place in a realm of appearances.

Originally published in 1990.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies

Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics

David Nirenberg

Throughout most of Western European history, Jews have been a numerically tiny or entirely absent minority, but across that history Europeans have nonetheless worried a great deal about Judaism. Why should that be so? This short but powerfully argued book suggests that Christian anxieties about their own transcendent ideals made Judaism an important tool for Christianity, as an apocalyptic religion—characterized by prizing soul over flesh, the spiritual over the literal, the heavenly over the physical world—came to terms with the inescapable importance of body, language, and material things in this world.

Nirenberg shows how turning the Jew into a personification of worldly over spiritual concerns, surface over inner meaning, allowed cultures inclined toward transcendence to understand even their most materialistic practices as spiritual. Focusing on art, poetry, and politics—three activities especially condemned as worldly in early Christian culture—he reveals how, over the past two thousand years, these activities nevertheless expanded the potential for their own existence within Christian culture because they were used to represent Judaism. Nirenberg draws on an astonishingly diverse collection of poets, painters, preachers, philosophers, and politicians to reconstruct the roles played by representations of Jewish “enemies” in the creation of Western art, culture, and politics, from the ancient world to the present day.

This erudite and tightly argued survey of the ways in which Christian cultures have created themselves by thinking about Judaism will appeal to the broadest range of scholars of religion, art, literature, political theory, media theory, and the history of Western civilization more generally.

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Aestheticism and Deconstruction

Pater, Derrida, and de Man

Jonathan Loesberg

Considered an exemplar of "Art-for-Art's Sake" in Victorian art and literature, Walter Pater (1839-1894) was co-opted as a standard bearer for the cult of hedonism by Oscar Wilde, and this version of aestheticism has since been used to attack deconstruction. Here Jonathan Loesberg boldly uses Pater's important work on society and culture, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873), to argue that the habitual dismissal of deconstruction as "aestheticist" fails to recognize the genuine philosophic point and political engagement within aestheticism. Reading Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man in light of Pater's Renaissance, Loesberg begins by accepting the charge that deconstruction is "aestheticist." He goes on to show, however, that aestheticism and modern deconstruction both produce philosophical knowledge and political effect through persistent self-questioning or "self-resistance" and in the internal critique and destabilization of hegemonic truths. Throughout Loesberg reinterprets Pater and reexamines the contributions of deconstruction in relation to the apparent theoretical shift away from deconstruction and toward new historicism.

Originally published in 1991.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Aesthetics of Alienation

Reassessment of Early Soviet Cultural Theories

Evgeny Dobrenko

This provocative work takes issue with the idea that Socialist Realism was mainly the creation of party leaders and was imposed from above on the literati who lived and worked under the Soviet regime. Evgeny Dobrenko, a leading expert on Soviet literature, argues instead and offers persuasive evidence that the aesthetic theories underpinning Socialist Realism arose among the writers themselves, born of their proponents' desire for power in the realm of literary policymaking. Accordingly, Dobrenko closely considers the evolution of these theories, deciphering the power relations and social conditions that helped to shape them.

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The Aesthetics of Antichrist

From Christian Drama to Christopher Marlowe

In Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe wrote a profoundly religious drama despite the theater's newfound secularism and his own reputation for anti-Christian irreverence. The Aesthetics of Antichrist explores this apparent paradox by suggesting that, long before Marlowe, Christian drama and ritual performance had reveled in staging the collapse of Christianity into its historical opponents-paganism, Judaism, worldliness, heresy. By embracing this tradition, Marlowe's work would at once demonstrate the theatricality inhering in Christian worship and, unexpectedly, resacralize the commercial theater.

The Antichrist myth in particular tells of an impostor turned prophet: performing Christ's life, he reduces the godhead to a special effect yet in so doing foretells the real second coming. Medieval audiences, as well as Marlowe's, could evidently enjoy the constant confusion between true Christianity and its empty look-alikes for that very reason: mimetic degradation anticipated some final, as yet deferred revelation. Mere theater was a necessary prelude to redemption. The versions of the myth we find in Marlowe and earlier drama actually approximate, John Parker argues, a premodern theory of the redemptive effect of dramatic representation itself. Crossing the divide between medieval and Renaissance theater while drawing heavily on New Testament scholarship, Patristics, and research into the apocrypha, The Aesthetics of Antichrist proposes a wholesale rereading of pre-Shakespearean drama.

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Aesthetics of Equilibrium

The Vanguard Poetics of Vicente Huidobro and Mário de Andrade

by Bruce Willis

Aesthetics of Equilibrium is the first book-length comparative analysis of the theoretical prose by two major Latin American vanguardist contemporaries, Mario de Andrade (Brazil, 1893-1945) and Vicente Huidobro (Chile, 1893-1948). Willis offers a comparative study of two allegorical texts, Huidobro's "Non serviam" and Mario's "Parabola d’A escrava que nao e Isaura."

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The Aesthetics of Service in Early Modern England

Elizabeth Rivlin

In The Aesthetics of Service in Early Modern England, Elizabeth Rivlin explores the ways in which servant-master relationships reshaped literature. The early modern servant is enjoined to obey his or her master out of dutiful love, but the servant?s duty actually amounts to standing in for the master, a move that opens the possibility of becoming master. Rivlin shows that service is fundamentally a representational practice, in which the servant who acts for a master merges with the servant who acts as a master. 

Rivlin argues that in the early modern period, servants found new positions as subjects and authors found new forms of literature. Represent- ations of servants and masters became a site of contact between pressing material concerns and evolving aesthetic ones. Offering readings of dramas by Shakespeare, Jonson, and Thomas Dekker and prose fictions by Thomas Deloney and Thomas Nashe, Rivlin suggests that these authors discovered their own exciting and unstable projects in the servants they created.

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The Aesthetics of the Ephemeral

Memory Theaters in Contemporary Barcelona

Jennifer Duprey

Analyzes theatrical texts and performances while providing political and historical mappings.

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The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison

Speaking the Unspeakable

Marc C. Conner

<p class="red">A traditional yet fresh approach to grasping the power of Morrison's writing

With essays by Yvonne Atkinson, Marc C. Conner, Susan Corey, Maria DiBattista, Barbara Johnson, Cheryl Lester, Katherine Stern, and Michael Wood

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's novels have almost exclusively been examined as sagas illuminating history, race, culture, and gender politics. This gathering of eight essays by top scholars probes Morrison's novels and her growing body of nonfiction and critical work for the complex and potent aesthetic elements that have made her a major American novelist of the twentieth century.

Through traditional aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, the beautiful, and the grotesque, through issues of form, narrative, and language, and through questions of affect and reader response, the nine essays in this volume bring into relief the dynamic and often overlooked range within Morrison's writing. Employing aesthetic ideas that range from the ancient Greeks to contemporary research in the black English oral tradition, The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison shows the potency of these ideas for interpreting Morrison's writing. This is a force Morrison herself has often suggested in her claims that Greek tragedy bears a striking similarity to "Afro-American communal structures."

At the same time each essay attends to the ways in which Morrison also challenges traditional aesthetic concepts, establishing the African American and female voices that are essential to her sensibility. The result is a series of readings that simultaneously expands our understanding of Morrison's work and also provokes new thinking about an aesthetic tradition that is nearly 2,500 years old.

These essays offer a rich complement to the dominant approaches in Morrison scholarship by revealing aspects of her work that purely ideological approaches have obscured or about which they have remained oddly silent. Each essay focuses particularly on the relations between the aesthetic and the ethical in Morrison's writing and between the artistic production and its role in the world at large. These relations show the rich political implications that aesthetic analysis engenders.

By treating both Morrison's fiction and her nonfiction, the essays reveal a mind and imagination that have long been intimately engaged with the questions and traditions of the aesthetic domain. The result is a provocative and original contribution to Morrison scholarship, and to scholarship in American letters generally.

Marc C. Conner is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University. He has published articles in Studies in American Fiction and Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction.

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