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Challenging prevailing trends toward aesthetic neutrality, James S. Hans argues that there is such a thing as good and bad taste, that taste is something one is born with, and that it is firmly rooted in the mechanics of biology. _x000B__x000B_Taste is everything, Hans says, for it produces the primary values that guide our lives. Taste is the fundamental organizing mechanism of human bodies, a lifelong effort to fit one's own rhythms to the rhythms and patterns of the natural world and the larger human community. It is an aesthetic sorting process by which one determines what belongs in--a conversation, a curriculum, a committee, a piece of art, a meal, a logical argument--and what should be left out. On the one hand, taste is the source of beauty, justice, and a sense of the good. On the other hand, as an arbiter of the laws of fair and free play, taste enters into more ominous and destructive patterns--but patterns nonetheless--of resentment and violence._x000B__x000B_Hans develops his conception of taste through astute readings of five literary landmarks: Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Sophocles' Oedipus the King, William Faulkner's Light in August, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the Polish Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz. These texts explore the art of soulmaking and the quest for personal expression: the costs as well as the fruits that come from acceding to the imperatives of one's being. They also reveal how the collision of personal and collective rhythms, whether in the Greek citadel or the Mississippi countryside, leads to violence and ritualized sacrifice. _x000B__x000B_Elegant, principled, and provocative, The Sovereignty of Taste is an essential book that restores taste to its rightful place of influence, shoring up the ground beneath civilization's feet and offering hope for the future of integrity, value, and aesthetic truth.
Allegory and the Work of Literature
Taking a phenomenological approach to allegory, Structures of Appearing seeks to revise the history of aesthetics, identifying it as an ideology that has long subjugated art to philosophical criteria of judgment. Rather than being a mere signifying device, allegory is the structure by which something appears that cannot otherwise appear. It thus supports the appearance and necessary experience of philosophical ideas that are otherwise impossible to present or represent. Allegory is as central to philosophy as it is to literature. Following suggestions by Walter Benjamin, Machosky argues that allegory itself must appear allegorically and thus cannot be forced into a logos-centric metaphysical system. She builds on the work of Maurice Blanchot and Emmanuel Levinas to argue that the allegorical image is not a likeness to anything, not a subjective reflection, but an absolute otherness that becomes accessible by virtue of its unique structure. Allegory thus makes possible not merely the textual work of literature but the work that literature is. Machosky develops this insight in readings of Prudentius, Dante, Spenser, Hegel, Goethe, and Kafka.
Aesthetics in Human Cognition
Use your imagination! The demand is as important as it is confusing. What is the imagination? What is its value? Where does it come from? And where is it going in a time when even the obscene mseems overdone and passé?This book takes up these questions and argues for the centrality of imagination in humanmcognition. It traces the development of the imagination in Kant’s critical philosophy (particularly the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment) and claims that the insights of Kantian aesthetic theory, especially concerning the nature of creativity, common sense, and genius, influenced the development of nineteenth-century American philosophy.The book identifies the central role of the imagination in the philosophy of Peirce, a role often overlooked in analytic treatments of his thought. The final chapters pursue the observation made by Kant and Peirce that imaginative genius is a type of natural gift (ingenium) and must in some way be continuous with the creative force of nature. It makes this final turn by way of contemporary studies of metaphor, embodied cognition, and cognitive neuroscience.
The philosophical significance of Henry David Thoreau's life and writings is far from settled. Although his best-known book, Walden, is admired as a classic work of American literature, it has not yet been widely recognized as an important philosophical text. In fact, many members of the academic philosophical community in America would be reluctant to classify Thoreau as a philosopher at all. The purpose of this volume is to remedy this neglect, to explain Thoreau's philosophical significance, and to argue that we can still learn from his polemical conception of philosophy.Thoreau sought to establish philosophy as a way of life, and to root our philosophical, conceptual affairs in more practical or existential concerns. His work provides us with a sustained meditation on the appropriate conduct of life and the importance of leading our lives with integrity, avoiding what he calls "quiet desperation." The contributors to this volume approach Thoreau's writings from different angles, collectively bringing to light what, in his own distinctive and idiosyncratic way, this major American thinker has meant to multiple areas of philosophical inquiry, and why he is still relevant. They show how the imagination, according to Thoreau, might be related to the disclosure of truth; they illuminate the nuances of embodied consciousness and explore the links between moral character and scientific knowledge. They clarify Thoreau's project by locating it in relation to earlier philosophical authors and traditions, noting the ways in which he either anticipated or influenced a host of later thinkers. They explore his aesthetic views, his naturalism, his theory of self, his ethical principles, and his political stances. Most importantly, they show how Thoreau returns philosophy to its roots as the love of wisdom.
Karl Philipp Moritz and the Space of Autonomy
Karl Philipp Moritz (d. 1793) was one of the most innovative writers of the late Enlightenment in Germany. A novelist, travel writer, editor, and teacher he is probably best known today for his autobiographical novel Anton Reiser (1785-90) and for his treatises on aesthetics, foremost among them Über die bildende Nachahmung des Schönen (On the Formative Imitation of the Beautiful), published in 1788. In this treatise, Moritz develops the concept of aesthetic autonomy, which became widely known after Goethe included a lengthy excerpt of it in his own Italian Journey (1816-17). It was one of the foundational texts of Weimar classicism, and it became pivotal for the development of early Romanticism.
In The Topography of Modernity, Elliott Schreiber gives Moritz the credit he deserves as an important thinker beyond his contributions to aesthetic theory. Indeed, he sees Moritz as an incisive early observer and theorist of modernity. Considering a wide range of Moritz's work including his novels, his writings on mythology, prosody, and pedagogy, and his political philosophy and psychology, Schreiber shows how Moritz's thinking developed in response to the intellectual climate of the Enlightenment and paved the way for later social theorists to conceive of modern society as differentiated into multiple, competing value spheres.
Transformative Aesthetics and the Practice of Freedom
Unmaking Race, Remaking Soul explores innovative approaches to analyzing cultural productions through which women of color have challenged and undermined social and political forces that work to oppress them. Emphasizing art-making practices that emerge out of and reflect concrete lived experience, leading contributors to the fields of contemporary psychoanalytic literary analysis, Latin American studies, feminist theory, Native Women’s studies, Africana studies, philosophy, and art history examine the relationship between the aesthetic and the political. The focus of the book is on the idea of aesthetic agency through which one develops different modes of expression and creative practices that facilitate personal and social transformation. Aesthetic agency is liberating in a broad sense—it not only frees our creative capacities but also expands our capacity for joy and our abilities to know, to judge, and to act. Artists considered include Nadema Agard, Julia Alvarez, Ana Castillo, Daystar/Rosalie Jones, Coco Fusco, Diane Glancy, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, Toni Morrison, MeShell Ndegéocello, Marcie Rendon, Ntozake Shange, Lorna Simpson, Roxanne Swentzell, Regina Vater, Kay Walking Stick, and Carrie Mae Weems.
The Recycling of Memory
Ours is a wasteful society, consumed with care for its remains, according to the contributors of Waste-Site Stories. Here scholars from around the world probe current notions of waste and the ways in which remains of different kinds recover value in the act of recollection and recycling. In the wake of destructive experiences that continue to trouble memory, there is something compelling about today’s theoretical and artistic interest in waste and recycling. The two terms provide a purchase on changing conditions of cultural memory, on technological development and its sometimes toxic ecological and social fallout, and on the legacy of personal and historical trauma. They suggest new resources for the stories of our engagement with the things of the past and the sites where traces of history survive.
In the Shadow of Mont Ventoux
What does it mean to love a landscape? Why do certain authors have a predilection for specific landscapes? Why might one be fascinated by a landscape in which one would never wish to live? How does the lay of the land fashion the form of the poem? How does the wind infuse the breath? In The Wind and the Source, Allen S. Weiss explores the role of a significant yet elusive feature of the French landscape in literature, philosophy, and art: the legendary, mysterious, monolithic Mont Ventoux. This is not a book about picturesque, touristic Provence, but about the manifestation of an extreme limit of the imagination that happens to have Provence as its site, as its fantasyland. Weiss is concerned with the vicissitudes of the desire to write about a landscape, the desire to write in a landscape, and perhaps most curiously, the desire to write against a landscape. This is a book about love of the landscape, and abstraction from it; it is an account of how a mountain became a myth, and how an aesthetic and literary study became a metaphysical quest.
Poetry, Philosophy, and the Birth of Sense
Some poems can change our lives; they lead us to look at the world through new eyes. In this book, inspired by Martin Heidegger--who found in poetry the most fundamental insights into the human condition--John Lysaker develops a concept of ur-poetry to explore philosophically how poetic language creates fresh meaning in our world and transforms the way in which we choose to live in it. Not limited to a single poem or collection of poems, ur-poetry arises when, in the interaction of an author's principal tropes, the origin of poetry is exposed as a process whereby words with inherited meaning take on a new poetic life that draws our attention to the "birth of sense"--the manner in which the manifold realities that surround us are revealed. And it is precisely through an experience of the birth of sense that we are able to understand and dwell differently among these realities. To demonstrate ur-poetry in action, the book frequently refers to such poets as Akhmatova, Ammons, Celan, Mandelstam, and Stevens, but it focuses on the work of Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Simic. By addressing the nature of human existence, the origins of sense, and the signi¹cance of history in and for human action, Lysaker argues that Simic's writing exempli¹es the import that poetry can have for how we understand and live our lives.