Traditionally, aesthetics has mainly been taken to mean formalism, which has mainly been taken to mean a self-referential, self-enclosed art object that New Criticism analyzed and iconized and Roman Jakobson defined as the artistic function itself. Cultural Studies contested this formalist self-enclosure, reaffirming art’s ties to history, society, politics. But in doing so it reduced art to an epiphenomenon, as political/ideological manifestation. This essay argues against this aesthetic divide of form against history, claiming instead that artworks enact the relation between them and other arenas of human experience. It further argues that the recognition of gender as a constitutive realm of art points to just such a relational aesthetic, of art as the interaction—from resistance to confirmation to transformation—among the variety of experiences and concerns that enter into art and that art negotiates. The essay draws on Bakhtinian and Derridean theory to trace such a feminist poetics.


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pp. 571-591
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