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Reviewed by:
  • Frontiers of Transculturality in Contemporary Aesthetics
  • Ashok Kumar Malhotra
Grazia Marchianò and Raffaele Milani, editors. Frontiers of Transculturality in Contemporary Aesthetics. Turin, Italy: Trauben, 2001. Pp. 524. Lit 58,100.

Frontiers of Transculturality in Contemporary Aestheticsis a pioneering volume of the proceedings of an Intercontinental Conference held at the University of Bologna, Italy, during October 25-28, 2000. This is a rare publication that contains thirty-seven papers by renowned scholars from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America whose goal is to prepare the ground and build the foundation for the construction of a global aesthetics. By starting a dialogue between and among African, Eastern, and Western philosophers the book displays a novel yet bold approach to transcultural aesthetics, a field of the humanities that until now was regarded exclusively as the brainchild of the West.

The book is divided into three parts, each dealing with a unique approach to globalizing aesthetics: first through the construction of an aesthetic theory, second through the discovery of standards of criticism, and third through the presentation of a multicultural vision that attempts to harmonize clashing East-West perspectives. Each part is intriguing and unique in the way it deals with multicultural and transcultural approaches within the context of the last part of the twentieth century and the beginning of the new century.

Part 1, "Transculturality in Aesthetic Theory," offers distinct approaches to building a global aesthetics. The ten papers included here put forward wide-ranging themes according to three basic cultural perspectives: (1) Western views on the [End Page 612]"Potency of the Aesthetic: A Value to Be Transculturally Rediscovered," "Kant, Pessoa, Plato: Three Approaches to Transculturality," "Transcultural Aesthetics and the Study of Beauty," and "Creative Chora and Aesthetics of Place"; (2) Indian, Buddhist, and Chinese views on "The Aesthetics of Oriental Emptiness," "Aesthetic Virtues in the Context of Nirvanic Values," "An Aesthetic Approach to Kashmir Saivism," and "An Intercultural Perspective on Chinese Aesthetics"; and (3) African views on "African Aesthetic Values: An Ethnophilosophic Perspective." Also included here is a paper on "The Aesthetic Pleasure of Tragedy in Western and Indian Thought," which offers a comparative analysis of the concept of tragedy in the two traditions.

Each paper tries to go beneath the surface to discover the aesthetic universal hidden within a unique cultural tradition. The distinctiveness of these papers lies in they way they propose significantly novel ways of discovering these aesthetic universals, which include masks of the self, beauty, emptiness, nonduality, the natural and artificial, the tragic, catharsis in ritual ceremony, and so on. Grazia Marchianò sums up the spirit of part 1 thus: "the aesthetic universals are not philological fossils belonging to an archaeology of thought, but milestones on the cultural path of humanity. To explore them, and to relocate them in the framework of the spirit of the present time is an essential path for the research of a world aesthetics at its outset today." Another outstanding feature of part 1 is the inclusion of the paper on "African Aesthetic Values," which ties together a number of insightful issues valuable toward the building of a global aesthetics. This kind of inclusion is rarely seen in other anthologies.

Part 2, which deals with "Transculturality in Hermeneutics and Art Criticism," contains a smorgasbord of seventeen papers by scholars from Africa, India, Europe, and the United States. Their topics cover "Interpreting Artworks," "Can there Be a Common Measure of Art?" "Bhakti as the Essence and Measure of Art," "Interpreting Aesthetic Values across Cultural Frontier[s]," the "Aesthetics of Modernism," "Who Are the New People?" the "Problem of Art Criticism across Cultural Boundaries," "The Death of Art in Recent Visual Research," the "Aesthetics of the Placeless," the "Up-rooting in Architecture," "Musical Synthesia," the "Aesthetics of Ch'iyun sheng tung: A Comparative Study with Western Theories of Art," "Modes of Quoting," the "Aesthetics of the Art of Flowers," "A Problem of Aesthetic Interpretation," and "Appreciation to Art and Sentimentality in a Trans-Cultural Context."

The papers of Ben-Ami Scharfstein and Eliot Deutsch, two comparative philosophers, provide the connecting thread in part 2. In his paper "Can there Be a Common Measure for All Art?" Scharfstein presents thirty-seven theses...


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