Abstract

Abstract:

This essay reads the New Critics in relation to contemporaneous philosophers, especially Alfred North Whitehead and Susanne Langer, to identify the particular understanding of aesthetic form that underwrites the method of close reading. Aesthetic form, on this account, results from a distinctive mode of attention that attends to an object in terms of the togetherness of all of its parts and relations. Aesthetic form is thus designated as “concrete” against the “abstract” character of logical forms—though such terms must be understood to mark a functional rather than an ontological opposition. I claim that the New Critics’ characterization of aesthetic form offers insights into the constitutive relation between our methods and our objects, lessons that are particularly important in light of recent attempts to revive literary formalism and to expand the critical repertoire to include techniques that neither assume nor reveal aesthetic form.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 505-524
Launched on MUSE
2016-12-22
Open Access
No
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