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The concepts of the sublime and wonder have a long and significant history in philosophy, literature and the arts, religion, and the history of science. These concepts identify kinds of human attitudes and responses to the natural world and to cultural practices and artifacts. This chapter will focus on the contemporary relevance of the sublime and wonder to questions and issues within the context of nature, environment, aesthetics, and religion. I begin with a brief, recent history of sublimity before examining the contemporary sublime in relation to environmental thought and “other-regarding attitudes” toward nature. I then consider recent cross-disciplinary discussions of the varieties of wonder and show how this attitude invites receptivity in relation to the more-than-human world. In the concluding section, I offer a comparison of the sublime and wonder to show, further, the different ways in which they may support sympathetic, ethical attitudes toward nature.
This examination begins with the poetical exploration of human alienation from nature. It then examines the resilient capacity of aesthetics, particularly aesthetic realism, to disrupt and critique the anthropocentrism that is the cause of this alienation. Aesthetic realism is elaborated through three central, recurrent and evolving concepts: methexis, mimesis and poesis. Taken together, these articulate and enact a relationship between humans and nature that recognises nature’s own inherent meaning and value apart from those imposed upon it by human minds. These dimensions of aesthetic realism are explored through poetry, painting, music and architecture, each in its own way challenging anthropocentrism. In doing so, aesthetics presents itself as a resource for overcoming the disconnection from nature that is essential to addressing the environmental crisis.
Copyright’s test for infringement takes a uniform approach to aesthetics by treating all audiences and modalities of creative expression the same. We now know that this is not how aesthetic judgment works. The chapter describes how the law can be reformed to take differences in audiences and artistic media into account. The chapter also responds to potential objections to the use of neuroaesthetics in this legal context. A better understanding of how audiences perceive art, if implemented in the right manner, can help protect both economic and non-economic values embedded in copyright law in a more transparent way.
Brands are the lingua franca through which individuals, celebrities, politicians, cities, and more distinguish themselves in a brand new world. Universities are no exception. Indeed, university brands are among the world’s most recognizable and valuable brands. Harvard rivals Hermès in prestige and exclusivity – and is certainly more elusive than the purchase of a tie or scarf. This volume explores the brand as media and mediator, the filter through which the modern university perceives, represents, and ultimately remakes itself. Today the brand goes far beyond a school name, coat of arms, logo, colors, or a mascot. The university brand seeks to capture and commodify as completely as possible the aesthetic value in belonging and participating in an academic community and its storied past. The aesthetic move in property seeks to capitalize on all thought and pleasure associated with one’s alma mater. The aesthetic university is a stage on which transformative life experiences are enacted, recast, and traded.
Turning to the genre that was included in the repertoire of nearly every company, this chapter explores melodrama. Featuring only a select few performers, melodramas were showpieces for the finest dramatic actors and vehicles for their fame. The genre spread rapidly throughout the Empire, and although some recognized the role of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78) in melodrama's inception, it was eventually labelled ‘Germany’s daughter’. The success of Ariadne auf Naxos (Gotha, 1775) by Georg Benda (1722–95) led to an intense period of melodramatic reform. This chapter traces this reform movement through such pieces as Sophonisbe (Leipzig, 1776) by Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748–98), Benda’s Philon und Theone (Vienna, 1779), and Zelmor und Ermide (Vienna, c.1779) by Anton Zimmermann (1741–81). Arguing that such pieces as these pushed melodrama's generic boundaries to the verge of opera and imparted instrumental music with new aesthetic powers, this chapter offers new insight into music-text relations, generic hybridity, and melodrama's aesthetic entanglements with opera and symphonic music.
This article focuses on a set of aesthetic debates that took place in China in the late 1950s. By exploring the main arguments presented by different thinkers, particularly the writings of Zhu Guanqian and Li Zehou, this article demonstrates how the aesthetics took part in the ideological formation of the new socialist state. From the debates, we observe the tensions between the complexity of the material-political and the reductionism of the state ideology. We also recognize why and how aesthetics could be such an important site of political contestation in this young socialist country, and how the interactions between human senses and the material world are essential to arts universally. The dominant materialist aesthetics presented in the debate was less a theory of things than a theory of the social. This historical materialist approach might be useful as a social critique; however, when handled dogmatically, it not only rejects the autonomy of things, but also disallows art works to reflect the complex human interactions with the material world beyond economic power relations. We can find more sophisticated analysis in Zhu's aesthetic theory, which tries to incorporate the interactions between the subjects and the objects into materialism.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Romantic-era books by English authors were more plentiful and widely distributed in the United States than in England. The US Copyright Act of 1790, which excluded foreign authors from copyright protection in the United States, spawned an American industry that appropriated, reprinted, and sold European works on all subjects for a fraction of what they would cost overseas. As a result, reprinted works by Byron, Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Austen, and the Shelleys flooded the book markets of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and advances in stereotyping meant that cloned plates could be used to produce those same books for decades. The effect of these plentiful, cheap editions, according to William St. Clair, was not simply the continued popularity of English writing at a time when US authors were calling for a national literature but also the circulation of those works among more economically diverse readers than had ever been possible in England.1
This chapter explicates the diverse models scholars have developed to analyze cultural exchange in early modern material culture. With a focus on objects originating in Asia and Europe in the early modern period, the author considers environmental, cultural, technological, social, political, economic, and ideological approaches and factors
This chapter examines the history of the concept of “aesthetics” across multiple disciplines. It concludes with recommendations for conceiving and investigating aesthetics as a cross-cultural endeavor that does not privilege Western ways of thinking about aesthetics and art.
This article analyses the phenomenon of glass in wall and floor opera sectilia from the Hellenistic period to Late Antiquity. This type of decoration was developed in Alexandria – as testified by archaeological finds – and then spread across the Greco-Roman world. In Rome the art created a backdrop for a series of displays – especially in imperial palaces and elite housing – that spanned the Imperial era. All the great metropolises were graced by it, including the new capital of the East, Constantinople, where it underwent a renewed flowering. This article analyzes the use of glass material mostly as inserts in marble compositions and, more rarely, in wholly vitreous compositions. It reflects upon the meaning of these different decorative products and attempts to interpret their economic, aesthetic, and symbolic implications.
There is a growing interest in design research to explore sustainable consumption via products that are cherished as they age. This paper presents an empirical study exploring the influence of patina (signs of surface aging) on consumers’ willingness to discard products and aesthetic appreciation. Results show participants are predisposed to discard everyday products regardless aesthetic qualities (patina). This implies designers should look beyond the presence of pure aesthetic qualities of aging and emphasise symbolic qualities of aging to stimulate appreciation as products age.
Closely examining the relationship between the political and the utopian in five major plays from different phases of Shakespeare's career, Hugh Grady shows the dialectical link between the earlier political dramas and the late plays or tragicomedies. Reading Julius Caesar and Macbeth from the tragic period alongside The Winter's Tale and Tempest from the utopian end of Shakespeare's career, with Antony and Cleopatra acting as a transition, Grady reveals how, in the late plays, Shakespeare introduces a transformative element of hope while never losing a sharp awareness of suffering and death. The plays presciently confront dilemmas of an emerging modernity, diagnosing and indicting instrumental politics and capitalism as largely disastrous developments leading to an empty world devoid of meaning and community. Grady persuasively argues that the utopian vision is a specific dialectical response to these fears and a necessity in worlds of injustice, madness and death.
The seventeenth-century microscopists Robert Hooke and Henry Power sought to rhetorically establish the truthfulness of the visual images produced by their instruments, but a counter-rhetoric of visuality was established by Margaret Cavendish in Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666). The microscopists’ belief that magnification revealed the truth of nature ran counter to Cavendish’s probabilistic belief that no individual could grasp the infinite truth of nature and sought explanations from the superficies of observed objects rather than the ‘interior figurative motions’ which Cavendish saw as the universal cause of all natural phenomena. While the microscopists emphasized the aesthetic beauty of the micro-visible world, Cavendish emphasized its monstrosity: for her the truth could only be perceived by the ‘natural’ eye observing things in their unmagnified state. Exploiting the microscopists’ complaints about the variability of their images and the defects of their instruments Cavendish redefines the microscopic image as definitively outside the ‘real’.
This chapter describes how much of early African American literature takes shape within competing demands and analyzes how early Black writers negotiate it. Indeed, many early African American writers produced their works within a literary double bind that pressured them to be truthful, to write with the highest level of exactitude, to imitate reality precisely, and to produce perfectly mimetic texts; and at the same time, to use their imagination, to create something beautiful, and to produce an aesthetically valuable text. I explore how George Liele, David George, Boston King, and Venture Smith negotiate this literary double bind at the end of the eighteenth century, a time that saw significant historical transitions including the Zong massacre, the American Revolutionary War, the ratification of the US Constitution, and the French and Haitian Revolutions, all against the backdrop of transatlantic slavery and efforts to eradicate it. In these narratives, although white editors, amanuenses, and interlocutors claim that these texts tell the “simple truth,” each exceeds and problematizes the description that emphasizes the texts’ transparent mimetic exactitude by creatively utilizing literary structures of expression, rupturing what Christina Sharpe describes as the episteme of racial slavery.
Teju Cole’s Open City is often read as the quintessential Western cosmopolitan novel. But despite the protagonist’s fixation with European aestheticism, the presence of African antecedents looms almost as an unacknowledged shadow in the acclaimed cosmopolitan novel. This article traces how Yorùbá visual registers about perception, subjectivity, and representation provide interpretative cues for understanding the meta-text of Cole’s novel in ways that illuminate the conflicted, contradictory itineraries of the postcolonial African transnational figure. I argue that Yorùbá conceptual registers relating to visuality, especially the concept of Àwòrán and its insistence on intersubjective relations and the visual call of images, highlight a visual hermeneutics that inflect the construction of personhood in Open City. By tracing the centrality of Yorùbá optic codes to Cole’s project, the article concludes that the novel’s philosophically dense conversation with aspects of Yorùbá culture demonstrates how conceptual registers from African cultures might contour Afro-diasporic texts.
Encounters with art can change us in ways both big and small. This paper focuses on one of the more dramatic cases. I argue that works of art can inspire what L. A. Paul calls transformations, classic examples of which include getting married, having a child, and undergoing a religious conversion. Two features distinguish transformations from other changes we undergo. First, they involve the discovery of something new. Second, they result in a change in our core preferences. These two features make transformations hard to motivate. I argue, however, that art can help on both fronts. First, works of art can guide our attempt to imagine unfamiliar ways of living. Second, they can attract us to values we currently reject. I conclude by observing that what makes art powerful also makes it dangerous. Transformations are not always for the good, and art's ability to inspire them can be put to immoral ends.
Reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America alongside Toni Morrison’s 2008 novel A Mercy reveals striking similarities and differences in how the two authors treat the entanglement of indigenous, black, and white histories from seventeenth-century America to the present. Both texts use vivid literary imagery to make concrete some of the intersectional dilemmas of race and gender. In Tocqueville’s case, the purpose is to instruct; in Morrison’s, however, it is to reinhabit the lives of those previously overlooked. Notwithstanding the similarity of their subject matter, the two texts are strikingly different insofar as Tocqueville’s presentation gives no room for the voices and perspectives of the victims of injustice. Nor does his fatalistic narrative suggest the possibility of concrete alternatives to these histories. Taken together, these two works raise broader questions about the sufficiency of fiction as a way of identifying and resolving dilemmas of race and exclusion in American society. In contrast to the inadequacy of Tocqueville’s “new science of politics,” Morrison seeks to project through her fiction a new world that points her readers toward novel ways of conceiving of freedom.
This chapter provides an account of why and how the dominant “atrocity aesthetic” model identified in the previous chapter has persisted, despite remaining itself, grounded in unstated and untested assumptions concerning the fundamental nature of the causal dynamics of mass harm causation. It does so by examining the substance, structure, and application of ICL in light of insights from social constructivist norm development theories, and research on the role aesthetic considerations play in individual and social meaning-making processes. Through this analysis, this chapter identifies a variety of factors within the substance and practice of ICL that encourage actors to rely heavily on aesthetic perception when identifying potential international crimes and assessing their relative gravity. These factors include: the complexity of many atrocity situations; the continued presences of considerable zones of ambiguity within ICL; the extreme selectivity of ICL investigations and prosecutions; and the spectacular visibility and self-evident nature of many historical, recent and ongoing situations involving the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, and/or war crimes.
Chapter 6 focuses on the introduction of empathy into the English language in 1909, and the blurring of the Victorian notion of sympathy as a social process and Vernon Lee’s conception of empathy as an aesthetic experience. As such, I read Lee as a figure of Modernism, finding within her work traces of a modernist aesthetic. It includes case studies of Lee’s partnership with poet A. Mary F. Robinson and Scottish artist Clementina “Kit” Anstruther-Thomson. Rather than a wholly sympathetic collaboration, the final chapter traces a model that is not necessarily reliant upon individuals coming together in concord, but is founded on the privatization of the aesthetic experience and the discord that arises due to the individualist qualities advanced by the aesthetic imperative.