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Introduction: Idealism in aesthetics and literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Ian Cooper
Affiliation:
University of Kent
Nicholas Boyle
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Liz Disley
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Christoph Jamme
Affiliation:
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Germany
Ian Cooper
Affiliation:
University of Kent, Canterbury
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Summary

Two events occurring in the year 1916 might serve briefly to encapsulate the far-reaching and international bequest of German Idealism to aesthetics and literature. It was a year in which the work of writers and artists distilled an apocalyptic world-historical sense, and in Dublin Yeats saw a ‘terrible beauty’ born. A cabaret hall in Zurich gave birth to the artistic movement known as Dada, which sought to respond to the horrors of the First World War by tearing down the illusion of the unified ego that contemporary art – for all its cataclysmic expressionism – seemed to maintain. It did this by meeting negation, the desolate experience of history, with negation. Dada issued from presuppositions that foretold its own ephemerality; but some of its more notorious products have not escaped a certain canonicity and, together with other subsequent movements and developments, it represents an apparent collapse of the distinction between art and non-art in the historical conditions of the twentieth century, which has seemed to call repeatedly for the application of philosophical terms formulated around a hundred years earlier. Whether such manifestations are indeed the fulfilment of Hegel's prophecy for modern art is doubtful: they seem rather to express an ‘indeterminate’, or speculatively deficient, negation, and the nature of such negations is the question pursued by one contributor to this volume. It is, however, beyond doubt that Idealist aesthetics continue to be an inescapable point of reference for addressing the meaning of art, and that – in common with all aspects of the German Idealist inheritance, as the other volumes comprising The Impact of Idealism show – the accounts of aesthetics present in German post-Kantian philosophy seem to supply an idiom for thinking about these matters that has not been surpassed in its conceptual power by the advent of postmodernity. The Idealist understanding of art as the sensuous appearance of freedom (that is, the substance of spirit) as beauty generates a set of tensions that continue to define theoretical engagement with art.

Type
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Information
The Impact of Idealism
The Legacy of Post-Kantian German Thought
, pp. 1 - 10
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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References

Minden, Michael, Modern German Literature (Cambridge: Polity, 2011), 117Google Scholar
Pippin, Robert B., ‘What was Abstract Art? (From the point of view of Hegel)’, in Pippin, R. B., The Persistence of Subjectivity: on the Kantian aftermath (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 279–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taylor, Charles, Modern Social Imaginaries (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004)Google Scholar
Taylor, Charles, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007)Google Scholar

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