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Terry Eagleton - The Ideology of the Aesthetic

Terry Eagleton - The Ideology of the Aesthetic

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Published by Matheus de Brito
Eagleton's remarkable book about aesthetic thought as socio-political expression.
Eagleton's remarkable book about aesthetic thought as socio-political expression.

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Published by: Matheus de Brito on Jun 14, 2011
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07/18/2013

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Contents
Introduction 3I Free Particulars 152 The Law of the Heart: Shaftesbury, Hume, Burke 333 The Kantian Imaginary 724 Schiller and Hegemony 1055 The World as Artefact: Fichte, Schelling, Hegel 1236 The Death of Desire: Arthur Schopenhauer 1577 Absolute Ironies: Soren Kicrkegaard 1768 The Marxist Sublime 1999 True Illusions: Friedrich Nietzsche 23710 The Name of the Father: Sigmund Freud 2651 I The Politics of Being: Martin Heidegger 29112 The Marxist Rabbi: Waiter Benjamin 31913 Art after Auschwitz: Theodor Adomo 34414 From the
Polls
to Postmodernism 369
Index 421
 
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 Introduction
This is not a history of aesthetics. There are many important aestheticians whom Ipass over in silence in this book, and even in the case of the thinkers I do considerit is not always their most obviously aesthetic texts which attract my attention.The book is rather an attempt to find in the category of the aesthetic a way of gaining access to certain central questions of modern European thought — tolight up, front that particular angle, a range of wider social, political and ethicalissues.Anyone who inspects the history of European philosophy since theEnlightenment must be struck by the curiously high priority assigned by it toaesthetic questions. For Kant, the aesthetic holds out a promise of reconciliationbetween Nature and humanity. Hegel grants art a lowly status within histheoretical system, but nevertheless produces an elephantine treatise on it. Theaesthetic for Kierkegaard must yield ground to the higher truths of ethics andreligious faith, but remains a recurrent preoccupation of his thought. ForSchopenhauer and Nietzsche, in sharply contrasting ways, aesthetic experiencerepresents a supreme form of value. Marx's impressively erudite allusions toworld literature are matched by Freud's modest confession that the poets had saidit all before him. In our own century, Heidegger's esoteric meditations culminatein a kind of aestheticized ontology, while the legacy of Western Marxism fromLukacs to Adorn° allots to art a theoretical privilege surprising at first glance for amaterialist current of thought) In the contemporary debates on modernity,modernism and postmodernism, 'culture' would seem a key category for theanalysis and understanding of late capitalist society.
 
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To claim such a lofty status for aesthetics in modern European thought ingeneral might seem too unqualified a gesture. Almost all of the thinkers I discussin this book are in fact German, even if some of the concepts I bring to bear upontheir work stem from the intellectual milieu of modern France. It would seemplausible to argue that the characteristically idealist cast of German thought hasproved a more hospitable medium for aesthetic enquiry than the rationalism of France or the empiricism of Britain. Even so, the influence of this largely Germanlegacy has spread far beyond its own national frontiers, as the so-called English'Culture and Society' tradition would attest; and the question of the strange tenacityof aesthetic matters in modern Europe as a whole thus insists upon posing itself.Why, more particularly, should this
theoretical
persistence of the aesthetic typifyan historical period when cultural
 practice
might be claimed to have lost much of its traditional social relevance, debased as it is to a branch of general commodityproduction?One simple but persuasive answer to this question springs from theprogressively abstract, technical nature of modern European thought. In thisrarefied context, art would still appear to speak of the human and the concrete,providing us with a welcome respite from the alienating rigours of other morespecialized discourses, and offering, at the very heart of this great explosion anddivision of knowledges, a residually common world. As far as scientific orsociological questions are concerned, only the expert seems licensed to speak;when it comes to are, each of us can hope to contribute our two ha'pence worth.Yet the peculiarity of aesthetic discourse, as opposed to the languages of artthemselves, is that, while preserving a root in this realm of everyday experience, italso raises and elaborates such supposedly natural, spontaneous expression to thestatus of an intricate intellectual discipline. With the birth of the aesthetic, then, thesphere of art itself begins to suffer something of the abstraction and formalizationcharacteristic of modern theory in general; yet the aesthetic is nevertheless thoughtto retain a charge of irreducible particularity, providing us with a kind of paradigmof what a non-alienated mode of cognition might look like. Aesthetics is thusalways a contradictory, self-undoing sort of project, which in promoting thetheoretical value of its object risks emptying it of exactly that specificity orineffability which was thought to rank among its most

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