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Philosophy and Literature

Roger W. H. Savage

CRITICISM, IMAGINATION AND THE SUBJECTIVIZATION OF AESTHETICS

he growing discontent with reductivist practices signals a new current in contemporary criticism’s understanding of music, literature and art. George Levine’s unease with critics who are unable or unwilling to account for their continuing preoccupation with literary texts they expose as “imperialist, sexist, homophobic and racist” illumines the contradiction fueling the reduction of aesthetics to ideology.1 Cultural studies that deploy literature as evidence of the aesthetics’ socio-historical substance mask literature’s capacity to break open new perspectives on reality by assuming that literary works are politically complicit with the aesthetics’ strategic “mystification of the status quo” (A&I, p. 3). Criticism’s indifference to its philosophical presuppositions exacerbates the paradox of denouncing a body of works that constitute criticism’s aesthetic and intellectual heritage. According to Mario Valdés, literary studies’ coming of age mandates that criticism take account of a tradition nurtured by a succession of philosophers including Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur.2 For Valdés, the post-structuralist realization that literary texts are indeterminate and inexhaustible prohibits replacing the work of art with critical commentaries on it; criticism’s collective and determining role belongs to a shared community of commentary whose history and thought is a record of the changing interpretations and understandings of literary texts’ meanings.
Philosophy and Literature, © 2005, 29: 164–179

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Gadamer’s critique of art’s aesthetic differentiation prepares the ground for revealing how socially informed analyses conform to the schema Kant initiates by divorcing judgments of taste from their surrounding cultural ethos.3 Ricoeur’s hermeneutical reflections on imagination complement Gadamer’s critique of a differentiating consciousness that abstracts art works from their cultural worlds. where the fashion of denouncing aesthetics as socially pernicious turns against traditional musicology’s institutional authority. Savage 165 Valdés’s claim extends to the field of contemporary music criticism. The tradition nurtured by Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics and Ricoeur’s hermeneutic phenomenology represents a critical current whose significance has been overshadowed by postmodernist investments in decoding music’s social and political content. By demystifying absolute music (instrumental music devoid of programmatic associations). Critical musicology militates against the aesthetic conceit that absolute music transcends its social construction. imagination is productive when the fictions that works create affect our understanding of ourselves and our world by re-describing reality.” Kant legitimates his critique of aesthetic judgments by denying taste any importance as a mode of knowledge. For Ricoeur. by discrediting theoretical knowledge that does not rely on the methodology of the natural sciences. Yet. the transcendental function Kant ascribes to aesthetic judgment lays the foundation for differentiating between art’s aesthetic constitution and a concept of truth that accommodates the standard of the natural sciences. Aesthetics’ alignment with ideology encounters a limit in the power works evince by unfolding different ways of seeing or hearing reality. Gadamer and Ricoeur question art’s formal separation from reality. by overlooking the philosophical presuppositions that set music’s autonomy against practical affairs.Roger W. Ricoeur’s reflections on imagination stand in stark contrast to the idea that individual works represent a form of cultural capital in the struggle for social position . H. Gadamer’s critique of the subjectivization of aesthetics and Ricoeur’s meditations on the imagination’s capacity for invention offer an alternative to contemporary music criticism’s reaction against the principle of music’s aesthetic autonomy. a self-proclaimed critical musicology revolts against traditional musicology’s perceived political and ideological agenda. new musicology accedes to the schema it recoils against. Gadamer argues that. Through reducing the “sensus communis to a subjective principle. which belongs to the history of Kant’s radical subjectivization of aesthetics.

by deconstructing this opposition without interrogating the schema of Kant’s subjectivization of aesthetics. The recoil against the idea of music’s transcendent nature conceals criticism’s dependence upon the history that frames art’s and music’s opposition to reality. interpretive strategies that intend to free music criticism from the pretense of music’s aesthetic autonomy turn against the power of imagination exercised in individual works. such critiques impede the recovery of an understanding of the aesthetic beyond the destruction of its romantic and formalist conceptualizations. Demystifying music’s ideological representations of gender. Through carrying critique beyond the paradox of condemning as ideologically pernicious works that enlarge our selfunderstandings. this heritage offers criticism a different vantage-point from which to understand how. Contemporary critical practices’ failure to account for the philosophical separation of judgments of taste from knowledge of reality precipitates the impasse criticism encounters when it identifies aesthetics with ideology at the expense of a work’s capacity to affect reality in productive ways. By contracting aesthetics and ideology. Gadamer’s critique of the subjectivization of aesthetics and Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of judgment rejoin cultural criticism’s condemnation of art’s and music’s socially instituted autonomy. The dispersal and potential disappearance of music’s aesthetic character into the recesses of cultural and political analysis keeps step with the conceptual narrowing imposed by a restrictive sociological critique. race and identity purges romantic and formalist ideals through denigrating the aesthetic. I Levine’s discontent with the current literary scene and Valdés’s discomfort with critique’s indifference to its own philosophical presuppositions motivates the search for the history that informs contemporary music criticism’s understanding of its object.166 Philosophy and Literature and power. Yet. Music criticism receives a new impetus by engaging this philosophical heritage. individual works broaden our horizons. Critiques of music’s role in advancing the cultural prestige of socially privileged individuals and groups unmask its function as a weapon in the struggle for social position. postmodern musicologists such as Susan McClary and Lawrence Kramer combat traditional musicology’s isolation of works as aesthetically autonomous . By denouncing the modernist myth of the purely musical work of art. by inserting themselves in new cultural situations.

critique consigns itself to the desert of endless ideological “unmaskings” through denouncing music’s autonomy as a function of its social emancipation. criticism recoils against the principle of autonomy consecrated by the formalist concept of a musical work. Distrust of the aesthetic’s ideological complicity aligns critique with the task of unmasking music’s hegemonic representations of gender. thereby inverting the schema of aesthetic appearances and real material conditions on which both criticism and instrumental music’s aesthetic autonomy depend. Hence. absolute music enacts this political agenda. Critiques that oppose the contingency of a work’s socio-historical production to formalist conceptions of music’s essential value intend to uncover a work’s social makeup. Deconstructing the myth of music’s aesthetic autonomy shatters the illusion of pure music’s transcendence to reveal music’s socially constructed content within its historical context.4 Through reducing aesthetics to ideology.Roger W. By opposing music’s substantive worldly content to this outmoded ideal. By locating music’s meaning in the social world that produces it. for the sake of preserving his own identity. Yet. criticism deconstructs art’s isolation from reality. The suspicion that legitimizes these critical strategies operates at the expense of the hermeneutical autonomy exercised by singular works. When. by denouncing as ideologically deleterious works that command critical attention. McClary’s deconstruction of absolute music’s master narrative identifies tonality and the sonata form with a patriarchal and imperialist political program. H. only to lose itself in the detours of socio-political critique. they deconstruct the myth of music’s aesthetic autonomy by drawing correspondences between music’s formal features and these features’ socially constructed meanings. Through capitalizing on the concept of transcendence enshrined in the ideal of music’s formal self-sufficiency. Savage 167 through contextualizing analyses that reveal music’s ideological content. this deconstructive critique excises the aesthetic by means of a social semiology of gender. . By uncovering the master narrative coded within the semblance of pure music. the illusion of music’s selfsufficiency masks absolute music’s social and political content. critique falls short of interrogating the condition of a work’s capacity to affect reality. the masculine theme that McClary argues is semiotically marked subjugates the feminine Other. Consequently. For these critical musicologists. and the exotic Other. criticism paradoxically preserves and even justifies the schema of music’s aesthetic autonomy. sexuality.

criticism conceals its philosophical presuppositions and thus blinds itself to the limitations imposed by the theory of art’s social imitation. 3). the aesthetic functions negatively as a means of . and freedom and necessity. in which judgments of taste relate to moral or civic interests in the common good. 407). individual and society. Denouncing art’s separation from reality without interrogating the effects of Kant’s subjectivization of aesthetics severs criticism from the productive potential it seeks when claiming that individual works contest a given social order. 411). p. view of aesthetics. Terry Eagleton. p. too. and especially Theodor Adorno’s relentless negative dialectical strategy (IotA. and an exemplary realization of our creative powers in proposing an ideal reconciliation beyond the divisions of subject and object. p.5 Through realizing possibilities for creative self-making. By accepting the doxy of art’s ideological character. The mystifying “escape from or sublimation of unpalatable necessity” that legitimates the cultural separation of processes of fantasy and pleasure from the fulfillment of material wants constitutes one of the aesthetic’s functions. the “imaginative reconstruction of our current practices” is indispensable to avoiding the amalgam of disillusionment and sterile utopianisms that afflicts the Frankfurt school critical theorists. As a critique of alienation. through reproaching music’s and art’s reduction to ideological coordinates. Hence for him. By taking the contrast between music’s aesthetic appearance and social reality as its point of departure. critique recoils against the claim of music’s aesthetic autonomy without questioning Kant’s departure from the humanist tradition. According to Eagleton.168 Philosophy and Literature The blind spot of critical practices that take their bearing from the opposition they denounce elicits an aporia that indicts criticism for its failed self-reflexivity. it intends to rescue the aesthetic from its disappearance into the recesses of cultural and political analysis by seeking the aesthetic’s positive social value. Criticism encounters this blind spot when. Levine pleads for a more imaginative view of the aesthetics as a mode of conduct and expression that operates differently from other modes of social practice and “contributes in distinctive ways to the possibilities of human fulfillment and connection” by creatively engaging moral and political issues (A&I. as well as a critical. Eagleton argues that the aesthetic can combat the political’s postmodern aestheticizations by means of its own inherently contradictory nature. argues for the necessity of a productive. the phenomenon of culture also offers “a prefigurative image of a social condition in which such pleasurable creativity might become available in principle to all” (IotA.

6 The charge that music’s autonomy and aesthetic self-sufficiency is socially constructed solidifies the dilemma on which sociologically oriented criticism founders. by acknowledging that the “autonomy principle itself can be interpreted sociologically. The claim that music. . H. no one would deny the “relative” autonomy of an art form that also performs social and socio-psychological functions. The aesthetics’ valorization blocks the aesthetics’ rescue from the confines of social and political analysis by concealing its dependence upon a conflicted concept of a work’s autonomy.7 Attributing music’s autonomy to its social emancipation indicts the paradox of the aesthetics’ productive derivation. through reducing aesthetics to ideology.” Dahlhaus concedes that artificial music—instrumental music liberated from its servitude to both a social function and the principle of imitation—is a function of socio-historical developments and hence remains ineluctably conditioned by them. attempts to renew the aesthetic fall short of gaining insight into the power of imagination exercised within individual works. literature and art reproduce ideological meanings and prefigure alternatives sharpens the contradiction between denouncing a work’s semblance of autonomy and retrieving the possibility that individual works manifest a creatively productive moment by transgressing the limits of a given social order. he regards proceeding from the aesthetics of autonomy as the basis for musical analysis to be of greater scholarly use than permitting oneself to be misled by the concept of autonomy’s social origins. Nevertheless. criticism entrenches the impasse that blocks the true recovery of a creatively productive understanding of the aesthetic and of the hermeneutic autonomy of individual works.Roger W. Consequently. Hence. Carl Dahlhaus argues that.8 Yet. so long as the concept of a work’s autonomy remains bound to the structure of art’s separation from reality. The paradox that music’s emancipation from all social functions is itself a function of social conditions that institute art’s separation from reality only constricts the impasse of the aesthetics’ ideological and productive character. and operates positively by prefiguring alternatives to existing social conditions. Savage 169 sublimating social inequities and injustices. with the exception of those few individuals who adhere to a rigorous aesthetic Platonism. Calls to temper criticism of the aesthetic with some measure of a work’s autonomy mark the growing resistance among critics to renounce the aesthetic as a separate sphere.

Through citing the danger art presents to totalitarian regimes as evidence of the aesthetics’ liberatory quality. and anti-totalizing”9 postmodern strategies. critical musicology intends to rectify this methodological abstraction by reinserting works in the life-contexts from which formalism forcibly extracts them. By reducing aesthetics to ideology. critical musicology seeks its justification in the idea that all knowledge is relative to the disciplinary practices that produce it and in which it circulates. p. 10). By confronting traditional musicology’s methodological violence with the ideologically constructed character of discursive social practices. Critical strategies that identify a work’s meaning with an ideological content invert modernist schema of the self-positing subject. Levine’s concern that denouncing the aesthetic brands imagination as delusive rather than liberating argues against a verdict that finds “all individual acts of imagination determined by larger constricting social systems” (A&I. “however thoroughly absorbed into dominant ideological formations the aesthetic has been. p. music criticism’s complicity with the schema Kant inaugurates prescinds the imagination’s productive capacity. he argues against aesthetics’ relegation to the byways of cultural studies. The destruction of traditional musicology’s idols (Götzendämmerung) censures traditional musicology’s resistance to “radically anti-foundationalist. p. 21). As part of a discourse of value. this “musicology of the future” preserves the effects of the subjectivization of aesthetics’ through reversing music’s separation from reality.” Lawrence Kramer positions critique in opposition to formalist insistence on studying and analyzing individual works apart from their social contexts (MotF. Despite its ethical and political posturing. Formalist precepts justify tearing works from their worlds. it has always served also as a potentially disruptive force. 15). concretely situated worlds of those who compose. and aesthetic transcendence. anti-essentialist. the aesthetics’ fragile freedom as a utopian plenipotentiary authorizes “the exploration of possibilities in ways . perform and listen. For him. one that opens up possibilities of value resistant to any dominant political power” (A&I. By proclaiming a “musicology of the future” where criticism “responsibly seeks to situate musical experience within the densely compacted.170 Philosophy and Literature II Contemporary music criticism’s confrontation with traditional musicology deepens the dilemma of a critical riposte that intends to recover the aesthetics’ productive value by denouncing art’s aesthetic isolation. foundationalist epistemologies.

The difference between aesthetic objects and their sustaining life contexts conforms to concepts of the aesthetic and aesthetic experience that methodologically isolate aesthetic culture from a knowledge of reality dominated by science’s epistemological model. a people. 82). In proclaiming art to be the practice of freedom. When. 82). Savage 171 [that] no other modality” of human activity or praxis endorses (A&I. in obviating the moral and political tradition behind the concept of sensus communis. although Kant retains a connection between taste and sociability. Gadamer explains that. the transcendental function Kant ascribes to aesthetic judgment lays the foundation for differentiating between art’s aesthetic constitution. Gadamer argues that. in the nineteenth century. and by formulating that demand as an imperative—“Live aesthetically!”—Schiller invests Kant’s radical subjectivization of aesthetics with a new anthropological content (TaM. and conceptual knowledge and truth. p. the whole human race” (TaM. p. The myth of autonomy that critical musicologists deconstruct belongs to the history of Kant’s subjectivization of aesthetics. Kant discovers the principle of a subjective relationship in the feeling of aesthetic pleasure. the aesthetics’ libratory force continues to derive its justification from the schema in which. according to Vico. Hence Gadamer concludes that. p. as the closest approximation to a free choice within the field of options society creates and delimits.Roger W. Gadamer . “what gives the human will its direction is not the abstract universality of reason but the concrete universality represented by the community of a group. 20). By transforming the transcendental idea of taste into a moral demand. thereby laying the philosophical cornerstone for art’s isolation as aesthetically autonomous. a nation. p. and aesthetic education to be the end of the play impulse. in discrediting theoretical knowledge that did not rely on the methodology of the natural sciences. Kant’s transcendental intention excludes the specific contents of judgments bearing concretely on the existence of particular historical communities. Kant’s justification of taste’s subjective universality augurs the aesthetics’ isolation as a sphere of freedom divorced from the exigencies of social and political life. 21). The idea that absolute music transcends reality consummates an understanding that derives from a history extending from Kant’s radical subjectivization of aesthetics to Schiller’s proclamation that “art is practice of freedom” (TaM. H. Schiller founds art’s autonomous standpoint in contrast to reality. art and reality part ways. Yet. he contrasts the universality of pure aesthetic judgments with taste’s specific contents.

The fight for social position and power consumes aesthetic culture by converting art into a form of symbolic capital. the demand for a new mythology and new symbols that would gather a public and create particular communities by uniting cultured individuals. The process of cultivation (Bildung) responsible for taste’s and the sensus communis’s moral and political import becomes the handmaiden of aesthetic consciousness. charges art with achieving a measure of redemption “for which an unsaved world hopes” (TaM. In the nineteenth century.” aesthetic culture serves to unite alienated individuals only in the universal form of the aesthetic (TaM. p. As a means of marking and enforcing social distinctions. As a function of the contrast between art as “beautiful appearance” and everyday practices. Gadamer justly identifies art’s transfiguring sheen. which elevates cultivated individuals into this state of freedom. The disintegration and fragmentation of the social bond evinced by this universal form of the aesthetic therefore prefigures the struggle to capitalize on the aesthetic and to impose the legitimate definition of art and music as a means of positioning and strategically advancing oneself socially.” the poetry of aesthetic reconciliation consecrates the disintegration of the process whereby one rises above one’s private interests (TaM. whose concept of aesthetic cultivation prepares for an aesthetic education. In seeking its “own self-consciousness against the prose of alienated reality. Music’s social institution as an aesthetic entity confirms the schema imposed by the subjectivization of aesthetics’ history. By codifying this distinction between art and reality. turning aesthetic culture toward art’s symbolic value as a form of capital in the struggle for social domination. 88). p. 88).172 Philosophy and Literature remarks that the idea of aesthetic cultivation we derive from Schiller “consists precisely in precluding any criterion of content and in dissociating the work of art from its world” (TaM. the process of abstracting works from their supporting life contexts justifies the ideal of a cultured society. and economic exigencies. this sovereign consciousness elevates the artist’s task while placing an impossible burden on art. By differentiating between the aesthetic sphere and an alien world of moral interests. p. the cult of . p. the ideal of aesthetic cultivation and the process of abstraction on which it depends institutes the work of art and the experience of it as functions of aesthetic consciousness. 83). political struggles. This education to art consummates art’s separation from reality by sanctifying an aesthetic state of freedom. with the sovereign exercise of aesthetic consciousness. Since in cultured society “every artist finds his own community. 85).

and especially the social world. is therefore the “gentle. The creation of private and public galleries and museums. Bourdieu’s science of art’s social representation highlights how the “belief in the value of the work . . Art’s institution as an object of contemplation anchors the production of this belief. and the rise of a corps of professionals appointed to preserve and maintain art works. the realm of freedom that distinguishes cultural life from practical necessities masks the aesthetic’s strategic position within the struggle for social advancement. by reversing the logic of economics. like art. music and musical practices disguise how self-cultivation functions as a strategy in accumulating social prestige. by identifying a work’s autonomy with the struggle for position and power.Roger W. H. and the concept of a work’s aesthetic autonomy conceal how the struggle to impose legitimate definitions of art and truth constitutes a form of symbolic violence. is part of the full reality of the work of art” (FoCP. The invention of the “pure” aesthetic gaze devoid of ulterior social interests. music “represents the most radical and most absolute form of the negation of the world. . hidden form which violence takes when overt violence is impossible. Pierre Bourdieu’s diagnosis illuminates how. Bourdieu argues that the “detachment of the pure gaze cannot be dissociated from a general disposition towards the world which is the paradoxical product of conditioning by negative economic necessities—a life of ease—that tends to induce an active distance from necessity. Savage 173 Bildung and the aestheticism of art for art’s sake ratifies the social process of disintegration instituted by aesthetic culture’s rise to dominance. According to him. The economic world’s . the construction of the aesthetic. 36). is a function of the process of differentiation that marks the advent of aesthetic consciousness. p. Yet. p. music’s aesthetic quality disguises its real value as an instrument of social violence.”11 As a weapon in the struggle for position and power. this social analysis presupposes the schema inaugurated by Kant’s critique of aesthetic judgment. music. which the bourgeois ethos tends to demand of all forms of art.”12 Bourdieu’s diagnosis of music’s value as a symbolically misrecognized form of capital explodes the pretense of an aesthetic entity isolated from the wants and necessities of practical reality. and the constitution of a differentiating consciousness “capable of considering the work of art in and for itself” in the history of the subjectivization of aesthetics (FoCP. By removing itself from the demands of a life of labor by means of this social fiat. 36). disinterested activity.”10 An exemplary refuge for the cultivation and development of self-interest that masquerades as gratuitous.

through confronting us with the task of understanding what they say. in the “fight for social position.174 Philosophy and Literature reversal therefore preserves the effects of Kant’s transcendental justification of the judgment of taste at the root of Bourdieu’s diagnoses of the field of cultural production. p. Gadamer argues. to advance oneself socially. The escape from reality that Hannah Arendt argues “gave the physiognomy of the cultural or educated philistine its most distinctive marks. stems from taste’s abstraction from moral and civic interests. by breaking the methodological shackles of formalist analysis without breaking this schema’s conceptual hold. III Preserving these effects justifies Valdés’s and Levine’s misgivings with criticism’s indifference to the history on which it feeds. 202). and to ‘educate oneself’ out of the lower regions. The justification criticism derives from unseating formalist conceits blinds criticism to its own position. where supposedly reality was located. non-real regions. criticism perpetuates the regimen of music’s separation from reality and thereby ratifies the struggle in which cultural works serve as weapons in the fight for social position and social advancement. they address us in new contexts and situations. if not the best-suited one. the schema Kant inaugurated dominates criticism’s combative stance. culture began to play an enormous role as one of the weapons.13 Yet. up into the higher. where beauty and the spirit supposedly were at home” (BP&F. By framing criticism’s recoil against formalist dogma. it “becomes clear that understanding . Through defying the methodological violence of analyses that rips work from their cultural contexts. Singular works surpass the circumstances that condition their creation when. Valdés argues that in the light of the text’s redescription of reality. Yet. by ratifying aesthetics’ constriction to ideology through confining a work’s transcendence of reality to the illusory region of dissembling ideological representations. critical musicology seeks to restore a significance systematically ignored by formalist approaches.”14 necessitates analyses of how. Through countermanding the pretense of a work’s self-legislating authority. By drawing upon Ricoeur’s insight into the reader’s appropriation of the world that a literary text unfolds. criticism abandons itself to the detours of socio-historical explanations of a work’s genesis and meaning. criticism consequently adopts a political posture that conforms to the process of social disintegration that.

through reconciling its retrospective and prophetic dimensions with practical reason. retrospective judgment cannot be allowed to preempt or prescind reflective judgment’s prophetic dimension. question. Gadamer suggests that a work’s aesthetic quality of formation does not distinguish the work as a mere object of aesthetic and historical enjoyment. According to Ricoeur. Our experiences of works therefore contravene sociologically motivated critiques that combat the pretense of aesthetic transcendence by subordinating the work’s capacity to speak anew to socio-historical analyses. . thereby going beyond a given order from within the histories of which they are a part.18 Socio-cultural analyses that deny this vehemence subvert a critical understanding of a work’s power to . Consequently. distinguishes a work’s vehemence from the aesthetics’ ideological narrowing. and that Ricoeur attributes to a work’s temporal configuration. it operates within our ethical or political projects. 181).15 Through prefiguring imaginative alternatives. a work’s exemplarity testifies to the power of thought and imagination at work in exceeding its circumstances of production. 68). in rendering itself communicable” (C&C. 183). H. but is instead “only the condition for the fact that the work bears its meaning within itself and has something to say to us. Savage 175 must be self-understanding. p.”17 The autonomy he identifies with the world that a work unfolds. By inserting itself in the world. The hermeneutical autonomy that works exercise by transgressing and surpassing their social and historical circumstances attests to the power of thought and imagination. This “communicability does not lie in applying a rule to a case but in the fact that it is the case that summons its rule . works run ahead of reality. a work evinces the point of futurity that gives the paradox of a work’s singularity and its exemplarity its depth. thereby transcending reality from within. that the truth of the text is in fact the truth of ourselves” (PH&SoL. a work distances itself from reality. . Judgment receives the full measure of its futurity when. By seeking its normativity through communicating a “fitting” solution to a problem.16 Through escaping its original horizons to broaden our own. a singular work achieves its normativity “only in its capacity to communicate itself indefinitely to others” (C&C. Ricoeur argues that if reflective judgment is to be reconciled with the rule of practical reason. or perplexity. Expunging judgment’s prophetic dimension marginalizes critique by abandoning it to the search for a work’s ideological coordinates.Roger W. p. p. the work’s capacity to address us within the horizons of our experiences shatters the convention of socio-historical contextualizations.

The task of rescuing aesthetics from its critical denigration. we paradoxically ratify the positivist prejudice that “the real is the given. criticism turns against the culture of aestheticism by condemning the pretense of a closed world of autonomous musical works. critique is indispensable to unmasking dissembling meanings that operate beneath the sheen of a cultivated world of aesthetically autonomous works. by placing the properly historical question: What did the work say? under the control of the hermeneutical question: What does the work say to us and how do we respond to the claims it makes? this hermeneutics of criticism recognizes that the critical detours necessary to uncovering ideologically distorted representations do not exhaust the work’s capacity to speak anew. This hermeneutical insight into the power works exercise through contesting. On the contrary. That works manifest prejudices. in acknowledging the power at work in reinforcing ideological prejudices. This hermeneutics does not countermand the role of critique. and by regarding as irrelevant the question of literature’s impact on life. lies along the path of the hermeneutical critique of a work’s aesthetic autonomy.176 Philosophy and Literature open new perspectives on the world. However. by refusing to confront the problem of the intersection of a work of art with reality.”19 Through deconstructing the conceit of music’s self-sufficiency. does not preclude critique. criticism is compelled to admit the possibility that a work’s capacity to affect and refigure reality opens new horizons for experience and thought. when criticism loses itself in its deconstructive detours. cultural and social order. subverting and refiguring the moral. the power of thought and imagination communicated by the singular “fit” that the work exemplifies is the true measure of a work’s autonomy. which Levine seeks by identifying the aesthetic with the imaginative exploration of alternative possibilities. fears and hatreds that we rightly denounce as unjust and unjustifiable makes critique vital to any interpretation that discloses a work’s power to affect our understandings of who we are through modulating and transfiguring our outlooks on the world we inhabit and in which we act. the conceptual constriction that obturates the hermeneutical insight into a work’s capacity to productively affect reality imposes on critique the prejudice that it struggles against. . such as it can be empirically observed and scientifically described. Yet. critique contracts aesthetics and ideology. Ricoeur cautions that. Yet. with the denigration of the aesthetic. Rather. and which Eagleton presupposes whenever art works creatively prefigure a reconciled society. For this hermeneutical critique.

Critics who are either unable or unwilling to account for their continuing preoccupation with works they censure as ideologically suspect only impede the critical recovery of a work’s hermeneutic autonomy. Los Angeles . However. That music and art function as forms of symbolic capital in the fight for position and power delineates a struggle within the field of cultural production. moral and political order indicates the path of hermeneutically informed critical practices that recognize their dependence on the artistic traditions and intellectual heritages in which they participate. this diagnosis does not escape the schema imposed by the subjectivization of aesthetics. we can no more escape the effects of the histories to which we belong than can works. where the task of interpreting the work is as much a confrontation with ourselves as it is a challenge to follow the work’s trail. Savage 177 IV The hermeneutical critique of the concept of the aesthetics’ ideological narrowing opens the way to recovering a productive understanding of the work. sexist. As critics. and racist constructions in individual works. The productive recovery of the aesthetic and of the power works exercise in inventing. By acceding to the schema this history institutes. H. Criticism misunderstands the scope of its task when. University of California. A hermeneutical concept of a work’s autonomy re-enervates criticism’s engagement with individual works by retrieving a work’s capacity to open new paths for thought and action from the aesthetics’ ideological constriction. New adventures await a criticism that understands its encounter with cultural works as both a risk and a wager. in laying bare imperialist. Criticism’s indifference to its philosophical presuppositions. criticism perpetuates and even deepens the impasse of denouncing aesthetics as ideologically pernicious. authors and composers. The stubborn prejudice against aesthetics eclipses the work’s hermeneutical autonomy. conceals the history of the principle stemming from Kant’s radical subjectivization of aesthetics. which Valdés argues impedes criticism’s ability to give an accounting of the tradition that nurtures it. or discovering. it reduces a work to an ideological matrix of prejudices and hatreds. Critiques that denounce aesthetics as the refuge of a hidden social violence do not extinguish the power of thought and imagination at work in individual works. imaginative alternatives to the existing social. readers and listeners.Roger W.

Hans-Georg Gadamer. Feminine Endings: Music. Aesthetic Theory. 10.” in Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Musical Scholarship. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. see also Susan McClary. p. see also Eagleton. 4. 9. pp. (Berkeley: University of California Press.. Aesthetics and Ideology (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. Lawrence Kramer. 5. Valdés. 367ff. 2. 1989). “Aesthetics and Ideology: What Happened to Poetics?” Critical Inquiry 20:3 (Spring 1994). p. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. B. 192. 371. 13. Music in Renaissance Magic: Toward a Historiography of Others (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1997). 1991). 24ff. Rose Rosengard Subotnik. The Field of Cultural Production (New York: Columbia University Press. trans. ed. Hereafter PH&SoL. Susan McClary. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “The Musicology of the Future. 1996). Adorno. Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge (Berkeley: University of California Press. Carl Dahlhaus. Adorno. p. Hereafter IotA. Rose Rosengard Subotnik. The Ideology of the Aesthetic. “The Turn from the Aesthetic. Introduction to the Sociology of Music. Theory of the Avant-Garde. 238. 1993). Distinction. Developing Variations: Style and Ideology in Western Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1990). 1984). E. 43. 2nd revised ed. Gender and Sexuality (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Hereafter FoCP. see Pierre Bourdieu.. Lawrence Kramer. 7.” Repercussions 1:1 (1992): 5. 1993). Gary Tomlinson. Marshall (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Ashton (New York: Continuum. Hereafter TaM. McClary. Peter Brooks. 19. 1984). Pierre Bourdieu. trans. trans. 411. 196. Truth and Method. 1989). The Ideology of the Aesthetic. Pierre Bourdieu. 1995). pp. Bourdieu. pp. p. Deconstructive Variations: Music and Reason in Western Society (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. See Eagleton. see also Joel Garland.” Enclitic 7:1 (1983). 6. trans. p. 53ff. Peter Bürger. 1991). Theodor W. 12. p. See Lawrence Kramer. 1993). Music as Cultural Practice.. 8. trans. 264. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1977). . The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. “An Exercise in Mediation.” Current Musicology 58 (1995). Mario J. Hereafter MotF. see p. 1800–1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press. p. “Narrative Agendas in ‘Absolute’ Music: Identity and Difference in Brahms’s Third Symphony. 7. 3. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. 11. 1990). Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Theodor W. Hereafter A&I. 1987). Feminine Endings. trans. 5. p.. Terry Eagleton. p. Phenomenological Hermeneutics and the Study of Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 13. p. trans.178 Philosophy and Literature 1. Susan McClary. Schoenberg and the New Music. 1987). 1994). Ruth Solie. George Levine.

178ff. 52ff. Linge (Berkeley: University of California Press. David E. trans. 15. . trans. David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1985. Paul Ricoeur. see Paul Ricoeur. 1988). Valdés (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1984. trans. pp. Time and Narrative. 148. H. trans. 1991). 1977). 1. See Paul Ricoeur. 19. Mario J. pp. Hans-Georg Gadamer. 2000). Paul Ricoeur. Truth and Method. A Ricoeur Reader. p. 202. Hannah Arendt. Hereafter BP&F. Between Past and Future (New York: Penguin Books. Gadamer. 3 vols. Kathleen Blamey (New York: Columbia University Press. 16. vol. Time and Narrative.Roger W. 110ff. p. 1976).. 97. p. Critique and Conviction. 18. 108. pp. The Just. p. Savage 179 14. Ricoeur. ed. 17. Philosophical Hermeneutics.. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hereafter C&C. 1998).