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Contents

FOREWORD

/
l . Typ'es and Uses of Critica/ Theories

Fim publishcd a~ a Norton papcrlKJck 1991 Types ancl Oricm ations of Critica! Theories
3
Copyright C 1gllg b)• M . H. Abram~ :md M•ch.1el Fischcr What's the Use ofTh eorizing about the Ans?
3 1
A JI rights rc~~en ed.
A Note on Wiugenstein and Litera ry Criticism
Pnmed rn the L'nned St:ue~ of Arner1ca 73
Belief a nd the Suspension o f Disbelief 88
Thc text of Lh15 book is composed In Basken ille, with display type sct in Deepdene
l1alic. Cornpositiou and rnanufacturing by T he Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing
Croup.
11. Cultural History and the Histmy of Criticism

Rationalily and fmagination in Cul tural History 1 13


..,.. Library of Congrc\~ C.ualoging-in-publication Dala
Art-as-Such : The .Sociology of Mode ro
Aesthe tics 1 35
Abrarns, M. H. (Mcyer ll o ward). 1912-
From Addison lo Kant: Mod e rn Aesthetics
J)t)ing 1hings wi1h 1cxu : essays in CJ ititism and critica! t11cory. / by M. H. Abrarns;
cdned and "'Íth a fo rewo rd by Mich:1el f'i,c.her. -lsL c:d. a nd the Exemplary An 159
p. cm.
• Cri1ici.sm. 2 LucratuJ c:--Hi.stol) and u•uc•~rn-Thcory•, ele.
I'NS;¡ A27 1989
8o•'·95-<k•g 111. The New aud Newer Criticism

Five T ypes of Lycidas


19 1
W. W. ~orton & Compan y, lnc.. 500 F1fth Avcnuc, Ne"' York, N. Y. 10 11 0 Postscrip t to "Five Types of Lycuio.s" 2 12
W W. Norton & Company Ltd, 10 Copuc S1rc:e1, London WC1A 1PU

S 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 o
t:

Cj
, -=""""'--~
vi Contmis

Positivism and the Newer Criticism 217


Northro p Frye's Analom)' o[ Criticism 223

IV. Doing Things with Texls: Theories o[ Newreading

T he Deconstructive Angel 2 37 Foreword


Behaviorism and Deconstruction 2 53
How to Do Things with Texts 269
Construing and Deconstructing :}97
A Colloquy on Recent Critica! Theories 333 In c-ontcmporary literary study, ma ny prominent critical the-
On Poli tical Readings of Lyrical Ballads 364 orists have also been students of Romantic poetry. I have in
mind not only Northrop Frye, who claimed to fi nd the kcys
lO poetic thought in Blake, bul also E. D. Hirsch, H azard
Adams, Harold Bloom , Geoffrey Hartman, Pa ul de Man, and
Non:s 393 M. H. Abrams (amo ng othcrs). Lisling Abra ms he re may come
INOEX 421 as a surprise. He has not wriuen a book specifi cally on his
theory of criticism, and he says very little about his own method
a nd theoretical assumptions in his best-known works, The
Mirror and tlte Lamp ( 1953) and Natural SupemaLuralism ( 197 1).
But he has expressed his view of theory in nu merous inAu-
ential a nides a nd reviews, collected here for the fi rst time.
Spanning three decades, these essays touch o n ma ny of thc
most irnportarn developments in contemporary criticism,
including the New Criticism of Cleanth Broo ks, J o hn Crowe
Ra nsom, a nd W. K. Wimsau; the " Newer Criticism" of
Nonh rop Frye and Philip Wheelwrig ht; the "Newreading"
championed by J . Hill is Miller, Ha rold Bloom , Stanley Fish,
and J acques Derrida; a nd the New H istoricism practiced by
j eromc J. McGann a nd Ma rjorie Levinson. In addition, o ne
essay ("Types a nd Orientations of Critica! Theories") offe rs
an extraordi na ry overview of the history of criticism from
Plato and Aristotle to Derrida and Paul de Man. Two essays
("Art-as-Such : The Sociology o f Mode ro Acsthetics" a nd
"From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exem-
plary Art") discuss in deLail the emergence-as well as the
'Ijpes and Orientations
of Critica! 'fheories
\

TnERE IS NO uniquely valid way LO classify theories


of poetry; that classification is best which best serves the pur-
pose in hand . The division of theories presented hcre is
adopted because it is relatively simple; because it stresses che
notable extent co which later approaches to poetry were
expansions-although under the inAuence of many new
philosophicaJ concepts and poetic examples-of Greek and
Roman prototypes; and because it defines in a provisional
way certain large-scaJe shifts of focus during 2,500 years of
Western specula.tion about the identity of poetry, its kinds
and their relative status, the parts, qualities, and ordonnance
of a single poem, and the kinds of criteria by which poems
are to be evaluated. But like all general schemes, this one
must be su pplemented and qualified in ma ny ways before it
can do justice co the diversity of individual ways of trcating
poetry.
Most theories take into account that poetry is a fabricaled
thing, not found in nature, and thereforc contingcnt on a
number of facLOrs. A poem is produced by a poPt, is related in
its subject matter to the universe of human beings, things, and
events, and is addressed to, or made available to, a n audience
of hearers or readers. But although these four elemcnts play
sorne part in aH inclusive accoums of poetry, they do not play
an equal part. Commonly a crilic takes one of these elements
4 Domg Thmgs with Tncts Typts and Orimtaticms o[ Cnlical TMorús 5
or relations as cardinal , and refers the poem to the external attributes the origin of poetry LO our natural instinct to imi-
world, or to the a udie nce, or to the poet as preponderantly tate and to take pleasure in imitations, a nd grounds in large
"the sou rce, a nd end, a nd test of an"; or alternatively, he part on the kinds of subjeclS that are imitated such essential
considers the poem as a sclf-sufficient entity, best to b~ a na- concepts as the different species of poetry, the unity of a poem
lyzed in theoretical isolation from the causal factors m the (since a n imitation " must represent one action, a complete
universe from which the poem derives its materials, or the whole"), and the primacy of plot in tragedy (for "tragedy is
tastes, convictions, and responses of the audience to which it essentially an imitation not of persons but of action and life").
appcals, or the character, intentions, thoughtS, and feelings But Aristotle's use of the term imitation sharply differentiates
of the poet who brings it into being. These varied orie nt~­ his theory of poetry from that of Pla to. In Aristotlc's scheme,
tions give us, in a preliminary way, four broad types of poeuc the forms of things do not exist in an otherworldly realm ,
theory, which may be labeled mimetic, pragmatic, expres- but are inhcrent in the things the mselves, so that it is in no
sive, and objective. way Q..erogatory to point out that poetry imitates models in
the world of sense. On the contrary, poetry is more philo-
sophic than history, because it imitates the form of things
and so achieves statemenlS in the mode of "unive rsaJs, whereas
MIMET I C T H EO RIE S
those of history are singulars." Fu n hermore imitation in Aris-
totle is a term specific to the arts, distinguishing poems from
ln Plato's R epublic 10, Socrates said that poetry is mimesis, or all other activities and products as a class of objects having
"imitation," and illustra ted its relation to the universe by a their own criteria of value and reason for being. And by
, mirror that, turned rou nd a nd round, can produce a n exploiting syste matically such distinctions as the kinds of
a ppearance of all sensible things. Plato thus bequeathed LO objects imitated , the media and manner of imitation , and the
later theorists a preoccupaLion with the relation of poetry to variety of emotional effects on an audie nce, Aristotle imple-
that which it imitates, and also the persistent analogy of tl1e ments his consideration of poetry as poetry by providing means
reflector as defining the nature of that relation . But in the for distinguishing among the poe tic kinds-for example,
...., cosm ic structure underlying Plato's dialectic, the sensible
universe is itself an imitalion , or appearance, of the eterna!
tragedy, comed y, epic-and for discriminating the pa rticular
parlS, internal r~lations, power of giving a specific kind of
Ideas which are the locus of all value , while all other human pleasure, and standards of evaluation proper to each type of
knowledge and produclS are also modes of imitation. A poem poem .
therefore turns out to be the rival of the work of the artisan, Later the eclectic Cícero (Ad M . Brutum Omtor 2) a nd Plo-
the statesman, the moralist, and the philosopher, but under tinus (Enneads 5.8) demonstrated that it was possible to assume
the inescapable disadvantage of being an imitation of an im i- a world-sche me that includes Platonic Ideas, yet to allow the
tation, ''thrice removed from the truth," and composed not artist to short-circuit the objects of sense so as to imitate, in
by art and knowledge but by inspira tion , at a time when the Plotinus's phrase, "the Ideas from which Nature itself derives.''
poet is not in his right mind (Ion). Plato thus forced ma ny In accordance with this strategy, later critics used building
later critical theorists into a posture of d cfense, in a context blocks from Plato's cosmos to construct aesthetic theories which
in wh ich poetry necessarily competes with all other human could raise poetry from Plato's inferior position to the high-
e nterprises, a nd is to be judged by universal criteria of truth , est among human endeavors. The claim that poetry imitates
bcauty, and goodness. the eternal Forms was developed by llalian NeoplatonislS in
In Aristotle's Poetics the various kinds of poetry a re also the sixteenth century, occasionally echoed by neoclassic crit-
defined as "modes of imitation" of human actions. Aristotle ics (including, in England , Dennis, Hurd, and Reynolds) a nd
f 6 Domg Thmgs wiJh Tntts Typts and OrirotaJ•ons of CriliaJJ Theonts 7

played a prominent part in the writings of German Ro mantic ~ation ," 1751). And Lessing's classic Laokoon (1766), a lthough
philosophers such as Sche lling and Novalis. Diverse cognitive ll set o~t to su b~titute an inductive method for the blatantly
claims for poetry as approximating verities beyond sense- d~duc u ve theones of Baueux and other contemporaries, still
experience are a lso fou nd in the English Ro mantic critics ~1 scovered th.e "essence" of poetry and painting to be imita-
Blake, Cole ridge, and Carlyle. Shelley, in his cloquent Defence uon , and de n ved the bounds of the subjects that each art is
of Poetry, demo nstrates the reductive tendency of an uncom- competent to imitate from the diffe re nces in their media.
promising Neoplatonic theory. Since all good poems imitate Since the eighteenth century the mimetic doctrine has been
the same Forms, a nd since these Forms, as the residence of more narrowly employed by proponents of artistic realism,
a ll va lues, are the models fo r a ll other human activities and or in the~ries limited to the mo~ realistic literary genres. In
products as well, Shelley's essay all but a nnuls any essential the Rena1ssance ~ere had ~en ma ny echoes of the saying
differences between poem and poem, between poetic kind Do na~us had attnbuted to C1cero that dramatic comedy is
and poetic kind, between poems written in various times and pecuharly "a copy of li fe, a mirror of custom, a reflection of
in various places, and between poe ms written in words and trul~ ." In the early nineteenth cenlury, when prose ficti on
the poetry of all other me n who "express this indestructible had superseded comedy as the primary vehicle of realism,
order ," including instituto rs ofl aws, founde rs of civil society, Stendha l put the mimetic mirror on wheels: "a novel," he
inve ntors of the ares of life, and teachers of religion . In o ur said, "is a mirror riding a lo ng a high way." Since that time
own day a forma l parallel to such critica! monism is to be representational theories have been voiced mainly by expo-
found among the critics who, after jung, maintain that g reat nents. of n~~ura li sti c fi ~tion and imagist poetry, as well as by
poems, like myths, dreams, visions, and other products of Marx1st cnucs who cla1m that great literature "reAects" (or a t
the collective unconscious--or else of the generic imagina- least o ughtto refiect) the "objective" reality of our bourgeois
tion compelled by e nduring human needs and desires-aJI era.
reproduce a limited set o f archetypal paradigms, and ulti- The mimetic approach to literature, accordingly, has been
mately the whole or part of that archetype of a rchetypes, the used to justify artistic procedures ranging fro m the most
cycle of the seasons a nd of death and rebirth. (See, for refincd idealism to the rawest realism. Wha t the various the-
example, the reviews of Philip Wheelwright and Ñorthrop ories have in common is the tendency to Iook to the nature
Frye below on pages 2 17-33.) of the. given unive rs~ as the clue Lo the nature of poetry, a nd
Among mimetic theorists pro per, however, the concept that lO ass1g n to the subJCCt matter that is represemed-or that

are reproduces aspects of the sensible world has been much ough.t to h~ represen.ted:-the primary role in de termining
more common than the Neoplatonic or transcendental var- the a1~s, ~md~, cons~~uuon , and criteria of poems. The key
iant. The doctrine that poetry a nd the arts a re essentially imi- word m rrumeuc defimuons of poetry, if not imitatum, is another
tatio ns of this world, in a variety of systematic applications, pred i~ te that aüg?s the poem in the same direction: the poem
Aourished through thc Renaissance and well into the eight- IS ~ n tmage, reftectz~n, feigning, counterfeiling, copy, or represen-
eenth century. In Les Beaux Arts rédu.its a un mi me principe taban. The underlymg pa rallel fo r a poem, which oflen comes
( 174 7), Charles Batteux found in the principie of imitation to the surface asan express comparison , is Plato's mirror or
the "clear and distinct idea" from which he undertook lo "a speaking picture," o r a pho tographic plale. The focu~ of
deduce the nature and the rules of the various arts. The attention is thus o n the re lation between the imitable and the
imitation, and the primary aesthetic criterion is "truth to
_. Englishman Richard Hurd declared that "all poetry, to speak
wilh Aristotle and the Greek critics (if for so plain a point
authorities be thought wanting) is, properly, imitalúm ...
natu re," or "truth lO r eality." ln purely representatio nal the-
ories, the patent discrepancies between the world as it is and
having aU creation for its object" ("Discourse on Poetical Imi- the world as it is represented in poems tend to be explained
8 Doirrg Things w1th TexLf Typts and Onmtatums of Cri&al Tluoms 9
nol by reference to the psychology of the poet or the reader, Aristotle has been more often quoted, but Horace has in fact
orlO the conventions and inte rna! requirements of a work of been the most inAuential critica! exemplar in the Western
art, but by reference to the kinds or aspects of reality to be world. For the pragmatic orientaúon, exploiting the mode of
imitated. Transcendental theorists maintain that poetry rep- reasoning and many of lhe concepts and topics presemed in
resents the poet's intuitions of models exisúng in their own Horace's short epistle, dominated lüerary criticism through
supramundane space. This-worldly theorists claim that poetry the Renaissance and most of the eighteenth century and has
represents, or should represem, a composite of the beautiful made frequent reappearances ever since.
and moral aspects of things, or "la belle nature," or the sta- "Aut prodesse volunt, aut delectare poetae," Horace
tistical average of a biologica l form, or the universal, typical, dcclared-"Poets wish either to instruct or to please"-
and gcnerically human, or lhe quotidian, lhe particular, the although pleasure turns out to be the ultimate end, with
unique, and "the characteristic," or the conditions of bour- instruction requisite only because the graver readers will not
geois reality. In all these instances, however opposed, the be pleased without moral maner. Later critics added from
objects or qualities are conceived to be inhe rent in the con- rhetoric a third term, movere, to sum up under the three
stitution of the univcrse, and the genius of the poet is explained headirigs of instruction, emotion, and pleasure the effects of
prima rily by his acuity of observation, e nabling him to dis- poctry on its audience. Most Renaissance humanists, likc Sid-
cover aspects of reality hitherto unregarded, and by his artis- ney. made moral profit the ullimate aim of poetry; bul from
tic ingenuity, enabling him to selcct and arrangc even the Dryden through the eighteenth century it became increas-
more familiar elements into novel combinations which, ingly common to subordinare instruction and emotion to the
nevertheless, surprise us by their truth. delight of the reader, as the d efinin g e nd of a poetic com-
position. Samuel Johnson , however, continued to insist that
"the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing," and that "it is
always a writer's duty to make the world better" (Preface lo
PRAGMATIC THEOR I ES Shakespeare). In the nineteenth century the inAuemial reviewer
Francis J effrey deliberately justified writing in such a way as
The pragmatic scheme sets a poem in a means-end relation- to please the least common denominator of public taste, and
ship, regarding the mauer and manner of imitation as in this procedure he has been followed by later peddlers of
instrumental toward achieving certain effects in the reader. formulae for achieving popular success. Neoclassic pragma-
"Poesy therefore," declared Sir Philip Sidney in a typical for- tists, howcver, justified the sophisúcated preferences of the
mulation which assimilates mimesis to a pragmatic orienta- classicall y trained connoisseurs of their own day by the claim
tion, "is an art of imitation ... a speaking picture: with this that these accorded with lhe literary qualities of works whose
end, to teach and delight." Ancient rhetorical theory pro- long su rvival prove their adaptation to the aesthetic procliv-
vided the conceptual frame and many of the terms for this ities of man in general (johnson's "common reader"), and
approach to poetry, for it was held thatthe aim of rhetoric is thal works wriuen in accordance with these principies have
lO effect pcrsuasion, and there was wide agreement (for the best chance to endure. The renowned masters, john
example Cícero, De Oratore 2.28) that this end is besl achieved Dennis said, wrote not to please only their countrymen; "Lhey
by informing, winning, and moving the auditor. But the greal wrote to their fellow-citizens of the u ni verse, lO all coumries,
prototype for the pragmatic view of poetry was Horace's Ars and to all ages."
Poelua, with its pcrsislem emphasis lhat the aim of the poel, We recognize pragmatic critics of poetry, whatever lheir
and the measure of poeúc success, is the plcasure and upproval many divcrgences, by their tendcncy to regard a poem as a
of thc conlemporary Roman audience and of posterity as well. made object, the product of an art or craft, which (after due
10 Doing Tlun~ with Texts Types and Onmlaii011S of Cntical TMorits 11

a ll ~wa n ce for the play of natural talent, inspired mome nts, pragmatic critics responded by shifting the emphasis from
a nd fe licities beyond the reach of art) is still, for the most the nature of the world to the nalure of man, and by redefin-
pan, deliberately designed to achieve fo re known ends; we ing poetic pro bability as anything that succeeds in evoking
recognize them also by their tendency to d erive the rationale, the pleasurable responsiveness of the readcr. "The end of
thc chicf determina nts of elements a nd forms, and the no rms poetry is lO please," Bealtie wrole in his Essays on Poelry and
of poetry from the legitimate requirements a nd springs o f Music (1776), and "greater pleasure is ... lO be expecled from
plcasure in the readers fo r whom it is written. Thus the ars il, because we gra nt it superior indulgence, in rega rd LO fic-
pol'tica looms la rge in this theory, and for centuries was often tio n," than if it were "according to real nature." Later T homas
codified as a system of prescriptions a nd "ru les." " Having Twiningjustified for poetry "not only impossibilities, but even
thus shown that imitation picases," as Dryden summarized absurdities, where that e nd [of yielding pleasure] appears to
the common line of reasoning, "it follows, that sorne rules of be betler answered with lhem. than it wou ld have been with-
imitation are necessary to obtain the end; for without rules oul them" (Preface lO Aristolle's Trealise on Poetry, 178g).
there can be no an" (Parallel of Poetry and Painting). Thesc
rules wcrc j ustificd inductively as csscnlial propertics
abstractcd fro m works tha t have appcaled to 1he natu ral
prcfere nces of ma nkind over the centuries; in the eighteenth EXPRESS I VE TH EO R I ES
cemu ry, especia lly in such systematic theorists as Beattie, Hurd,
and Kames, they wcre also warranred by a confident appeal Thc mimetic poet is the agent who holds thc mirror up lO
to the generic psychological laws governing the responses of nature; the pragmatic poet is considered mainly in terms of
.. thc reader. Through the neoclassic period, most critics the inherent powers ("nature") and acquired knowledge and
-~ assumcd that the rules were specific for each of the fixed skills ("art") he must possess to conslrucl a poetic object intri-
genres, o r kinds, but these poetic kinds in turn were usua lly cately adapted , in its parts and as a whole, lO ils complex
discriminated a nd ranked, fro m epic and traged y at the top aims. In the expressive o riemation, the poet moves into the
down to the "lesser lyric" and othe r trifles at the bottom, by center of the scheme and himself becomes the prime gener-
the specia l moral and pleasurable effects each kind is most alor of the subject matter, attributes. and values of a poem.
competent to achieve. Poetic deviarions from the truth of fact, The chief historical so urce for this poinl of view was lhe trea-
which in strictly mimetic theories are justified by their con- tise On the Su/Jlime attributed to Longinus. In lhis treaLise the
- ;; form ity to objects, forms, and tendencies in the conslitutio n stylistic quality of sublimily is defi ned by its effecl of ekstasis,
-~ of the univcrse, are warranted pragmatically by the reader's or tra nspon, a nd is traced to fi ve sou rces in lhe powers of
moral requiremems. and even mo re emphalically by his native lhe amhor. Of these sources, lhree have to do with expres-
inclination to ta ke de light o nly in a selected, pauerned, sion, and are a menable lO art; bul the two primary sources
he ightened, a nd "orname nted" reality. are la rgely innate and instinctive, and a re constituted by the

-· In 165 1 Da vena m (Preface Lo Condibert) attacked the tradi-


tional use of pagan machinery and supernatural materials o n
1he mimetic assumption that the poe t unde rta kes to "repre-
aulhor's greatness of conceptio n and , most imponant of all,
by his "vehement a nd inspired passio n." Re fe rring the major
excellence of a work to its genesis in the aut.hor's mind , Lon-
se m thc world 's true imagc"; a point of view Hobbes al o nce ginus find s ita refiection of its author: "Sublimity is lhc echo
•~
1
abctted by proscribing all poeric materials that go "beyond of a g reat so u l." /
thc conceived possibility of nature" (A11swer lo Daven.ant). To The inOue nce of Lo nginus's essay, after it becamc g&r)~r~.:'"''"'-" ..
this mimetic interpretation of poetic probability as corre- ally known in the third quarler of lhe sevemeenth cqntpry, ¡L. .,
spondencc to th c empirical consLitutio n and o rder of evcms, was immense, a nd its e mphasis on tho ught and passion, ?rlg-
. _____..,... __ _

12 Doing Things with Texls Types and Oritntations of Critica{ Theories


inally used to explain a single stylistic quality, was expanded century of developments in this mode of thinking, and became
and applied to poetry as a whole. The effect on poetic theory the single most important pronouncement of the emotive
was supplemented by primitivistic concepts of the natural theory of poetry. His key formu lation, twice uttered, is tha t
origins of language and poetry in emotional exclamations and poetry "is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings."
effusions, as well as by the rise to high estate of "the greater The metaphor ·"overflow," like the equivalent terms in the
lyric," or Pindaric ocle, which critics (following the lead of definitions of Wordsworth's contemporaries-"expression,"
Cowley) treated in Longinia n terms. By 1725 the boldly spec- "uttering forth," "projection"- faces in an opposite direction
ulative Giambattista Vico combined Longinian doctrines, the from "imitation," a nd indicates that the source of the poem
Lucretian theor y of linguistic origins, a nd travelers' reports is no longer the externa! world, but the poet himself ; and
about the poetry of culturally primitive peoples into his major the elements which, externalized, become the subject matter
thesis that the first language after the flood was dominated of the poem are, expressly, the poet's "feelings." The word
by sense, passion, a nd imagination, and was therefore at once overflow also exemplifies the water-language in which feelings
e motional, concrete, mythical, a nd poetic. In Vico is to be are usually discussed, a nd suggests that the dynamics of the
found the root concept of the common expressive origins poetic process consists in the pressure of fluid feelings; later
and nature of poetry, myth, a nd religion which was later J ohn Keble converted the water to steam, and described the
exploited by such influential theorists as Herder, Croce, and poetic process as a release, a "safety valve," for pent-up feel-
Cassirer; this mode of speculation is still recognizable in the ings and desires. The poetic process, therefore, as Words-
recent theories of Suzanne Langer a nd Philip Wheelwright, worth says, is not calculated , but "spontaneous." Wordsworth
among many others. still allows for the element of "art" by regarding the success
In the course of the eighteenth century there was a grow- of spontaneous composition to be attendant upon prior
ing tendency to treat poetry, altho ugh still within a generally thought and practice, and takes the audience into account by
pragmatic frame, as primarily an emotional, in contrast to a insisting that "poets do not write for poets alone, but formen."
rational, use of language, especially among such Longinian But in the more radical followers and successors of Words-
enthusiasts as John Dennis, Robert Lowth, and Joseph War- worth, including Keble, Mili, and Carlyle, the art o f affecting
ton (see, for example, Warton's Essay ... on Pope, 1750-82). an audience, which had been the defining attribute of poetry
By the latter part of the century, unqualifiedly expressive in pragmatic theory, becomes precisely the quality that inval-
theories of poetry as grounded in the faculties and feelings idates a poem . ·"Poetry," wrote John Stuart Mili, "is feeling,
o f the poet are to be found in Sir William Jones's "Essay on confessing itself to itself in moments o f solitude." And when
the Arts Called Imitative" ( 1772), J . G. Sulzer's Allgemeine the utterance "is not itself the end, but a means to an end ...
Theorie der sclúinen Künste (177 1-74), and Hugh Blair's "Nature of making a n impression u pon another mind, then it ceases
of Poetry" (Leclures on Rhetoric and Belles Lellres, 1 783). Ger- to be poetry, and becomes eloquence" ("What is Poetry?"
man Romantic theorists such as the Schlegels, Schleier- 1833). La te r writers adapted the concept of poetry as emo-
macher, and T ieck fo rmulated the expressive view in the tive expression to a communicative, or pragmatic, frame of
terminology of post-Kantian idealism; Novalis, for example, reference. T hat poetry is emotional communication is the basic
said that "poe try is re presentatio n of the spirit, of the inner principie of Tolstoy's "infection theory" of art (What is Art?
world in its totality" (Die Fragmente). In France Mme. de Stael 18g8), as well as of the earlier writings of l. A. Richards, who
announced the new outlookon poetryinDeL'Allemagne( 18 13), claimed that emotive language is "used for the sake of the
and in Italy it manifested itself, later o n, in sorne of Leopar- effects in emotion and attitude produced by the reference it
di's speculations on lyrical poetry. occasions," and that poetry "is the supreme form of emotive
Wordsworth''s "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads is the heir to a language" (Principies of Literary Criticism, 1924).
14 Doing Things with Texts Types and Orimtations of Critical Theories 15
Feelings overflow into words, so that it is characteristic of qualities it shares with its author: feelings, imagination, spirit,
Wordsworth and later emotive theorists through the school and (in Matthew Arnold, for example) such traits of charac-
of l. A. Richards, to give to the nature and standards of poetic ter as largeness, freedom , benignity, and high seriousness.
dic~on , or "language," the systematic priority that earlier critics As Carlyle shrewdly observed so early as 1827, the grand
had given to plot, character, and considerations of form. In question asked ·by the best contemporary critics is "to be
earlier discussions of poetry as an imitation of human actions, answered by discovering and delineating the peculiar nature
the chief instances of poetry had been narrative and dra- of the poet from his poetry." Essays on Shakespeare, Milton,
matic forms, and the usual antithesis to poetry had been his- Dante, _Homer became to a singular degree essays on the
tory, or the narration of events that have actually ha ppened. temperament a nd moral nature of the poetas manifested in
But Wordsworth, Hazlitt, Mili, and many of their contem- his work. The most thorough exponent of poetry as self-
poraries, conceiving poetry as the language of feeling, thought expression was John Keble in his L ectures on Poetry (1832-

-. of the lyrical poem , instead of epic or tragedy, as the exem-


plary form, and replaced history as the logical opposite of
poetry by what Wordsworth called "matter of fact, or sci-
41 ), whose thesis was that any good poem is a disguised form
of wish-fulfillment-"the indirect expression," as he said in a
review of Lockhart's Scott, "of sorne overpowering emotion,
ence." This Romantic innovation, positing poetry as an or ruling taste, or feeling, the direct indulgence whereof is
antithesis to "science," has become a common theoretical somehow repressed"-and who specified and applied a com-
gambit in the twentieth century; and, as we shall see, both plex set of techniques for reversing the process and recon-
Continental Formalists and American New Critics tend to structing the temperament of the poet from its distorted
establish the essential nature of poetry by detailed opposition ~rojection in his poems. In both critica) premises and prac-
to the features attributed to the language of science. uce, Keble has hardly been exceeded even by critics in the
-., Among expressive theorists of the nineteenth century, the age of Freud who, like Edmund Wilson, hold that "the real
old criterion of truth to objective or ideal nature was often elements, of course, of any work of fiction, are the elements
reinterpreted as truth to a nature already suffused with the of the author's personality: his imagination embodies in the
poet's feelings, or reshaped by the dynamics of desire. More images of characters, situations, and scenes the fundamental
commonly still, the criterion was turned around, in the conflicts of his nature" (Axel's Castle, 1936). Another recent
demand that poetry be "sincere"; it was in this period that development is that of the Geneva School of "phenomeno-
"sincerity" became a cardinal requirement of poetic excel- logical criticism ,'~ or "critics of consciousness." These critics
lence. "The excellence of Burns," as Carlyle said, clearly conceive a literary work; in its elements and form, to be an
revealing the reversa! of the standard of "truth," "is ... his objectified embodiment of the unique mode of consciousness
sincerity, his indisputable air of truth .... The passion that is of its author, and propose that the chief aim of the reader
traced before us has glowed in a living heart." Oras J. S. Mili should be to re-experience this immanent consciousness. As
asserted, in a phrasing anticipating the theory of later Sym- Georges Poulet wrote, in "Phenomenology ofReading" (1g6g):
bolists and Expressionists, poetry embodies "itself in symbols "When I read as I ought ... my consciousness behaves as
which are the nearest possible representations of the feeling though it were the consciousness of another." As early as 1778,
in the exact shape in which it exists in the poet's mind. " The J. G. He rder had declared: "This living reading, this divina-
mirror held up to n"ature becomes a mirror held up to the tion into the soul of the author, is the sole mode of reading,
poet, or else it is rendered transparent: Shakespeare's works, and the most profound means of self-development." The
according to Carlyle, "are so many windows, through which quotation reveals the extent to which consciousness-criticism
we see a glimpse of the world that was in him." Correspond- although employing phenomenological concepts derived fro~
ingly, the ~lements constituting a poem become in large part the philosopher Husserl, is rooted in the Romantic concep-
Doing Things wilh Texts Types and Orirnuuions of Crilical Theories

tion that a work of literature is the expression of a unique joseph Warton and other eighteenth-century Longinians had
self. gane still farther, by isolating the transporting short poem,
The principal alternative in nineteenth-century expressive or the intense image or fragment in a longer poem, and
theory to the view that poetry is the expression of feelings, identifying itas "pure poetry," "poetry as such," or the "poetry
or unrealized desires, of an individual personality, was of a poem." In the nineteenth century, there emerged the
Coleridge's view that "poetry" (the superlative passages that explicit theory that the essentially poetic is to be found only
occur both in poems and other forms of discourse) is the in the incandescent and unsustainable short poem or pas-
product of "that synthetic and magical power, to which we sage, originating in the soul, unachievable by art, and unan-
have exclusively appropriated the name of imagination" alyzable by critics, but characterized by the supreme aesthetic
(Biographia Literaria, 18 1 7). The crea ti ve imagination of the virtue of "intensity." This mode of thinking is to be found in
poet, like God the Creator, is endowed with an inner source Hazlitt's treatment of "gusto"; in Keats's concept that "the
of motion , and its creative activity, generated by the tension excellence of every art is its int.ensity"; in Poe's doctrine (picked
of contraries seeking resolution in a new whole, parallels the up by Baudelaire) that "a poem is such, only inasmuch as it
dynamic principie underlying the created universe. Follow- intensely excites, by elevating, the soul; and all intense excite-
ing the lead of post-Kantian German theorists, especially ments are, through a psychal necessity, brief" ("The Philos-
Schelling and A. W. Schlegel, Coleridge opposes the organic ophy of Composition," 1846); in Arnold's use of fragmentary
imaginative process to the mechani~::¡¡ operation of the fancy; touchstones for detecting "the very highest poetical quality";
that is, he deals with it, in terms that are literal for a growing in the Abbé Bremond's theory of"la poésie pure"; and, more
plant and metaphoric for imagination, as a self-organizing recen ti y and explicitly still, in A. E. Housman's The N ame and
process, assimilating disparate materials by an inherent law- Nature of Poetry ( 1933).
fu lness into an organic unity revealed "in the balance or rec-
onciliation of opposite or discordant qualities." Coleridge thus
inaugurated the organic theory of poetry in England, as well
as the aesthetic principie of inclusiveness, or the "re.concilia- OBJECTIVE THEORIES
tion of opposite or discordant qualities," which became both
the basic conception of poetic unity and the prime criterion Aristotle, afte~: defining tragedy as an imitation of a certain
of poetic excellence in l. A. Richards and many of the New kind of action with cer tain characteristic "powers," or effects,
Critics. showed the way to the further consideration of the tragic
One other variant of the expressive theory deserves men- poem as an entity in itself, subject to internal requirements

-
-~
tían. Longinus had attributed the sublime quality especially
to the stunning image, or to brief passages characterized by
"speed, power, and intensity," comparable in effect "to a
thunder-bolt or flash of lightning," and recognizable by the
(such as unity, probability, progression from beginning
through complication to catastrophe) which determine the
selection, treatment, and ordering of the parts into an artistic
whole. Despite their persistent appeal to Aristotle as exem-
transport or "spell that it throws over us." Many expressive plar, however, most later critics in effect assimilated Aristotle
theorists, assuming tne lyric to be the paradigm of poetry, to the Horatian theoretical frame, aligning ihe poem to its
depart from the Neoclassic emphasis on distinct and hierar- audience. In the eighteenth century, however, a radical shift
chically ordered poetic kinds by minimizing other genres occurred in the approach to poetry, asto the other arts. Ever
except as the occasion for the sporadic expression of lyrical since classical times the theoretical framework had been a
feeling, as "Yell as by applying to all poems qualitative and construction paradigm, in which the enterprise was to estab-
evaluative terms independent of their generic differences. lish the "art" of poetry, or what Ben Jonson had called "the
18 Doing Things with Texts Types and Orientations of Critica[ Theories 19
craft of making" a good poem, which would also serve to is an "art of imitation" that is designed "to teach and delight."
inform critics how to judge whether a poem was good, or The revolutionary possibilities of the concept that the poet is
well made. In the eighteenth century this often gave way to the creator of a new world began to be exploited only when
a perceptual paradigm, in which a perceiver confronts a it beca me necessary to justify poetry against the claim by writers
completed poem, however it got made, and analyzes the fea- in the age of the "new philosophy" that (as Hobbes put it in
tures it presents to his attention and "taste," or sensibility. Answer to Davenant) since poetry is "an imitation of human
Addison's Speclator papers on "The Pleasures of the lmagi- life," the poet may not go "beyond the conceived possibility
nation" ( 1712) is an innovative document in the theory of art, of nature." Addison's counter-claim, in defending "the fairy
above all because, by adopting the general stance of Locke's way of writing" in Spectator 419, is that in such products of
epistemology, it substitutes for the old view of the poeta as a the poet's "invention" and "imagination" we "are led, as it
"maker" and the poema as a "made thing" the stance of a per- were, into a new creation," and that in its nonrealistic com-
ceiver to the poem as a given object. Within this altered par- ponents, poetry "makes new worlds of its own, shows us per-
adigm, or theoretical stance, two critica! models for the nature sons .who are not to be found in being." The young German
of a poem were exploited during the eighteenth century until philosopher Alexander Baumgarten, in Philosophical R efiec-
they effected a shift, among philosophers of art, from the tions on Poetry ( 1735), developed this concept that sorne kinds
earlier mimetic or pragmatic theories to an objective theory of poetry are a new creation by translating into poetics the
of poetry-as-such. (For a discussion of the nature, social causes, cosmogony of Leibniz, according to which God, in creating
and conceptual origins of this shift, see the essays below, "Art- this "best of all possible worlds," chose from an indefinite
as-Such: The Sociology of Modero Aesthetics" and "From number of "possible worlds," each constituted by "compossi-
Addison to Kant: Modero Aestheticsand the Exemplary Art.") ble" (mutually coherent) elements and each ordered by its
One of these is the heterocosmic model, in which each work unique interna! laws. In Baumgarten's poetics, the nonreal-
constitutes a unique, coherent, and autonomous world. The istic elements in a poem, which he calls "heterocosmic fic-
other is the contemplation model, in which each work is a tions, " are justifiable in that they are capable of co-existing in
self-sufficient object that is contemplated disinterestedly for another "possible" world; he also, in an important theoretical
its own sake. move, extends the heterocosmic analogue to account for the
The figurative model of a poem as its own created world "interconnection" of elements in all poems whatever: "The
had been inaugurated by thinkers of the Italian Renais- poet is like a maker or creator. So the poem ought to be Iike
sance-Cristoforo Landino, Tasso, Scaliger-who proposed a world"; hence each poetic world, since it is governed by its
that the poet does not imitate God's world but, like the God own system of laws, manifests a "poetic" truth that is not of
of Genesis, crea tes his own world; and, it was sometimes sug- correspondence to the real world but of interna! coherence.
gested, ex nihilo, "out of nothing." Su eh high claims, however, The adaptation to poetry of Leibniz's philosophy of divine
served at first merely as a passing topic of praise within an creation effected similar conclusions in the Swiss-German
overall pragmatic view of poetry, used in order to counter critics Bodmer and Breitinger. As Breitinger summarized this
the derogation of poets and the charge that their fictions are view in his Critische Dichtkunst ( 1 740), the poetic imagination
lies. With this aim Sidney, for example, glorified poetry above finds its originals "not in the actual world, but in sorne other
all other human achievements by claiming that the poet alone, possible world-structure. Every single well-invented poem is
"lifted up with the vigor of his own invention, doth grow in therefore to be regarded in no other way than as the history
effect into another nature," when "with the force of adivine of an other possible world. In this respect the poet alone
breath he bringeth things forth far surpassing her doings"; deserves the na me of poietes; that is, of a creator." The con-
he at once t\.lrns, however, to his basic formulation that poetry sequence, as Bodmer put it, is that "poetic truth," within the
20 Doing Things with Texts Types arui Orienlalioru of Critical Theories 21

distinctive world of a poem, differs from "rational truth" in who introduced the theological terms contemplation and dis-
that its probability consists not in correspondence to the interested into the context of a discussion of the way we appre-
existing world but "in its coherence with itself" (Von dem hend beautiful earthly objects, including works of art; but
Wunderbaren, 1740)0 In England critics who adopted Addi- Shaftesbury dealt with such sensible beauties only as ancillary
son's metaphor of a poemas a new creation achieved parallel to his Neoplatonic ethical and religious philosoph y, which
results, though in less d etail and without the underpinning permitted no essential distinction among religious, moral, and
of Leibnizian cosmogonyo In explicit refutation of Hobbes, aesthetic "contemplationo" lt remained for Shaftesbury's
for example, Richard Hurd (Letters on Chivalry and Romance, philosophical successors in Germany, where he enjoyed an
1762) affirmed tha\. "poetical truth" is independent of enormous vague, to secularize and specialize the terms con-
"philosophical or historical truth," on the grounds that "the templation, disinterested, and for its own sake, by transferring their
poet has a world of his own, where experience has less to do, application from God to works of art, and by using these
than consistent imaginationo" terms specifically to differentiate aesthetic experience from
The alternative model-the concept that a poem, like other religious a nd moral, as well as from practica) and utilitarian,
works of art, is a self-bounded object that is to be contem- experienceo
plated disinterestedly and for its own sake-also had a theo- The young German thinker Karl Philipp Moritz was the
logical origin, but one quite different from that of the poem first to propound an unqualifiedly objective theory of art and
as an alterna ti ve to God 's creation oThe historical roots of this poetry as such, and in doing so he deployed both the contem-
concept are in Pl~to's assertion, in the Symposium, that the plation model and the heterocosmic model of art, in a way
highest good of life consists in the "contemplation of beauty that evidenced the degree to which the two were in fact con-
absolute" (that is, of the Idea of Ideas), as seen "with the eye ducive to similar artistic concepts and criteriao In an "Essay
of the mind"; also in Plotinus's derivative claims, in the Enneads, on the U nification of All the Fine Arts" ( 1785), Moritz attacks
that the Absolute , or One, is "wholly self-sufficing," "self- the reigning views that the arts aim at an "imitation of nature"
closed," and "autonomous," and that the ultimate aim of the with the "end" of giving pleasure to an audienceo Only the
human soul, impelled by "!ove," is to "contemplate Absolute mechanical, use fui arts, Moritz asserts, ha ve an "outer en do "
Beauty in its essential integrity" and thus to achieve a peace "In the contemplation of the beautiful object [of art], how-
without "movement," "passion," or "outlooking desireo" In ever o o o l contemplate it as something which is completed o o o
the early Christian centuries various Church Fathers con- in its own self, which the refore constitutes a whole in itself,
flated the self-sufficient Absolute of Plato and Plotinus, how- and affords me pleasure Jor its own sake" (Moritz's italics)o T hree
ever incongruously, with the persor.al God of the Bibleo St. years later, in his essay "On the Formative Imitation of the
Augustine, more than any other, fixed these ideas in Chris- Beautiful," Moritz buttresses these views by adverting to the
tian thought, in his reiterated claims that al! the good and heterocosmic model of a work of art as its own creation: the
beautiful things in this world of sense are to be loved only "formative power" of the artist dissolves reality in arder "to
for their "use," but that God alo ne, as "the Supreme Beauty," form and create" what nature has left unrealized "into a self-
-~ and thus self-sufficient, is to be loved not for use but for pure governing, self-sufficient wholeo" In this way the artist's power
"enjoyment," as His own end and non propter aliud, for His "creates its own world, in which o o oevery thing is, in its own
own sake (propter se ipsam), and gratis (free of profit to the way, a self-su fficient whole" that has "its entire value, and the
self)o And in this life, Augustine says, the highest manifesta- end of its existence, in itself."
tion of love is an "enjoyment" of God which is a visio, or con- It is evident that when, only a few years later, Kant pub-
-~
- templa tio n by the mind's eye, of God in His supreme beautyo
It was the third oEarl of Shaftesbury, in his Characteristics (1711 ),
lished his epochal Critique of Aesthetic Judgment (1790), he
assumed the perceiver's, instead of the maker's, stance to a
22 Doing Things with T exls Types and Orientation.s of Critica/ Theorits 23

work of art ; also that he adopted, but greatly subtilized, the tury, was often merged with that of a literary work as its own
conte mplation model and the distinctive philosophical created world. To Flaubert, for example, the relation of an
vocabulary, d escended from the Neoplatonists and Augus- author to his second creation should be like that of God to
tine, that we have traced in Mo ritz. According to Kant the his original creation, both immanent and transcende nt: "An
"pure judgment of taste" (that is, the normative aesthetic author in his book must be like God in the universe, present
perception) "combines delight or aversion immediately with everywhere and visible nowhere. Art being a second Nature,
the mere contemplation of the object, irrespective of its use or the creator of that Nature must behave similarly"-a view
any end"; it is "the one and only disinterested andfree d elight," thatJoy.ce's Stephen Dedalus echoed, in A Portrait of the Artist
in that it is "purely contemplative," "without desire," and free as a Young Man, in asserting that "the artist, like the God of
of reference to the "externa)" ends of use or moral good; and the creation, remains within or be hind o r beyond or above
it "pleases fo r its own sake ifür sich selbst gefallt)." Like Moritz, his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indiffer-
Ka nt also conjoins the conte mplative to the heterocosmic ent, paring his fingernails."
model: "The [productive] imagination is a powerful agent In his essay "Poetry for Poetr y's Sake" (190 1), A. C. Brad-
for the creation, as it were, of a second nature out of the ley undertook, he said , to salvage the basic truths within the
material supplied to it by actual nature," in which, "follow- exaggerated claims of art for art's sake. The experience of
ing, no doubt, laws tha t a re based on analogy," the materials poetry, he declared, "is an end in itself," and "poetic value" is
a re worked up into "what surpasses nature." "this intrinsic worth alone," independe nt of a poem's "ulte-
Various of these Moritzian a nd Ka ntian concepts of art-as- rior worth" as means to ends outside itself ; for a poem is not
such were assimilated by Schiller, the Schlegels, Schopen- :·a par.t, nor yet a copy of the real world," but "a world by
haue r , a nd others, a nd became elements in the mainstream 1tself, mdependent, complete, autonomous," and the reade r
of professional aesthetics. In the mid-nine teenth century must "conform to its laws. " Poetry and reality "are parallel
similar views e merged among practicing poets and critics, developments which nowhere meet .. . they are analogues. "
when the concept that a poe m, as a sufficie nt and autono- And the reciproca) of this concept, from the standpoint of
mous object, is to be contemplated disinterestedly for its own the reader, is that the poetic otherworld exists for our disin-
sake became a common tenet among French proponents of terested contemplation; as Bradley puts it, the poem "ma kes
l'art pour l'art. One source of this view was, through Baude- no direct appeal to those feelings, desires, and purposes [of
laire as intermediary, Poe's lauda tio n in "The Poetic Princi- ?ur .Iife in this world], but speaks only to contemplative imag-
pie" (1848-49) of the "poem per se-this poem which is a mauon."
poem and nothing more- this poem written solely for the The objective conception o f poetry-as-such , expressed in
poem's sake" a nd offering a "pure" pleasure "from the con- one or a nother idiom, became the d omina nt mode of think-
templation of the Beautiful." Another important source was ing for many literar y theorists and critics, as well as for many
a popularized version of Kant's aesthe tic ideas in Víctor major authors, in the half-century or so beginning in the 1920s.
Cousin's lectu res o n The True, the Beautiful, and the Good, The "Russian Formalists" set up a fundame ntal opposition
available in numerous editio ns after their first publication, between literary (or poetical) language and ordinary "prac-
twenty years after they- had been d elivered in 18 17- 18. "The tica)," "referential," or "scientific" language. Whereas ordi-
mere imitation o fnature," as Gautier wrote in 184 7, "cannot nary language communicates by references to the outer world,
be the end of the artist." The pur pose of the modern school literary language is self-focused, exploiting various devices in
of l'art pour l'art is "to seek beauty for its own sake with com- order to "foreground" the utterance itself, to "estrange" it
plete impar:tiality, perfect disinterestedness." This concept of from ordinary discourse, and to draw attention from outer
disinterested contemplation , as in the Iatter eighteenth cen- relations to its own "formal" features, the interrelationships
24 Doing Things with Texts
Types and Orientation.s of Critica[ Theori~s 25
among the linguistic signs themselves. ~he loos~-~un~aried
critica) movement of French Structurahsm, begmnmg m the ~ddr~ssed, or in .the state of the language that the author
1950s, absorbed sorne Formalist concepts, but viewed a lit- mhents ("Intro_duction," Critics and Criticism, ed. R. S. Crane).
erary work as primarily a second-order signif~ing sys~em; that The . most w1despread and commonly applied theory of
is, it uses language, the first-order system, as 1_ts m~d~um, and poetry m the quarter-century between the mid-1930s and 1960
is itself to be analyzed on the model of the hngwsuc theory wa~ .t~at .?~med by John C_ro~e Ransom in 1941 "the New
propounded by Ferdinand de Sa_ussure in his Cour~e in Gen- CntlCISm ; It became the re1gnmg point of view in American
eral Linguistics ( 1915). Structurahsm opposes t~e ~~~ws that colleges and schools especially after the publication in 1938
literature imitates reality, or expresses the subJeCtlVlty of an by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Peno Warren of the widely
author, o r is a mode of communication between author and used textbook Understanding P oetry. These critics differ in the
reader. Instead it regards a work (whether a novel or a poem) details of th_eir ~heory, but shar~ the concept that poetry in
as a mode of writing (écriture) that, like the linguistic system ~he large (wt~h httle or no attent10n to diverse poetic genres)
that precipitates it, is a self-determining structure of inter- 1s to be constd_e~ed as a special mode o f la nguage, which is
relatio ns constituted by a play of specifically literary conven- defi.ned by posnmg for poetry features tha t are systematically
tions and "codes." The general aim of Structuralist critics, as cont~~ry to t_h e abstract, lite ral, and conceptual nature, the
J o na than Culler put it in Structuralist Poetics ( ~ 975~· i_s to "con- em~mcal claims, a nd the referential and practica! purposes
struct a poetics which stands to literature as hngwsucs stands ~ttnbuted to the language of "science." A poem thus becomes
to language"-that is, as the generallaws of a langue stand to lts own world-a distinctive universe of discourse-which is
a specific utterance or parole. set against representations of the ordinary world of things,
Among American literary theoris~ between 1930 an~ 1960, people, and events; and the integrity and bounda ries of this
the most widely accepted formulauons were that a hterary ~orld, or_poetic "o bject," are carefully guarded by prohibi-
work is "autotelic," and that we must consider poetry "pri- ttons agamst the "personal heresy," "the heresy of para-
marily as poetry and not another thing" (T . S. Eliot); or that phrase" (Cieanth Brooks), a nd what W. K. Wimsatt and
the first law of criticism is to "cite the nature of the object" Monroe Beardsley called the "intentional fallacy" (refe rence
and to recognize "the autonomy of the work itself as existing to the p urpose and state of mind of the author) and the
for its own sake" (J. C. Ransom); or that the essential tas_k of "affective fallacy" (reference to the responses of the reader).
the critic is the "intrinsic," not the "extrinsic," study of hter- The sole end o~ a poem is the poem itself as a self-sufficient
ature (Wellek and Warren) . The "Chicago Critics," while "s~ructure of meanings. " The New Critics d evelo ped a for-
acknowledging the usefulness of an "integral cr_iticism" t~at midable apparatus for their most innovative and distinctive
considers poetry, in an inclusive context, as shanng essent1al pro_c~dure, the detailed "explication," or "close reading," of
features with other human products, themselves advocate and mdividual poems as a totality of "logical structure" and "local
pursue a "differential criticism" that ~e~ls wit~ a poem as texture" (Ransom), o r an equilibrium of multiple "tensions"
such, in its distinctive interna) characten sucs. Th1s they do by (Ailen Tate), or an "organic unity" of ironies, ambiguities,
expanding u pon a procedure they attribute to Aristotle: they paradoxes, and image-patterns (Brooks). The attempt was
view each poem as an a rtistic whole that is formally con- often made ~~ reco~nect the poem-as-such to _the ordinary
structed to achieve a particula r "working or power"; the ele- ~orld by posnmg as Hs organizing principie a "theme," which
ments, inte rrelations, and structure of the poem are 1s embodied and dramatized in the poem's evolving imagery
systematically analyzed as interna) causes of that ~o~er-causes and "symbolic action," and is to be judged by such tests as
that are theoretically separable from extra-artlstlc causes of "seriousness," "maturity," "profundity," and the subtlety of
a poem in the nature of an individual author, in the audience the "moral awareness" that the poem manifests. (See Brooks's\ \ ' 1 ft~
"Irony as a Principie of Structure"; also, the highly influen~· '
26 Doing Things with Texts Types and Orientations of Critical Thtories 27
tial writings of the English critic F. R. Leavis, which are in . bourgeois era, of the class conAicts, contradictions, crippling
parallel with many of the assumptions and practices of his intellectual conditions, and human alienation under capital-
American contemporaries.) But as W. K. Wimsatt stresses in ism. A majar new challenge to reigning views was mounted
The Verbal/con, such reassertions of the thematic and moral by Northrop Frye's archetypal theory, announced in his
aspects of a poem are to be understood not in an expressive Anatomy of Criticism (1957) and elaborated in a number of
or pragmatic, but in an objective, orientation: "Neither the later wriúngs. Frye substitutes for the autonomous single work
qualities of the author's mind nor the effects of a poem u pon of the New Critics an all-inclusive autonomous realm, the "self-
a reader's mind should be confused with the moral quality contained literary universe," which has over the ages been
expressed by the poem itself." Similarly with the assertions bodied forth by the generically human imagination so as to
of Ransom and other New Critics-in opposition to the pos- humanize an inhuman reality by incorporating it into per-
itivist's claim that valid knowledge is the sole prerogative of sisting mythical forms that serve to satisfy enduring human
science-that poetry is "cognitive" and provides, as Tate says, needs and concerns. The four radical mythoi (structural prin-
a "special, unique, and complete knowledge" ("The Present cipies) are the primary genres of comedy, romance, tragedy,
Funcúon of Criúcism"). It turns out that the knowledge yielded and satire; but within each genre, individual works inevitably
by a poem is not that of correspondence to the world, but play variations upon many other archetypes, or inherited
that of the concrete and bounded world of the poem itself: imaginative forms, that literature shares not only with other
"lt is sufficient," as Tate puts it, "that here, in the poem, we "discursive verbal structures" and with myths, but also with
get knowledge of a whole object." Andas in the earlier appli- ritualized forms of social activities.
cations of the heterocosmic concept, the mimetic truth of
correspondence is replaced by a truth of coherence that is
coterminous with the poem. As W. K. Wimsatt puts this view
in The Verbal ! con, a poem does not mirror the world but, by RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
the multiplicity of its interna! relaúonships, becomes an object
that is itself densely physical, hence isomorphic with the world, Since the mid-196os, all traditional theories of poetry have
to which it stands in the relation of an "icon" or (in the term been thrown into considerable disarray by a number of intel-
earlier used by A. C. Bradley) an analogue: "The dimension lectual movements which, whatever their radical diver-
of coherence is ... greatly enhanced and thus generates an gences, coinóde in focusing on the way in which we read,
extra dimension of correspondence to reality, the symbolic and in the conclusion that there are "no right readings" of
or analogical." any poetic or literary writing, hence that, since the meanings
Resistant, in this century, to the theories of poetry-as-such of a text are radically indeterminate, a critic is liberated from
have been Freudian critics who, whatever the refinements his traditional subord inacy to the work he comments on, and
they introduce, continue to treat poetry as primarily a prod- in fact achieves the production of meaning-the function of
uct, under a variety of cunning disguises, of the poet's "creativity"-that earlier critics had mistakenly attributed to
unconscious desires. Another counter-theory is that of Marx- the author of a work. (These recent developments are dis-
ist critics who in recent decades have produced complex and cussed at greater length in part 4, below.) In The Anxiety of
subtle versions of thé basic view that literature both expresses Influence (1973) anda number of later books, Harold Bloom
and reAects an ideology that, in the final analysis, derives from propases that a poet as reader experiences sorne poem, or
the structure and conAict of classes attendant upon the dis- poems, of a precursor as an intolerable threat to his own
tinctive means of economic production in any given era; the imaginative uniqueness and autonomy. This anxiety brings
special erriphasis is on the literary "reAection," in the modern into inevitable play a variety of psychic defenses that distort
28 Doing Things with Texts Types and Oritntaticm.s of Critical Theorits 29
drastically the precursor-poem even as it is re-embodied in de Man and J. Hillis Miller, have adapted Derrida's views of
the poet's own "belated" poem, and so gives this latter the writing, as well as his standard practice of the deconstructive
precarious illusion of being "prior" to its poetic predecessor ~ea?i.ng of selected textual passages, to the clase reading of
and model, both in psychological time and in imaginative mdJvJdual p~ems and other literary works, or of passages from
originality. But readings of the later poem, whether by poets such works, m·the attempt to show that, by the interna! rhe-
or by critics of poetry, are in their turn bound to be "defen- torical, figurative, and counter-logical economy of their tex-
sive," hence inescapably distortive "misreadings." In essays tuality, these works are ultimately allegories about their own
written during the 1970s, collected in Is There a Text in This lang~age, and i~evitably disseminate into self-conAicting
Class? (1980), Stanley Fish established himself as the most aponas of undeCidable meanings. As Hillis Miller describes
radical exemplar of the international movement of Reader- the enterprise ("Stevens' Rock and Criticism as Cure, 11"):
response Criticism. Fish propases, in what he calls his "affec- "The deconstructive critic seeks to find ... the element in the
tive criticism," that the text of a poem is simply a set of blank system studied which is illog:cal, the thread in the text in
signs, an empty stimulus, in response to which a reader, question which will unravel it all .. . . Deconstruction is ... a
deploying one or another "interpretive strategy," in effect demonstration that [the text] has already dismantled itself."
"writes" the text in its formal features, and does not discover 1 ~ shou~d be noted that neither Fish's type of Reader-response
but "creates" all its meanings, as well as its postulated author v1ewpomt nor Deconstructive Criticism is a theory specifi-
and his presumed intentions in writing the text. In his later ~ally.of poetry or literature, but a theory of reading and writ-
writings Fish stresses the concept of "interpretive communi- mg m general. Deconstructive critics, however, favor, or
ties"; in each such community its members, since they share "privilege," literary texts in their critica! analyses on the ground
interpretive presuppositions and habits of reading, are able that they show more self-awareness-in de Man's term, they
to agree, approximately at least, in the meanings they find; are less "mystified"-about their own fictional and illusionary
but the number of possible strategies and communities is textual tactics.
indefinitely large, and since each produces its own reading The multiplicity, and what seem the unresolvable contra-
of a text, the result is an indefinite number of incompatible dictions, among competing theories of poetry has Ied to
yet undecidable interpretations. repeated attacks against the validity or utility of such theoriz-
Most prominent in the 198os has been Deconstructive ing. Sorne analytic philosophe.rs, for example, have attacked
Criticism, based primarily on the writings, beginning in the all such theories as illegitimately grounded on "essentialist"
latter 196os, of the Poststructuralist French thinker Jacques de~nitions ~f ar~ ~r poetry, and as manifesting a variety of
Derrida. Derrida views poetry and literature as instances of log.ICal a?? .l mgu¡suc.errors and confusions; to them, the only
writing, écriture, which, like all Western writing, are "logocen- vahd cntiCism cons1sts of verifiable statements about the
, tric," in that they p resuppose a "lagos" or "presence"-an properties of individual poems or other works of art. (See,
, absolute "ground," or a "transcendental signified"-that exists for example, Aesthetics and Language, ed. William Elton, 1954.)
outside of, and is unmediated by, language, and that func- Such "meta-criticism," however, mistakes the historical func-
tions to organize a language system and to warrant the deter- tion of th~or.y in the practice of criticism. A profitable theory,
minability of any utterance or writing in that language. In al~hough m 1ts own way empírica! (by beginning and ending
the inevitable absence of such a ground, Derrida claims, all Wlth an appeal to the features of poems), is not a science like
writing inevitably deconstructs itself by "disseminating" with- physics but an enterprise of discovery-what Coleridge called
out limit into an "undecidable" suspension of significations "a speculative instrument." The definitions of poetry or art
that involve "aporias"-that is, conAicting or contradictory from which most theories set out, for example, may or may
meanings. American deconstructionist critics, such as Paul not have been intended by their proponents to be assertions
30 Doing Things with Texts
of the essence or ultimare nature of poetry; in practice, how-
ever, they have often served as an indispensable heuristic
device for blocking out an area of investigation and establish-
ing a point of vantage over that area; they have functioned
also as the principies of reasoning about poetry, and the
grounds for developing a coherent set of categories and dis-
tinctions to be used in classifying, analyzing, and appraising
--J
particular poems. (On the justification for critica! theories, What's the Use
.. see the following essay in this volume.) The diverse theories
described in this article-however contradictory an excerpted
statement from one may seem when matched against an iso-
lated statement from another-may in fact serve as alterna-
of 'Theorizing about
tive and complementary procedures for doing the critic'sjob,
with each theory, from its elected vantage, yielding distinc- the Arts?
... tive insights into the properties and relations of poems. Crit-
icism without sorne theoretical understructure-whether this
theory, as in Aristotle or Coleridge, is prior and explicit, or,
as in johnson and Arnold, is adverted to only as occasion
demands-is largely made up of desultory impressions and
of unsystematic concepts that are supposedly given by "com-
mon sense," but turn out to have been inherited from earlier . THE DEROGATION or dismissal of theory in the criti-
osm of art has a long history and has been manifested even
critics, in whose writi ngs they were implicated in a theoretical
structure. And the history of criticism at the hands of its mas- by writers who have themselves engaged in both criticism and
ters, from Aristotle through Johnson, Goethe, and Coleridge theory. In the last two or three decades, however, a number
to the present, testifies that the applied, or practica!, criticism of philosophers have mounted an attack against critica! the-
applauded by impressionists and philosophical analysts alike ory, whether applied ~o a particular genre or to art in gen-
has been neither purely impressionistic nor ad hoc, but most eral, on ~rounds that, tf .ther can survive scrutiny, are wholly
telling when grounded on the principies, distinctions, and dev~statmg. For the clatm 1s that, although the criticism of
coherent reasoning that constitute precisely what we mean particular works of art is a valid activity, a valid critica! or
by a theory of poetry. aesthetic theory is a logical impossibility.
These inquirers write in the philosophical climate of lin-
guisti: an~lysis that has been pervasive in England and
Amenca smce the majar writings of Bertrand Russell and
G. E. Moore, and they deploy especially concepts derived from
t~e la~er th~ught of Ludwig Wittgenstein, as represented in
~1s P~twsophual lnvestigations ( 1953). A number of earlier essays
m .thts mod~ ~ave been collected in Aesthetics and Language,
edtted by Wtlham Elton; 1 others have appeared at intervals
in philosophic and aesthetic journals; but this approach to
the problems and procedures of critics and theorists of art
has been most persistently sustained, and most fully devel-
Doing Things with Ttxls What's the Use of Theorizing about the Artsr 33
oped, by Morris Weitz, first in a series of essays and then in that the questions raised in criticism are of a single Iogical
a substa ntial book, H amlet and the Philosophy of Literary Criti- type, "namely, factual ones . .. to which true (or false) answers
cism ( 1964). can be given," by reference to objectively existing facts in the
T hese philosophers treat criticism exclusively as a mode o f work of art, or in the world . Weitz instead specifies four dis-
la nguage, a nd their analysis of criticism consists in ide ntify- tinct procedures in critica! discourse which , since they "func-
ing and describing the use of the distinctive terms, and in tion d ifferen tly," "do different critica! j obs," "play different
validating or invalidating the distinctive arguments, in criti- roles," are logically "irreducible." 11 Three of these logical
ca! d iscourse. In this as pect analytic me tacriticism (the criti- enterprises (description, explanation or interpretation, and
cism of criticism) participates in the reigning intellectual evaluation) are legitimate, but a fourth (poetics or theory) is
tendency of our age, in and out of philosophy, to reduce all not. Though other analysts are not so systematic or detailed
modes a nd subjects of inquiry to linguistic terms. The ana- in their inventory, what they say indicates similar distinctions
lytic approach to the la nguage of criticism, however, takes its and paradigms o f use, and a similar opposition between crit-
cues primarily from Wittgenstein's subtle exploration of his ici~m and critica! theory. Thus:
guiding concept that to d etermine the meaning of a word or ( 1) Descriptions consist of true or false assertions about a
expressio n we must look not to the things it names or refers work (for example, assertions about the words in the text,
to but to its use; naming is only one kind of use of sorne kinds about the characte rs and their actions, or about the seque nce
of words in sorne contexts. The uses of a word or expression of events in the plot), which are, in principie, verifiable by
(or of the concept that it verbalizes) are the roles or functions reference to "données," or "facts," about which there can be
that it performs or is capable of performing in actual utter- no doubt or reasonable dispute. If assertions of this type
ances, and in performing these roles, it is governed by unstated remain doubtfully true o r false, that is because, though they
rules tha t are observed by persons who know how to use the are verifiable in principie, the available evidence is inade-
language. Discourse, then, is d escribable, meta phorically, as quate to resolve the doubt. 4
a diversity of language-games, and its rules of usage (2) Explanation and interpretation undertake to clarify a
(thou gMnya: implicit and flexible) are comparable to the rules work by a nswering such questions as why a character acts as
(though these are explicit and rigid) tha t govern the possible he does, what the proper meaning is of a passage or of the
moves of a piece in a game of chess. T he conventions that work as a whole, which of the elements in a work a re central
constitute the role or functio n of an expression in accord- or primary, how the d etails of a work relate to each other.
ance with its implicit rules Wittgenstein calls its "grammar," Interpretations cannot be proved to be true, but they can be
or sometimes its "logical grammar," or "logical syntax." "supported" by "reasons." C. L. Stevenson conceives an
Unwittingly to vio la te the logical grammar of the way expres- interpretation to be ultimately normative, or quasi-impera-
sions function in ever yday la nguage is to run the risk of tive, and claims that the reasons are not logically related to
philosophical muddle, paradox, a nd error. an interpretative judgment, but serve o nly to "guide" a crit-
Applying such insights to critica! discourse about the arts, ic's decision, as well as the decision of the reader to whom
a number of philosophical analysts discriminate a variety of the critic addresses himself, by causal (that is, psychological)
typicallinguistic usages, each with its distinctive logical form . influence. 5 Morris Weitz, however, views interpretations as
As Morris Weitz puts the enterprise, a problem of "the phi- functioning "logically," in that they are explanatory
losophy of art" is "the description of the actual functioning "hypotheses" which can be "confirmed" by reasons that appeal
of the basic terms and kinds of argument of criticism"; in to the factual elements, and the order of these elements, in
othe r words, "to get clear about the logic of critica! talk about the work that is being interpreted. As a hypothesis, however,
art." 2 All critics, and most philosophers, he claims, assume an interpretation cannot be confirmed in the sense of being
34 Doing Things with Texts What's tM Use o[TMorizing about the Artsr 35
proved true, or uniquely correct, since counterhypotheses heavily upon his associated re marks a bout "family resem-
remain logically possible. An interpretation can be con- ?Jances": Don't assume, for example, that the many proceed-
firmed only by showing it to be "adequate," to the extent that mgs we call "games" must have one thing in common, else
it is clear, self-consistent, and serves to account for the data they would not be called "games"; instead, "look and see." And
of a text without obvious omissions or distortions.6 when we look, we see nothing that is common to all things so
(3) When a critic says that a work is good or bad, great or called, but only "a complicated network of simila rities over-
trivial, he does not assert or describe a property of the work; lapping and criss-crossing," like "the various resemblances
instead, he utters a judgment, or verdict, or assessment, which between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes.
he supports by reasons, sorne of which are good reasons. . . . And I shall say: 'games' forma family."9
Reasons for an evaluation in volve criteria of value, or "crite- This remarkably seminal analogy, which Wittgenstein used
rion-characters," which are shown to be realized in the prop- to show that we use sorne terms for things that share no sin-
erties of the work of art. 7 Since the criteria of artistic merit ?le property, has been worked by sorne analytic philosophers
depend on the kind of work being discussed, and also differ m~~ th~ view _t~~t a vali? cri~ica~ and aesthe tic theory is a
from age to age, from artistic school to school, and from critic logJCal tmposstbthty. Thetr clatm 1s that such theory consists
to critic, disagreements about criteria (hence disagreements so_Jely, or at least primarily, in the assertion and the system-
in evaluation) are perennial, and cannot be finally resolved. auc attempt to prove or support a true and essential defini-
All a critic can do, when his criteria of value are challenged, tion of art, or of sorne type of art. "Traditional aesthetics "
is to justify them by further reasons, which may win assent says William E. Kennick, "searches for the nature of Art ~r
but cannot be probative. Weitz, unlike other analysts, puts Beauty and finds it by definition," on the assumption that "all
., forward at this point the claim that sorne reasons for an eval- works of art must possess sorne common nature ... a set of
uation are good reasons because they employ criteria of necessary and sufficient conditions for their being works of
art at ~11. " The "main avowed concern" of aesthetic theory,
10
value-examples are "subtlety," "integration," and "fresh-
ness"-which are unchallengeable; that is, "the question, 'But accordmg to Morris Weitz, is "the determination of the nature
what have these to do with ... greatness?' cannot be intelli- of art which can be formulated into a definition of it. It con-
gibly asked since no answer to it can be given.''8 s~rues defini~ion as the statement of the necessary and suffi-
(4) T heory (or "poetics," "aesthetics") is a fourth, logically Clent properues of what is being defined, where the statement
1
distinct linguistic activity which is engaged in by traditional purports to be·a true or false claim about the essence of art."
philosophers and aestheticians, and also by practicing critics Similarly, the narrower theory called "poetics" consists of the
in a philosophical humor. Theory is defined as the attempt attempt to answer a question about the nature of "one or
to answer, and to support the answers te, questions taking ?ther of ~he arts, or species of them" such as literature, paint-
the form , "What is X?": "What is tragedy?" "What is poetry?" mg, ~u_s1c, poetry, drama, or tragedy. "To each question, a
"What is art?" But unlike the questions about particular works poeucs IS a p~rported_ly true answer in the form of a theory
raised by practicing critics, these are bogus questions, and of the essenual, definmg, or necessary and sufficient, prop-
the answers to them are fallacies. Criticism (description, erties of the art in question. " 11
interpretation , evaluati_o n) is a legitimate linguistic actívity, The characteristic procedure is then to show that this
but critica! theorizing is not. undertaking exemplifies the "essentialist fallacy," or the false
Analysts of critica! discourse share Wittgenstein's distrust assumption of "unum nomen; unum nominatum," hence "radi-
of what he calls "our craving for generality" which "is the cally misconstrues the logic of the concept of art." For these
resultant of a number of tendencies connected with particu- general terms in fact have a great diversity of uses in ordi-
lar philosophical confusions," and their critique of theory rests nary and critica) language, in which they are applied to works
36 Doing Things with Texts

that possess no common property, but a~ most a varying p~t­ What's the Use of Theorizing about the Arts? 37
tern of family resemblances, among wh1ch none can quahfy of."the defi~itional forrn, almost epigrammatically, to pin-
as a set of either necessary or sufficient conditions for the pomt a cruc¡aJ recomme ndation" that we concentrare "on
correct use of the term. 12 To this widespread argument Weitz certain criteria of excellence," it serves to teach us "what to
adds another. Terms such as art, painting, tragedy are "open l?o~ for a~d how. to loo k at it in art." Or, as Kennick puts a
concepts," in that historical usage has assigned to them the Similar pomt of v1ew: "The mistake of the aestheticians can
task of allowing for application to new and unforeseen cas~s. be turned to advantage." "The quest for essences" has "a by-
Thus "the very expansive, adventurous character of art, 1ts product," in which the definition performs real work-not,
ever-present changes and novel creations, rnakes it logically however, "the work which the philosophers assign it, but a
impossible to ensure any set of defining properties," for to work of teaching people a new way of looking at pictu res." Js
close the open concept by specifying the necessary and suf-
ficient conditions for its application "is to foreclose upon the
use of the concept which is, at least in part, to accornmodate
itself to these new conditions. " 13 l. SOME USES OF DEFINITIONS
IN THEORy
The conclusion is that aesthetic and poetic theory, as Ken-
nick says, "rests on a mistake"; oras Weitz puts it, "a.esthetic
rheory-all of it-is wrong in principie," "logicallr mJsbeg.ot- Even a stripped-down précis indicares the capacities of this
ten," "logically impossible"; similarly, "poet1cs, unhke metacriticisrn and its great advantages over its imrnediate
description, explanation, and evaluation, is an illegitirnate predecessor in analytic philosophy. Logical positivisrn had
procedure of criticisrn in that it tries to define what is indefin- tended to apportion al! uses of language into one of two cat-
able."14 Oddly, however, such apparently disabling p:o- ego:ies: verifia?Ie or falsifiable e m pirical assertions (syste-
nouncements are often conjoined, by aesthetic analysts, w1th mauzed accordmg to the rules of logic) and nonverifiable
the acknowledgrnent that aesthetic theory has made expressions, scientific language and emotive language,
valuableAnya: contributions-Weitz says "supremely valu- knowledge and pseudo-knowledge, sense and no nsense. One
able" contributions-to our understanding of particular works great adva~cc of ~his ~u:rent analysis is that it recognizes
of art. For, rnistakenly thinking that he is defining artistic ~nya: vanety of hnguJstJc procedures in criticism, in addi-
essence, the theorist has inadvertently accornplished some- tJOn to verifiable d escriptions of fact, which, while not
thing else that is useful. Weitz explains this a~ornaly b.y demonstrably and exclusively true, are nonetheless in their
adapting Charles Stevenson's concept of "per~uas1~e defim- dive:se ways rational, valid, and profitable human pursuits.
tions." "Every theory of an, like every poet1cs, IS nenher true Stlll, sorne aspects and results of this procedure seern on
nor false, but an honorific redefinition of 'art.' " For the terms the face of it questionable, and especially the easy way in which
art, poetry, tragedy in critica) discourse convey an element of it disposes of all critica) theory. The claim is that, for more
praise, and what are presented as definitions of the ne~essary than two thousand years, beginning with Aristotle, sorne of
,á and sufficient conditions for the use of such terms m fact the most acute rninds on record, in theorizing about the arts,
function as a disguised,· and thereby all the more effective, have cornmitted the same gramrnatico-logical · blunders in
, way of recornmending these conditions as criteria of excel- st~bborn pur~uit of the same logically irnpossible goal-enfin
lence in particular works of art, and thus serve to direct our W!Ltgenstem vmt. The further claim is that the admittedly
, attention to features of a work that may hitherto have been valuable consequences of critica! theory are an unintended
overlooked or distorted. Aesthetic theory, as definition, is by-product, a spinoff from an inevitably abortive undertak-
"logically doómed to failure," but if looked upon as the use ing. Now, there is nothing inherently irnpossible in these
assertions, and the advances in sorne areas of knowledge pro-
38 Doing Things wilh TexiS Whal's lht Use of Thtorizing aboul lht Arts r 39
vide examples of long-standing errors that seem in sorne ways It soon appears, however, that what we find when we look
comparable. Nonetheless, before we accept this paradox of depends u pon what theorist we look at, where in his writings
prívate errors-public benefits, it seems prudent to inquire we look, and with what expectations, categories, and aims.
whether the fault may lie, in at least sorne instances, not in The analysts 1 have been discussing cite, with striking una-
the critica! theories that are analyzed but in the analysis itself. nimity, Clive Bell's theory as representative of aesthetic the-
1 should like to pursue such an inquiry, and to do so in ory in general. If we look at Bell's inftuential little book we
accordance with what seem to me to be sorne important find that he sets out, as the title informs us, to answer the
implications of Wittgenstein's own procedures in e lucidating question What ls Art? He says that his answer will be an attempt
the uses of language. Wittgenstein's later writings are often at "a complete theory of visual art," and assumes that "either
cryptic, and like the insights of all philosophers of genius, all works of visual art have sorne common quality, or when
they may be applied in opposite ways, one inhibiting and the we speak of 'works of art' we gibber." He claims that to the
other liberating. One of Wittgenstein's liberating insights is question, What quality is common to all works of visual art?
that th e validity of language consists in the way it is in fact "only. one answer seems possible-significant form," hence
used to sorne purpose, rather than in its accordance with log- that although "the representative e lement in a work of art
ical models of how it should be used; and another is his view may not be harmful, always it is irrelevant. " He then applies
that meanings do not consist in wh at expressions name and this discovery to the discussion both of Postimpressionist and
describe but in how they are used. The uses of language, he of earlier exam ples of visual art. 18 It does not seem unduly
points out, are very many, and operate consonantly toa great omissive nor distortive to say about Bell's theory, as the ana-
diversity of implicit rules or conventions; to discover the actual lysts do, that it consists of the proposal, elucidation, and
use of language, we must be careful not to stop at the isolated attempted proof of a definition of visual art that purports to
expressíon or sentence, a nd not to insist that each stage of a specify the necessary and su fficie nt conditions for the correct
discourse must be a picture corresponding to the facts. Instead, use of the term, that this attempt fai led, but that in its fai lure
we must look to the "surroundings" of each expression, and it achieved something of great value to our appreciation of
these surroundings involve not only the immediate verbal the a rts. 1t achieved this end beca use, at a time ( 1914) when
context, and not simply a consideration of that particular one Edwardian amateurs were preoccupied with the representa-
of many possible language-games the speaker or writer is tional elements of painting, Bell's theory taught them-by its
playing. Also (and ultimately) we must look to the "form of actual function as persuasive rhetoric under the logical dis-
life" of which each language-game is inherently a part- guise of essential definition-how to look at the new nonre-
including the kind of human purposes, interests, and values presentational painting, and also how to discriminare and enjoy
that a particular language-game has evolved to realize. This features in earlier representationa l painting that connois-
is the libe rating aspect of Wittge nstein's thought becau se it seurs had hitherto minimized or overlooked .
affirms that the ro le of philosophy is not to proscribe or limit, But is Bell's little book in fact paradigmatic? Do a ll theories
but to clarify and authenticate the powers that language, in of art consist solely or primarily of the attempt to posit and
its long development as part of man's "natural history," has prove an essential d efinition of art, or of a type of art? And
shown that it in fact possesses in effecting man's needs .16 does the validity of the overall theoretical enterprise depend
on the logical possibility of an essential definition of these
What, in fact, have critical and aesthetic theorists been up to? general terms?
In answering this question, it behooves us to follow Wittgen- In this respect it is instructivc to note that the philosophical
stein's excellent ad vice : Don't say they must have done one critics of critica! theory, although united in their rejection of
thing or another, but "look and see... . Don't think, but look!" 17 the validity of general statements about what art is, do not

~
40 Doing Things with Ttxts What's the Use of Theorizing about the Arts1 41
themselves hesitate to make unqualified assertions about "art," ~that] we examine what critics do in their essays of criticism
"painting," "criticism ," "aesthetics," "aesthetic theory." And mstead of what they say they do" (p. viii).
sometimes they use these general terms as the subjects of If what Weitz says that he is doing isn't adequate evid ence,
sentences that look very much like definitions. then how are we to find out what is the actual role (hence,
Take for example the major book of Morris Weitz, the most "log~c") of his op~~ing definition? No amount of looking at
thorough , a nd in many ways the most illuminating, of the the tsolated defimt10n--considered as a fixed and self-iden-
metacritical analysts. His Hamlet and the Philosophy of Literary tifying logical form, outside its verbal surroundings-will serve
Criticism begins with the following paragraph: to settle the matter. The role of this d efinition can be deter-
mined o~ly by examining what it in fact does when it is put
Criticism is a form of studied discourse about works of art. It to work m the rest o f the book. Only after we have done this
is a use of language primarily designed to facilitate and enrich are we able to say with assurance that Weitz's initial statement
the understanding of art. lnvolved in its practice are highly does not function as an essential definition-that is, as a closed
developed sets of vocabularies, various sorts of procedures co_ncept of ".criticism" whose claim at complete generality is
and arguments, broad assumptions, and a vast diversity of made pla~stble only by ignoring or steam-rollering over
specific goals and purposes. counterevtde nce. Instead we find that it is used not as a rul-
i?g. d efinition but as a working definition: it serves, in a pre-
This is surely a statement that, in logical as well as ordinary ~tmmary way, to block out the area of his inquiry, and also to
grammatical discourse, we would call a "definition of criti- ~ntr~d u~e sorne categories that he will use to organize his
cism." lts first sentence has the "X is a b e" form , in which mqutry mto that area. For example, by delimiting his use of
"X" is the term to be d efined and "a b e" specifies the mean- "~riticism" to "studied discourse," Weitz rules out of his cog-
ing of X in the classical manner, per genus et differentiam, mza nce the use of "criticism" for what Anatole France called
employing terms that the succeeding sentences go on to spec- the narr.ation of "the adve ntures of [the critic's] soul a mong
ify and expand. Weitz also asserts later that "the question, masterpteces," and by delil1liting it to discourse about "works
What is criticism ?" is "the major concern of this book" (p. of art," he rules out a large pa rt of the area covered by the
133); so that one has grounds to claim, if one is inclined to term in ~uch a standard work as Ma tthew Arnold's "The
be contentious, that Weitz's book, no less than Bell's, is a the- Func.tio~ of Criticism a t the Present Time." Furthermore, by
.. ory, in that the whole is designed to pose, elucidate, and prove pre.d1caun~. that criticism is "a use o f la nguage" involving a
vanety of procedures and arguments" adapted to "a vast
a d efinition of the general term that names his subject, with
the difference that the subject of Bell's theory is "art" and diversity of specifi~ goals," Weitz posits the main exploratory
the su bj ect of Weitz's is "criticism. " categones- as agamst the many alternative categories used
But is the "logical fun ction" o f Weitz's definiens to specify by o ther metacritics-that are cha racte ristic of the current
the essential, or the necessary and sufficie nt, conditions for philosophy of linguistic analysis, a nd that in his book dem-
the use of the word criticism? Weitz himself claims that it is onstrate their usefulness by producing the profitable, if not
not, for on the page following this definition he rejects "the entirely satisfactor y, discoveries I have already outlined.
persistent logical motivation of traditional philosophy of crit- In short, Weitz d oes what any inquirer must do, whatever
icism that a d efinitive a nd univoca} a nswe r is forthcoming to his subject ~ n~ howev~r ~ e eschews a priorism and the craving
the question, What is criticism ?" But such evidence for the for generahzauon : he mdtcates what he propases to talk about,
function of his own d efinition is immediately undermined by and how and to what e nd he undertakes to talk about it. And
his salutary advice, in the next sentence, that "we actually the more diverse the family of objects to which a general term
'look a nd see' (to borrow a phrase from Wittgenstein), i.e., is applied in common discourse, the more important it
42 Doing Things with Texts '- What's tht Use of Theorizing about the Artsr 43

beco mes, if we are to tal k to sorne effect, that we specify and In his Topics, 1. 5, Aristotle declared that "a 'definition' is a
limit our own use of the term. For this purpose a formal phrase signifying a thing's essence." Now let us assume,
d efin ition 'is not indispensable (sorne inquirers, including a although he doesn't say so, that he offers the sentences I have
number of philosophical analysts, prefer to leave the what quoted from tbe Poetics as a definition of the essence o f the
and how of their inquiry to be inferred from their practica! arts (including, as he soon makes clear, painting a nd danc-
and piecemeal operations), but it is certainly a very handy, ing, as well as poetry and music), and le t us assume also that
economical, and widely used linguistic device, whether it is he would consent to the maneuver whereby philosophical
presented, as Weitz and most other writers present it, a t or analysi:s equate an essential definitio n with a statement of
near the beginning of their work, or whether it is allowed to necessary and sufficient conditions. Still, what matters is the
emerge by a seeming induction in the middle, or even at the actual role that his definition plays in his overall inquiry, and
e nd . this role, it soon becomes evident, is not legislative but
The question, then, is not whether critica! theorists define exploratory, andina very e nlightening way.
art, or even whether they claim the definition to be an essen- Take the key predicate, imitation. Aristotle adopted the word
tial one, but whether all of them in fact use the definition in mimesis from o rdinary language, but instead of feeling com-
the way that Weitz and other philosophical analysts say they mitted to its ordinary usages, he specialized it to suit the pur-
do, rather than in the way that Weitz uses his definition of poses of his inquiry-no less legitimately than physicists in
criticism . The only way to find out is to look and see, and later cen turies specialized the ordinary meanings o f words
then only on condition that we adopt an inquiring rather than like mass, acceleration, energy for their own, very diffe rent pur-
a contentious posture and set ourselves to see what is going poses. Plato, for example, had employed mimesis to include
on, rather than what we are certain in advance must be going the work of the a rtisan , the statesman, a nd the moralist, as
on, and only if we avoid the analysts' mistake of stopping too well as the poet a nd artist. That usage suited the purpose of
soon a t the isolated definition, instead of observing how it his inquiry, in which the prime issue, as he says in his discus-
functio ns in its total surroundings. We are also more apt to sion of poetr y in the R epublic, is "whether a man is to be good
be enlightened if, instead of looking at the theory of a pole- or bad"; and the basic terms of his theory are d evised to make
micist like Clive Bell (who was the effective champion of an it impossible to consider poetry otherwise than in rivalry with
important revolution in taste, but a bit short on philosophical all other human products and institutio ns, although ata far-
acume n), we look at the work of nonprogrammatic theorists ther remove from the ultimate criterion of all reality and value,
who, by wide consent, have mad e the most important contri- the realm of Ideas. Thus as Plato's lawmaker, in politely
butio ns to our knowledge. A good example of this sort is the rejecting poets from his state, explains: "Our whole state is
writer whose treatise mad e "poetics" a standard term for the an imitation of the best a nd noblest life ... . You are poets
theory of an art. and we are poets ... rivals and antagonists in the noblest of
Aristotle's De Poetica, after a brief announceme nt of its main dramas." 19 Aristo tle, as the course of the Poetics makes clear,
topics, begins: establishes for mimesis a very different role, as a term specific
to both rudimentary and developed forms of poetry and the
Epic poetry ahd tragedy, as also Comedy, Dithyrambic poetry, arts as distinct from all other human activities and products,
and most flute-playing and lyre-playing, are all, viewed as a and he thereby sets up a new language-game. For this game,
whole, modes of imitation. But at the same time they differ by severing poetry from rivalry with other human pursuits,
from one another in three ways, either by a difference of kind makes it possible to consider poetry as poetry and not another
in their me~ns , or by differences in the objects, or in the .man- thing, according to its distinctive criteria and artistic reasons
ner of their imitations. for being.
44 Doing Tltings with Texts What's the Use of Theoriz.ing about the Arts? 45
By employing his supplementary distinctions between the ify such general stateme nts. Of this theory, however, defini-
objects of human experience that are imitated, the artistic tions certainly do not constitute a major part, but are used
medium of the imitation, and the manner (such as narrative only brieAy and passingly, as a way of introducing one or
or dramatic) in which the imitation is re ndered, Aristotle is another area of investigation. And the body of the theory
also able to differentiate poetry from the other arts, and then does not consist of an attempt-whether vain or successful-
to establish classes of poems, such as epic, comedy, and trag- to support and "preve" the definition. It consists instead of
edy, each with its distinctive features and appropriate crite- putting to work the terms, distinctions, and categories pro-
ria. Focusing his attention on tragedy, he defines this genre posed in the initial definition (which are supplemented, in a
in its turn as an imitation of an action that is serious and way consistent with this definition, as the need a rises) in the
complete, in appropriate language and in the dramatic man- analysis of the distinctive elements, organization, and char-
ner, then adds an identification of its distinctive emotional acteristic powers of various kinds o f poetic art.
power: "arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its (2) This theory makes a valid contribution to knowledge.
catharsis of such emotions ." Applying the total theoretical I~ provides, a~ong other things, knowledge of how to expe-
tools now available, Aristotle goes on to discriminare within nence and enJOY works of art-not only tragedies as a class
a tragedy such elements as plot, characters, diction, thought, but also a particular tragedy-by providing terms and ana-
a nd to consider both the relative importance and the inter- lytic devices that enable us to experience them in a discrimi-
relations of these elements. He then analyzes the features nating rather than a crude way, through directing our
and construction of each element, from the point of view of attention to their important features and the ways these fea-
what best serves the artistic purpose of tragedy by maximiz- tures are ordered according to distinctively artistic reasons
ing the distinctively "tragic pleasure," or "tragic fear and pity." for order. This contribution to our ability to see works of art
Hence, for example, his criteria for the most effective tragic with new eyes is notan inadvertent by-product of Aristotle's
plots: the need for a unified plot, representing a single action attempt at a logical impossibility; it is the result of his delib-
that constitutes a complete whole; the need to reshape any erate undertaking, as he asserts in his opening statement, "to
materials provided by history into a plot by substituting artis- speak not only of the art [of poetry] in general but also of its
tic determinants for historical contingency; the effectiveness species and their respective capacities; of the structure of plot
of the use of peripety and discovery to mark the shift from required for a good poem; of the number and nature of the
complication to dénouement, in the turning point at which constituent parts of a poem ; and likewise of any other mat-
the hero of the tragedy, greater and nobler than the normal ters in the same line of inquiry." The degree to which we are
person, through his tragic error falls from happiness to mis- indebted to Aristotle's theory for concepts that make possible
ery; and so on, through all the diverse observations of this a discriminating and organized appreciation of literary art is
terse and original little treatise. obscured by the extent to which his terms and distinctions
Sorne observations are in order about what Aristotle does, long ago became the common vocabulary of discourse about
as against what a number of analysts assume that, as a critica! works of narrative and dramatic literature.
theorist, he must be dqing: This is the primary service of a good critica! ~heory, for in
( 1) The whole of the Poetics, according to the criteria of the bringing us, with new insights and powers of discrimination,
a nalysts, counts as theory and notas applied criticism, for its to individual works of art in their immediacy, it enhances our
basic statements are all generalizations about the arts, or about appreciation of the only places where artistic values are in
a class of art such as poetry, or about a species of poetry such fact realized. But as inquisitive beings we are interested not
as tragedy and its typical elements, organization, and effects; only in knowing how to enhance our direct experience of these
Aristotle refers to particular works only to exemplify·or dar- values, but also in knowing about the works in which such
Whal's the Use of Theorizing about the Artsr 47
45 Doing Things with Texts
values have their residence, including their relations to each
2. THE USES OF DIVERSITY
other and to other human pursuits. In a number of brief but
pregnant passages Aristotle also contributes t? ?ur ~nowl­
edge about art as it is diversely related_to, yet dtstmgUlsha~le We are faced with the fact, however, that Aristotle is only one
from other human activities and achtevements such as hts- of many theórists, and that in the predicates of their defini-
tory, 'philosophy, and politics-and here, too, in a syst~m~tic tions of art other theorists replace Aristotle's operative term,
and coherent way that follows from the extended apphcauon imitation, by terms and expressions with pate ntly different
of his initial definition and analytic categories. meanings: a work of art is a means to the end of teaching, or
( ) Although Aristotle's theory is grou~d.ed, i_nescapabl~, pleasing, or both; or an expression of feelings ; ora product
3 of the creative imagination; ora distinctive form of commu-
on the Greek dramas then available to hts mqutry, there ts
nothing in the logical nature of the theory itself to m~~e. it nication; ora world of its own autonomous kind; ora variant
function as a closed definition that forecloses the posstbthty form of an archetypal myth ; and so on. Philosophical ana-
of encompassing dramatic creativity an~ novelty. It_is true lys~s have used such discrepant assertions to add plausibility
that a number of later critics, especially m the Renatssance, to their claim that an essential definition of a work of art is
used the Poetics as though it were a legislative and regulative logically impossible; for if it were possible, how do we explain
rather than an open and empirical theory, with the result that no o ne has yet located a common feature of objects
that they condemned innovative form~ ~f serious ~rama, or denoted by the general term art that will satisfy more than a
else distorted their features by descnbmg them m forced fraction of people who profess to be experts on the subject?
accordance with Aristotle's commentary. But if employed in Sorne theorists, like Clive Bell, have indeed claimed to have
his own spirit of inquiry, Aristotle's method and distinctio~s discovered the essence of art, and many more have felt that,
enable us to recognize, and to specify the novel charactens- in order to justify their own definitions, they had to attack
tics of non-Aristotelian forms of tragic drama and tragic plots. the definitions of other theorists. Yet upon investigation we
For e~ample, Shakespeare's Macbeth and Arth~r Miller's D~ath find that all those who, in the course of time, emerge with
of a Salesman, different as they are from Sophocles' OedtpU: the reputation of major theorists of art have in fact con-
a nd from each other, both "imitate" actions that have sen- tributed important new knowledge-both knowledge about
ousness, dimension, integrity, and end in a catastrophe for how to look at and appreciate art, and knowledge about art
the protagonist, so that we may, with good reason, decide .to in its diverse Circumstances and relations-and they have
extend to these plays the term "tragedy." But_ the ~ery dts- succeeded in doing so not despite their basic discrepancies,
tinctions introduced in the Poetics enable us to tdenufy those but as a direct result of these discrepancies.
important differences in the protagonists, plot, lang~age, ~nd The actual use of an expression can only be determined
effects that distinguish these tragedies from Anstoteh~n (in Wittgenstein's term) within its surroundings. If now we
tragedy and from each other as well. Furthermore, Ans- enlarge our view from the surroundings of a definition within
totle's general method for differentiating literary types an? a particular theory to its surroundings in all the other defi-
for establishing their distinctive criteria by the systemauc nitions that it was intended to counter or qualify or supplant,
investigation of their_multiple "causes" (in other words,. of 1 think we can make out a use, and accordin.gly, a "logical
their diverse.artistic reasons) is itself an open method , whtch character," both of a definition and of the total theory within
can be adapted to the analysis of any literary form, i~cluding which the definition occurs, that we have hitherto over-
those, such as the novel or cinema, that were not mvented looked; for this is a use that is relative to alternative manners
. h a d b een wntten.
untillong after the Poetzcs . 20
of proceeding. It now appears that to propose a definition of

----
"
48 Doir1g Things with Texts What's the Use of Theorizing about the Arts~ 49
art, or of a form of a rt, though it is couched in a gra mmatical ticular_ interests and _ru rposes, selects and specializes his
form indistinguishable from that of a universal assertion, is op~r~uv~ and categoncal terms, and in consequence sets up
much like taking a stand. The theorist takes his stand on that a dJSti~CtJ~e l~ngu~ge-game whose playing field overlaps but
one of many possible vantage points that will provide what doesn t . coJ~cJde wnh that _of othe r critica! Ianguage-games
strikes him as the most revealing perspective on the area of and wh1ch JS playe_d acc~rdmg to grammatico-logical rules in
his interest. Or, to use a different visual analogy adopted from SOrT_Je deg:~e speCJal to Itself. The aims, fields, and rules of
Coleridge (who was critic, theorist, and metacritic, a nd espe- van ous cntJcalla nguage-games are sufficiently simila r, how-
cially interested in the role of alternative theories in obser- ever, so that. sorne of their assertions are conflicting rather
vation), the use of a critica! theory is not to reflect the given than alternatJve; but to determine which assertions these are
artistic facts, but to serve as a "speculative instrument" that and ~ow_ to decide the conflict between them, is a difficul~
will arm one's critica! vision. As Coleridge put it, observation exerCJse m the c~"_J ~arative grammar of Ianguage-games.
is to meditation (by which he means theory) only "as eyes, for T~ lend plausJbJhty to these sweeping claims beyond that
which [meditation] has pre-determined their field of vision, prov1ded by_the prior experience of each reader, I have space
and to which, as to its organ , it communicates a microscopic for only a_sm~J~ example; so I shall choose Cole ridge, both
power." And again: "The razor's edge becomes a saw to the because h1s cnt1cal theory is as different as it could be from
armed vision." 21 Whatever analogue we ado pt needs to bring ~at of A~istotle and because it represents a type that is treated
out the fact that critica! d efinitions and theories may be dis- Wlt~ particular severity by philoso phical analysts. As Morris
crepant without conflict, and mutually supplementary instead We1tz remarks:
of mutually exclusive, since each delimits and structures its
field in its own way. The test of the validity of a theory is
Thr?ughout [Coleridge's] writings there is a steady concern
what it proves capable of doing when it is put to work. And for phllo_sophy, f?r _essences, and fundamental principies, and
each good (that is, se rviceable) theory, as the history of criti- a p~~vas1ve ~onv1cUon that philosophy, psychology, art, and
ca! theory amply demonstrates, is capable of providing insights cnUcism ~r~ mterrelated. Indeed , Coleridge's most ostensible
·~ into hitherto overlooked or neglected features and structural characten suc, even as a practicing critic, is this recurrent ref-
relatio ns of works of art, of gro uping works of a rt in new erence to fundamental principies....
and interesting ways, and also of revealing new distinctions . lL would ?e a fascinating task, even if devastating to Cole-
and relatio ns between things that (fro m its special point of nd_ge, I b~he~e. to subject his doctrines to a more adequate
view) are art and things that are not art. One way to estímate phiiosophical scrutiny than he would have tolerated.n
their diverse contributions is to imagine the impoverishment
to criticism if we did not possess the theoretical writings of, ~oleri~ge as critic dis~ays the analyst not simply because
say, Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, Ka nt, Coleridge, Eliot-or h_e 1s an mveterate theon st, but because his type of theory
Clive Bell. No theory is adequate to tell the whole story, for VIO~ates s_o many current caveats. Under the compulsion to
each one has limits correlative with its powers. As a specula- b~ mclus1v~ an_d cohere nt in his thinking, Coleridge derives
tive instrument, it has its particular angle and focus of vision, ~1s generahzauons about art from metaphysical generaliza-
and what for one speculative instrument is an indistinct or uons about the total universe. He insists that -the only criti-
blank area requires an alternative speculative instrument if it cis~ that is "f~i: and philosophical" is one based on "principies,
is to be bro ught into sharp focus for inspection. whJc.? [the cnt1c] holds for the _foundation of poetry in gen-
Better to bring out o ne other point, let me return from eral, and he chooses to base h1s own criticism on "the com-
optical metaphors to Wittgenstein's favorite analogue of a ponent faculties of the human mind itself, and their
game. Each critica! theorist, it can be said, pursuing his par- comparative dignity and importance." As a consequence his
so Doing Things with Ttxts What's tlu Use of Theorizing abou.t the Arts7 51
operative terms and categories are hopelessly "mentalistic," is "one of the great examples of descriptive criticism any-
and also are deliberately contrived to conflate description and where," "a marvel of pointed reading such that one can never
evaluation, for "according to the faculty ... from which the read or see that first scene except through his eyes."26
pleasure given by any poem or passage was derived, 1 esti- Are we to take it, then , that Coleridge's criticism is a happy
mated [its] merit."23 Unembarrassedly setting himself the escape from his unfortunate metaphysical theory, or achieved
question, "What is poetry?" Coleridge proceeds to answer it in spite of it? If we look and see, all the indications are oth-
in terms of the nature of the "poetic genius itself," which erwise. The major insights of Coleridge's critica! analyses,
involves above all the activity of "that synthetic and magical interpretations, and evaluations, including the passages on
power, to which we have exclusively appropriated the name Shakespea re that Weitz most praises, are integral with his
of imagination," and which "reveals itself in the balance or metaphysical and critica! theory, in that they put to work the
reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities."24 And he terms and categories developed within the theory. For
defines the imagination, in turn, as a creative power that example, Coleridge declared that in Shakespeare we find
operates as an organic process to effect an organic product. "growth as in a plant. No ready cut and dried [structure]."
The resulting theory would seem to be a hopeless tangle of "All is growth, evolution, genesis-each line, each work almost,
categorical confusions. On the one hand, Coleridge finds begets the following." 27 The reigning Neoclassic theory had
imagination manifested not only in poetry but also in many viewed art as artisanry: the artist selects parts and puts them
nonartistic human processes and products. And on the other togeth.e r according to the rules of "decorum," or fittingness ,
hand, he represents imaginative creativity as analogous to all to ach1eve a preconceived design and appropriate effects. A
modes of creativity-that is, to all processes of the bringing- cardinal aspect of both Coleridge's metaphysics and his aes-
into-being of anything really new, including the universe itself; thetic theory is the replacement of the model of the artisan
and he often describes such creative process and its products by that of the genesis and growth of a plant, and such result-
in organic terms-that is, in terms that are literal for a grow- ing critica! concepts as generation from a seed-idea or ele-
ing plant, but metaphorical for artistic invention and a work ment, evolution according to inherent principies or "laws,"
of art. For example: "Could a rule be given from without, and the assimilation of disparates into an organic unity in
poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical w.hich the elements alter their identities as parts in an orga-
art... . The rules of IMAGINATION are themselves the very mzed whole are what enabled him to discriminate features
powers of growth and production." As opposed to "mechanic" and relations of literary works that had been inconceivable
form, "organic form," such as we find manifested in Shake- to earlier critics, in the literal sense that they lacked the gen-
speare's plays, "is innate; it shapes as it develops itself from eral concepts through which to see them.
within , and the fullness of its development is one and the If we accept the view that the meaning and justification of
same with the perfection of its outer form." 25 a way of speaking is the purpose it serves in its surroundings,
Weitz, citing this and other passages, remarks in under- we ought also to accept the difficult conclusion that once a
statement that Coleridge's doctrine of poetic drama "implies concept or assertion is adopted as the basis of a critica! the-
a metaphysical theory about nature that is certainly disputa- ory, its origin and truth-claim, whether empirical or meta-
ble." Oddly, however, although he finds Coleridge's critical physical, cease to matter, for its validity in this context is to
principies untenable and his arguments "inconsistent," Weitz be determined by its power of illumination when brought to
gives Coleridge's applied criticism the very highest marks. bear in the scrutiny of works of art. An organic theory of art
His criticism "is magnificent in its fullness and concreteness," serv.ed ~oleridge as a primary, although not exclusive, spec-
his apología for Shakespeare "stands in evaluative criticism ulauve mstrument, and the value of the discoveries it made
as a model," and his analysis of the opening scene in Hamlet possible is attested not only by the virtues of his own criti-
52 Doing Th ings with Texts What's 1M Use of T heorizing about 1M Arts7 53
28
cism, but also by the extent to which the use of organic lan- phicus.)" In applying Wittgenstein's own comments on logical
guage in applied criticism has, in various ways, been adopt~d grammar in order to enla rge the number of logical formulas,
by other critics ever since it was established and develope~ m we must beware the risk of distorting and hampering the
the theories of Coleridge and his German contemporanes. flow of profitable discourse by a reductive logical "calculus"
But of course it is difficult to measure the contribution of that is merely a different form of the calculus that Wittgen-
innovative terrns whose very success has brought them into stein had undertaken to develop in his Tractatus, and against
the public domain of aesthetic discourse. which his later philosophy is a sustained warning, through
the presentation of counterexamples.
Take, as an instance, the logical form that Weitz in his
analysis of Hamlet criticism calls "description," which he iden-
3·LO G I CAL G RAM MAR A N D tifies as true-or-false assertions of "data or données that can-
FLUID CRIT I CAL DISCOURSE not be denied." The critica} questions capable of a nswers that
apprpximate this ideal are very limited; for example: How
I want to return briefly to the practice of Weitz and other many words are there in a particular speech, or in the whole
philosophical analysts of distinguishing the procedures of play? Which speeches are in verse and which in prose? Does
critics into diverse logical types, because it seems to me that Hamlet in his soliloquy utter the speech-sounds "too, too solid
the way they apply these distinctions has concealed the per- flesh" or "too, too sullied flesh"? But when we move from
vasive and varied role of theory in applied criticism. The for- words to the meanings of a speech or passage, we are in
,. mulation of logical models is validly based on inherent another realm, for meanings need to be construed, and
demands or necessities in the ways we use critica! concepts whatever is construed in a work of literature tends to depart
and support criticaljudgments-necessities that we all sense, from the logical paradigm. Weitz lists as an example the
but that traditional logic leaves largely out of account-and question, Is Hamlet "athletic, fearless, vulnerable, dilatory,
such paradigms can be used to clarify the implicit structure adoring of his father . . . mad . . . ambitious . . . melan-
of aesthetic reasoning. We want to be sure, however, that cholic"? Questions of this order do not meet Weitz's own cri-
they are applied only in a way that is appropriate to the lan- teria of being capable of answers that are "true or false,
guage-game as it is in fact played. The mod~ls, for exam~l~, verifiable and logically independent of explanation and eval-
are fixed, delimited in their sphere of operauon, and exph~1t uation."29 For the answers require interpretation, and in
in their rules. But when we look at the actual goings-on m accordance not only with linguistic but also with artistic crite-
this or that critica! essay, we find everything quite otherwise: ria, in that the interpretation of Hamlet's character is inter-
the discourse is fluid, the concepts and associated modes of involved with the interpretation of the play in which he plays
reasoning are complex and mixed, and the inherent demands, a central role. Such answers are, therefore, rationally con-
or "rules," of usage are implicit, variable, tenuous, and elu- testable and have in fact been persistently contested.
sive. Only in his own paradigms of artífice are Weitz's four And what critica! utterances fit the logical paradigm by which
modes of critica} usage, as he claims, "irreducible." In the "interpretations," in their turn, are strictly divided from
fluid movement of a sustained critica! discourse they are "evaluations"? Among Weitz's examples of pure interpreta-
indistinct, inter-involved, and , in a quasi-systematic fashion, tion we find the statements that a work is "poignant,"
interdependent. Wittgenstein asks us "to compare the mul- "vivacious," "serene," "profound."30 That such predications
tiplicity of the tools in language and of the ways they are used involve-give us to know-not only how a critic sees or inter-
... with what logicians ha ve said about the structure of lan- prets features of a work, but also that he sees these features
guage. (Including the author of the Tractatus Logico-Philoso- as invested with value, becomes clear if we imagine what it
54 Doit1g Thi11gs wilh Texts W hat's the Use of Thtorizi11g abom ti~ Arts1 55

would be like if a critic, after asserting that a work is serene ner of proceeding built into a critic's elected mode of
and profound, should go on to the verdict that it is valueless, discourse-his language-game-cooperate with whatever
or a bad work of art. Such a sequence would not constitute a constitutes the données of a work so as both to shape the facts
logical fallacy, but it would be a linguistic surprise, because and to identify which are the significant facts, and also to
the implicit rules for the ordinary critica! use of such terms foster the kínds of hypotheses the critic will bring to the
lead us to assume the critic's approval and esteem. A critic interpretation of particular passages and of the work as a
would need in sorne way to establish a special context of usage whole, as well as the kinds of criteria that enable him both to
in order to be able to say that he finds a work serene and discover and to assess the values in the work. These activities
profound , yet artistically worthless, without giving the effect are performed not separately or sequentially, but in a contin-
of incoherence or indecisiveness. In most criticism, in fact, uous and inter~epe~dent process, in a discourse that is kept
evaluation is continuously effected in the process of describ- co~erent and directJOnal toward the ends in view by the per-
ing and interpreting, through the use of the hundreds of vaslve but often implicit influence of the critic's theoretical
available expressions such as subtlety, vividness, economy, pr:emises and orientation.
precision, coherence , sincerity, maturity, unified sensibility, Sometimes a shift in the theoretical vantage effects a spec-
tightly organized, complexly ironic .... When we find an tacular transformation in the description as well as the inter-
assertion that matches Weitz's evaluative paradigm, "X is good, pretati?n ~nd eval~ation of works of art. Asan example: for
great, excellent, mediocre," or "X is good ... because P," it centunes It. was enurely. obvious to all critics of Shakespeare,
is apt to be in a polemical context, or to be used to assess a however d1vergent the1r pe rspectives, that the salient fea-
work for the buying public, or to clinch a case already implic- tures of his plays were the kind that Aristotle had identi-
.. 1
~
1
itly made, or to enhance the persuasiveness of a critique by a
show of intellectual rigor.
fied-that is, characters who perform the actions and speak
the language constituting the text. Then, less than a half-
M y main caveat against a rigid use of logical models, how- century ago, a number of able critics too k the theoretical stand
ever, is that they take no account of the obvious character of that a poetic drama, like all genuine literature, is essentially
any instance of sustained critica! discourse-not only that it a .mode of language ~hat is antithetical to the language of
is fluid , but that it has a source, that (despite eddies and side s~1ence: h.ence that, smce the language of science is literal,
runnels) it is Aowing somewhere, and that it Aows in response s1mple m Its reference, logical in its method, and has verifia-
to forces that are to sorne extent inherent in the kind of crit- ble truth as i.ts ·aim, the a~tithetic language of poetry is inher-
ica! discourse it is. Let me drop this hydrodynamic analogue ently fig~rauve o~ symbohc, ambiguous in its meaning, ironic,
at the point where it becomes an inconvenience. The poten- paradoxJC~l, and m other ways "counte rlogical" in its method,
tia! facts, or features, of a work of art or literature-whether and orgamzed so as to explore a "theme" rather than to assert
long like H amlet, or of middle length like "Lycidas," or short a t.r~th. In the .criticism of writers such as Wilson Knight,
like "A Spirit Did My Slumber Seal"-are numberless, and Ph1hp .Wheelwnght, Cleanth Brooks, and Robert H eilman,
sorne o f them only come into view from a particular theoret- the sahent features of Shakespeare's plays, when examined
ical perspective. For many of what count as artistic or literary from this ~erspective, were not characters, but patterns of
facts are in part constructed, and they are constructed by the words and 1mages, and the central action turn.ed out to be an
act of being construed. As Coleridge, who was interested in ironic an? paradox~cal"symbolic action," ofwhich the dynamic
this as in all aspects of the role of theory, put it: "Facts, you elemen~ IS a~ evolv1~g theme. The evaluation of Shakespeare
know, are not truths; they are not conclusions; they are not f~om t~I~ pomt ~f v1ew equaled the earlier high estimation of
even prem.isses, but in the nature and parts of premisses." 51 h1~ ar~IStlc standmg, although on very different grounds and
The theoretical principies, categories, distinctions, and man- entena. The same perspective, however, when applied to
56 Doing Things with Texts What's the Use of Theorizing about the Arts7 57
writers such as Donne, Blake, Wordsworth , Shelley, or Ten- critica! encounter which, 1 think, lurks also behind the insis-
nyson, resulted in a drastic reordering of their traditional tence by other analysts that the ultimate use of criticism, and
rankings in the hierarchy of the English poetso And though the by-product whi'ch makes even bogus definitions inadver-
he may himself prefer to take his stand on the premise that tently profitable, is to demonstrate by example "what to look
literature is primarily about people rather than constituted for and how to look at it in art." The ideal is one in which an
by patterns of thematic imagery, the candid reader will not intelligent and sensitive observer, undistracted by any theo-
deny the value of sorne of the insights made possible by a retical presuppositions about the nature of art or of a kind
criticism based on the alternative possibilityo of art, engages with a unique work, which comes endowed
with aesthetic features that are simply (though more o r less
obviously or obscurely) there, and proceeds to register those
features that he is acute enough to discovero This model of a
40 DO E S e R 1T 1 e 1S M P RE S U P PO S E
pure critica) confrontation, of course, does not even remotely
T HE O R Y?
approximate the conditions of our actual dealings with a work
of art. Should that anomaly, a cultivated and intelligent man
But a number of philosophical analysts claim that sorne crit- whose mind was unviolated by general aesthetic preconcep-
icism is entirely theory-free and carries o n its proper work of tions, encounter a work of art, he would have nothing to say
analysis and assessment unimpeded by general presuppo~i­ that we should account artistic criticismo
tionso William Kennick, for example, says that a second mls- Does all criticism presuppose theory? Not if by presuppose
take of traditional aesthetics, coordinate with the mistake of we mean a logical relation, such that a given theory strictly
thinking that a theory of art is logically possible, is the entails a particular critique, or that from a given critique we
"assumption: Criticism presupposes Aesthetic The?ry"-oa? can infer its precise theoretical antecedentsoThe interrelated
assumption he translates as "the view that respons1ble cnu- elements of an explicit theory-including definitions, cate-
cism is impossible without standards or criteria universally gories, distinctions, criteria, and method of proceeding-are
~'
applicable to all works of art." "Criticism," according to M~r­ not related to their specific application to a particular work,
ris Weitz, "need not state, imply, or presuppose a true poeucs or class of works, in this strictly logical way, nor merely in a
o o oor an aesthetics of art in order to render intelligible orto simple causal way, é\S the conditions that effect particular aes-
... justify its utterances" about a particular worko Stuart H amp- thetic judgmentso Instead, they are related in the curious way,
shire is even more insistent: "Neither an artist nor a critica! compounded of quasi-logical and causal relations, that we
spectator unavoidably needs an aesthetic; and when in Aes- indicate by terms such as "foster," "generate," "suggest," "bring
--
-
thetics one moves from the particular to the general, one is
travelling in the wrong directiono " There is here a craving
for aesthetic particularity no less extreme than the tradi-
out," or even "control" and "informo "
Granted the use of presuppose to include relations of this
sort, we can say with assurance that yes, all criticism presup-
tional craving for generality against which Hampshire is poses theory, and in at least two wayso First, any discourse
reactingo The critic, be ass.erts, "is a mere spectator: o ooit is about works of art that is sufficiently sustained and ordered
only required that he should see the object exactly as it is," to count as criticism has attributes-for example, the kinds
and as a "unique object o o o individual and unrepeatableo" of features in the work it discriminates or ignores, the kinds
"The peculiar features of particular objects, with their own of terms it uses or fails to use, the relations it specifies, the
originality of arrangement, remain constant and unaffected literal or analogical mode of reasoning it exhibits-that serve
by the spectator's choices and priorities o"32 • as índices of the type of theoretical perspective to which the
Hampshire's comments suggest a conceptual model of the critic is committed, whether explicitly or implicitly, and
58 Doing Things with Texts What's the Use of Theorizing about the Arts1 59
whether deliberately or as a matter of ha bit. Second, any sus- erate theorizer like Coleridge, he might have asserted in an
tained critica! discourse is likely to use sorne terms that have express theory of poetry. For example, since he employs terms
been invented for their own purposes by earlier aesthetic such as "freedom," "benignity," "high seriousness" as criteria
theorists, and will inescapably use other terms taken from for high poetic quality, and since the use of such terms involves
ordinary language, but applied in accordance with special- a moral aspect, we know that Arnold did not, like sorne of
ized rules of usage which, historical investigation shows, have his contemporaries, view poetry from the vantage of art for
been developed by earlier aesthetic theorists. These terms art's sake, but instead was committed to an alternative theo-
and modes of usage have become part of the linguistic and retical position, that poetic qualities and values are not exclu-
cultural tradition that all educated people inherit, so that the sive of, nor even discriminable from, moral qualities and
discourse of any individual critic presupposes theory, in the values. Furthermore, Arnold's terms for poetic qualities are
sense that at least sorne elements in the language-game he of a special kind: they signify, literally, aspects of human
elects to play, although open to modification, have in the first character that involve a man's general attitudes to life.
instance cometo him ready-made from the history of critica! Undeitaking to look directly at Chaucer's poetry and to
theory. describe simply what he finds there, Arnold discovers its most
Here is a simple example from Matthew Arnold, whom I prominent and important features to be qualities of charac-
choose because, more than almost all major critics, he seems ter that many critics of Chaucer do not mention and others
to approach Hampshire's ideal-that the critic "should see expressly reject as an instance of the "personal heresy," hence
the object exactly as it is"-by deliberately undertaking to aesthetically irrelevant.
·~ eschew general theory and, in his words, "to see the object as 1t is clear that Arnold's discovery of these features presup-
"'7 in itself it really is." In "The Stucly of Poetry," Arnold briefly poses the view that there is a detectable authorial presence
·:; surveys important English poets in the endeavor to detect in behind all the fictitious characters in a narrative poem like
eaeh The Canterbury Tales, and that the moral aspects and altitudes
manifested by that presence are the primary features of a
.- the degree in which a high poetic quality is present or wanting
there. Critics give themselves great labour to draw out what
work which determine both the kind and excellence of its
poetic quality. Arnold was able to presuppose that view because
in the abstraer constitutes the character of a high quality of it was an element in the diverse criticallanguages that he had
poetry. It is much better simply to have recourse to concrete inherited- an element that had in the first instance been the
examples ... and to say: The characters of a high quality of
product of a specific theory. We find it in Aristotle-not in
poetry are what is expressed there.
his Poetics but in his Rhetoric-in the claim that a public speaker
inescapably projects an ethos, a personal character which may
Coming to Chaucer, he cites two passages spoken by the Pri- be different from his actual self but serves as an important
oress in The Canterbury Tales, then comments that, great though means of persuading the audience to give credence to him
Chaucer's poetry is, it falls short in an essential aspect of the and his arguments. The Greek critic Longinus expanded the
poetic quality of the greatest writers such as Homer, Dante, use of this concept from rhetoric to literature, by asserting
and Shakespeare: "The substance of Chaucer's poetry, his that the supreme stylistic quality he calls "the sublime" reftects
view of things arid his criticism of life, has largeness, free- the character of its author: "Sublimity is the echo of a great
dom, shrewdness, benignity; but it has not this high serious- soul." This way of dealing with literature, by the time it was
ness."33 inherited by Arnold, had been greatly extended and subtil-
From evidences in this one sentence we can infer sorne ized, especially by those Romantic critics who based their crit-
important presuppositions which, had Arnold been an invet- icism on the theoretical premise that literature is the expression
=

6o Doing Things with T exts What's 1M Use of Theorizing about the Arts7 61

of its author's character and feelings. And though, during or sorne class of works, but "a work of art" in the universal
the three or four decades that have just passed, the predom- sense. "The canons of . . . perfection and imperfection," he
inance of the New Criticism, based on the alternative prem- says, are thus "interna! to the work itself." On this ground
ise that a poem is an autonomous object, blocked out as Hampshire differentiates sharply between "aesthetic judg-
poetically irrelevant "the personal heresy" or "the biograph- ments" and moral judgments, and forbids any intrusion into
ical fallacy," current critics are adopting a stance from which, criticism of the "common vocabulary" which, since it was
with sorne excitement, they are rediscovering characterolog- "created for practica) purposes, obstructs any disinterested
ical fea tu res that are "objective" properties of a work of art- perception of things." For "in so far as the perfection of the
--..- although they now attach these properties to a projected and
pervasive presence in a work that they call not "ethos," nor
work is assessed by sorne externa! criterion, it is not being
assessed as a work of art." "Nothing but holding an object
"Chaucer," but "voice." still in attention, by itself and for its own sake, would count
as haying an aesthetic interest in it. "34 Kennick agrees with
Hampshire that "a work of art is gratuitous," and generalizes
that "art has no function or purpose ... and this is an insight
5· DO E S M E T A e R 1T 1 e 1S M to be gained from the 'art for art's sake' position." Paul Ziff,
P RE S U P PO S E T H E O R Y? although equally suspicious of aesthetic generalization, asserts:
-~ "Nothing can be a reason why [a] painting is good unless it is
-;; Are those philosophical analysts who deny the logical possi- a reason why the painting is worth contemplating. (One can
bility of aesthetic theory themselves theory-free? As soon as add: for its own sake, but that is redundant.)" 35
-~ we examine what these philosophers, in analyzing critica) dis- In Morris Weitz the indications are less direct, but point to
-~ A
course, find it relevant or irrelevant to talk about and how a similar preconception about what is and is not aesthetic.
-~ they elect to talk about it-as soon as we do meta-metacriti- Evaluations of works of art, he says, apply criteria that are
cism-it becomes clear that they have privately known all along supported by reasons, and the good reasons are unchal-
the extension of the general term art, and the criteria by which lengeable reasons. Criteria such as "truthful" or "moral" can-
this extension is at least loosely specified. Their claim of igno- not be supported by good or convincing reasons "since it is
rance about the proper meaning of art has in fact functioned always possible to dissociate artistic greatness from truth or
as a pretense, like Socrates' guise of ignorance, in the service morality"; indeed, all criteria are challengeable that have to

--~
of pursuing a special kind of philosophical inquiry in a spe-
cial way. Furthermore, this meaning does not coincide with
any use of the term in "ordinary language." Instead, the cri-
do with "the effects of art," as well as with "the relation between
art and the world." But the case is entirely different for such
statements as "X is great because it is subtle, integrated, fresh."
teria of art presupposed by the analysts are highly special- Criteria such as these are "aesthetic, where by aesthetic 1 mean
ized, are employed exclusively by a class of intellectuals who sorne criterion which cannot be challenged," for to ask what
share a current climate of opinion, and are a heritage from such criteria have to do with artistic greatness "makes no
quite recent developmen~s in aesthetic theory. sense," because nothing can possibly serve as án answer. 36
.. Sometimes the evidences for these prepossessions are quite Now, by "unchallengeable" Weitz cannot mean that such cri-

- explicit. Stuart Hampshire raises the possibility that "per-


haps there is no subject-matter" of aesthetics, and, as we know,
he regards any movement in criticism from the particular to
teria have not been challenged , for they certainly have been.
"Freshness," for example: "You praise a thing for being
'fresh,'" T. E. Hulme remarked, implying that "it is good

. the general as retrograde. Yet he hangs his argument on the


assertion that "a work of art is gratuitous"- not sorne works,
because it is fresh. Now this is certainly wrong, there is noth-
ing particularly desirable about freshness per se. Works of art
62 Doing Things with Texts What's the Use of Theoriz.ing abotu the Arts? 63
37
aren't eggs." By an "unchallengeable," hence an "aesthetic" development of "taste" in a variety of experiences that were
.. )
criterion, Weitz means that, unlike criteria of artistic great-
ness that involve moral or veridical or psychological claims,
pursued primarily for pleasure. The market for poetry and
"be~les-lettres'_' e~panded; there developed great public col-
it does not relate the work to something outside itself, but lecuons of pam tmgs and sculpture; the audiences for thea-
terminares in the work qua work. "In aesthetic validation," he ter, concerts, opera grew apace; tours were organized to visit
declares, "th is is where we must all stop for there is no fur- an? admire ~rch itectura l monuments, including the g reat
ther place to go." pnvate manswns and their landscaped settings. A conse-
Note that the claim that a work of art is "gratuito us"-serv- ~uence of this so_cial phenomenon was the natural assump-
ing no purpose beyond the work itself-does no t accord with uon that these objects-literature, painting, sculpture, music,
the claims of the artists who made these works, until about a landscape gardening, architecture-despite their patent dif-
hundred or so years ago. Dante declared toCan Grande that ferences in media and other features, have something in
the purpose of his Divine Comedy was "to remove those living common that makes them elig ible for the common experi-
in this life from a state of misery and to lead them toa state ence of connoisseurship. 38 Another consequence was a theo-
of happiness"; Milton wrote Paradise Lost "to justify the ways retical interest in a mode of activity that was patently not moral
of God to men"; Wordsworth said that each of his poems or utilitarian, since it was an escape, a holiday from everyday
"has a worth y purpose," and that he wished "either to be con- moral and utilitarian concerns; with this was often associated
sidered as a T eacher, or as nothing"; while for many Chris- a demand for practica! guidance in developing a "good taste"
tian ce nturies painters undertook to represent and enforce that would serve not only to e nhance the pleasures of con-
religious truths and musicians composed for the greater glory noisseurship but also as a sign of social status. All these con-
of God. Also, for fifteen hundred years and more it occurred ceros are writ large in the essays of J oseph Addison, whose
to no critic to use the terms of the modero analysts, in asser- acute Spectator papers on such subjects, especially the group
tions that the criteria of a work of art are "interna! to itself," on "The Pleasures of the Imagination," served to found an
or that the proper perception of a work is "disinterested," a amateur's science of aesthetics, which Alexander Baumgar-
mode of contemplation "for its own sake," or that aesthetic ten later in the century named, professio nalized, and ele-
judgments are to be sharply distinguished from ¡nora! and vated to philosophical respectability.
practica! judgments, in that they assess the work of art "as a T he new aesthetic theory developed in two separare but
work of art"-that is, as the locus and terminus of aesthetic parallel modes, both adumbrated in Addison, Shaftesbury,
qualities and values, without reference to "externa!" relation- and other amateur theorists before they were adopted and
ships. elaborated by professio nal philosophers, and both (it is of
This critica! vocabulary had its specific origins in the eigh- interest to note) reliant on the importation into the field of
• teenth century, in a particular social and intellectual milieu, art of terms and concepts that had earlier been developed in
and as part of a newly emerging mode of Ji fe.* In western metaphysics and theology. In one line of thought, the root
Europe, at a time of expan~in g wealth and a rapidly growing concept was that the artist possesses a creative faculty called
middle class, there was an immense spread of a leisure-time the "imagination," that his act of bringing-into-being a work
pursuit hitherto confined to the life style of sorne members of art is like that of God in creating the u niverse, and that his
1
of the aristocracy. This pursuit was con'noisseurship, the artistic product is therefore a "second nature," or "second
world," different from the natural world, whose sole respon-
*For expanded discussions of the developmenl of Lhis Lheory of an in sibility is to its own internallaws and whose sole end is simply
....., Lhe eigllleemh century, see "ArL-as-Such: The Sociology of Modern Aes· to exist. Viewing the poet's creative act on the model of Leib-
Lhetics" and "From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exem·
plary Arl," in Lhis volume .
niz's cosmogony-according to which God's creation of the
....,
e-,
64 Doing Things wilh Texls Whal's the Use of Theorizing abouL the Artsr 65

- world necessarily accorded with the laws of noncontradiction


and "compossibility"-Baumga rten , inventor of the term aes-
thetics, effected the artistic theory that, because it is produced
nition of art by reference to aesthetic creation and the mode
of being of a work of a rt. "Taste," according to Kant, is the
faculty of judging "by means of a delight or aversion apart
by a poet who is "like a maker or a creator ... , the poem from any interest. T he obj ect of such delight is called beautiful";
........ o ught to be a sort of world." But since the poetic world is and the judgment of beauty is differentiated from judg-
"heterocosmic," it is not subj ect to the criterion of truth to ments of truth and of moral goodness in that it is "simply
..._ the world we live in, but o nly to the criterion of "hetero- contemplative," "disinterested," indifferent to the reality of the
cosmic truth"-that is, self-consistency and interna! coher- object, and free of "utility" or reference to any end "exter-
ence. The "aesthetic end" thus has no refere nce to ordinary na!" to the perfection of the object itself. 4 1
morality and ordinar y truth, but is simply "the perfection of The basic aesthetic terms and concepts in a number of ana-
sensuous cognition . .. that is, beauty." Or, as Karl Philipp lytic metacritics, it is apparent, emerged only sorne two cen-
Moritz wrote in 1788, a work of art is its own microcosm turies ago, were imported from metaphysical, theological, and
whose beauty "has no need to be useful. " For beauty "needs ethical doctrines, and were d eveloped by the ver y thinkers
no end, no purpose for its presence outside itself, but has its who established the field of art as a separate philosophical
entire value, and the end of its existence in itself. ... [The discipline, for which they coined the name aesthelics and within
energy of the artist] creates for itself its own world, in which which they undertook to frame a theory of the utmost gen-
nothing isolated has a place, but everything is after its own erality in a vocabular y that would e nable them to talk about
fashion a self-sufficient whole." 39 all the arts at once. The question arises, Why should sorne
The other line of thought took as its starting point the analytic philosophers think that just these presuppositions
expe rience not o f the maker but of the connoisseur of the about the nature of art and aesthetic experience are so
arts, and defined the common element in such experience as obviously true as to require no defense, and so free of the-
a special attitude and a special kind of judgment. The basic ory, essential definitions, a nd aesthetic generalizations that
concept was, in this instance, imported from theological and they can serve as the ground of arguments against the valid-
ethical views of the a ttitude appropriate to God's moral per- ity of all such theory, definitions, and generalizations?
fection. Combating post-Hobbesian theories of egoistic ethics There are, 1 think, two plausible reasons for this anomaly.
and a utilitarian religion, Shaftesbury had defined as the For one thing, to assert about the work of a rt that it is gra-
proper religious attitude "the disinterested love of God" for tuitous, to be enjoyed as an e nd in itself, and to be a ppraised
his own sake, because of "the excellence of the object," as by criteria interna! to itself, is to generalize in terms of func-
against the service of God "for interest merely." In Shaftes- tion, purpose, attitudes, in a way that might seem to be free
bury and various followers, the disinterested concern with of the "unum nomen; unum nominatum" fallacy a nd the family-
God for His interna! rather than instrumental excellence resembla nce mistake-though o nly on the naive view that,
became the model for describing both the "moral sense" and taking Wittgenstein's behest to "look and see" entirely liter-
the a rtistic "taste"-that is, both the cultivated man's attitude ally, assumes that nothing is to be accounted a common ele-
to moral virtue or moral beauty and the connoisseur's atti- ment if it is not a visible feature of the obj ects denoted by a
tude to artistic virtue or sensuous beauty. Later, however, general term .42 More important, however, is the fact that the
"disinterestedness"· carne to be used to differentiate specifi- success of these terms in dealing with certain problems of the
cally aesthetic attitudes and judgments from moral as well as arts have made them in the course of the last century the
practica! and utilitarian concerns. 40 By 1790, when Kant for- current coin of aesthetic interchange. T he expressions, with
mulated the cla~sic definitio n of aesthetic pe rception and their implicit rules of specialized use, have become so much
judgment, it had come to a conclusio n parallel with the defi- a part of the common language of both literate amateurs and
66 Doing Things with Texls What's the Use of Tlu:orizing about tlu: Artsr

professional philosophers of art--<:>r what comes to the same J ohnson's, or Arnold's, or Lionel Trilling's, which were
thing, they ha ve become so much a part of the mode rn intel- developed to deal with a work of art in sorne of the many
lectual climate-that they seem to be simply given in com- ways in which it is deeply involved with other human activi-
mon experience, a nd so serve as wha t Aristotle in his Rhetoric ties, values, and concerns. But can't we devise a single critica)
called "commonplaces": concepts from which we argue, but language that will do all of these useful and valuable things?
for which we feel no need to argue. I believe not, for no o ne set of premises and coherent mode
Is the theory of art employing these commonplaces as pri- of discourse suffices to say everything important, but only
mary categories a valid theory? Surely it is, for it has served the kind of things, relative to selected human purposes, toward
as the great enabling act of modern criticism in that it has which that discourse is oriented.
made it possible for us to talk about art for what it distinc- If 1 am right in asserting that what we account as critical
tively is, in differentiation from all other human products theory is diverse in its composition a nd function and inescap-
and all moral and practica! activities-to talk about art as art, able in extended critica! discourse, and also that a diversity
a poem as a poem , a nd an individual work of art as a unique of.theories are valid, in the variety of their usefulness for a
e ntity, to be described a nd judged by criteria most a ppro- comprehensive understanding and appreciation of art, then
priate to itself a nd not another kind of thing. It is not the we are in a position to judge the assertion by sorne philosoph-
sole language that has been d eveloped for such a purpose: ical analysts with which we began. T he claim was tha t all crit-
Aristotle's theory, as we saw earlie r, provided quite different ica) and aesthetic theory consists solely, or prima rily, in the
terms which nonetheless e nabled him to talk abo ut sorne assertion and attempted proof of an essential d efinition of
artistic products in a way appropriate to their own distinctive art and thus is an extended logical mistake. About this claim
features, causes, modes of orga nization, and criteria; but our we can now say that (1) it is itself the a tte mpt to assert and
l eighteenth-century heritage of the view of art-as-such, and provean essential definition of the term "critica! theory"; (2)
J especially its new e mphasis o n the experience of the connois- it is a mistake that forecloses investigation of what able theo-
seur, has better suited modern interests and proclivities. But rists have in fact done; a'1d (3) it actually functions as a per-
" is this theory in itself ad equate to deal with all the important
human concerns with art? We need only to bring ourselves
suasive redefinition of "critica) theory," in that it delimits the
common uses of the term by setting up a preferred criterion
down from the high and radically simplifying vantage point for its applicat.ion that serves to discredit what it purports to
of current aesthetic discourse into the clutter and tangle of define.
the total "surroundings" of an actual encounter with King
Lear, o r the "St. Ma tthew's Passion," or Guemica, to see how
" inadequate such a theory is to account for the way these works
, e ngage our total consciousness and call insistently upo n our 6. CE R T AI NTY, R ATIONAL I TY,
sympathies and antipathies, our range of knowledge, our ANO CR I TICAL KNOWLEDGE
common humanity, our sense of what life and the world are
really like and how people really act, our deep moral convic- The inadequacy of their views of the role of critica! theory
tions and even religious .beliefs (or lack o f them). has not prevented these philosophers frorri saying many
' But how are .we to d o theoretical justice to the full range important things about criticism itself. An especiall y impor-
í of our experience of a work of art? Only by dropping the tant service, 1 earlie r remarked, has been their insistence that
~ useful but limited way of talking about art qua art and d evel- a variety of critica! arguments are rational even though they
oping an alternative language, or much more likely, by can achieve certainty only in the limited area in which the
ad apting one of the existing languages, such as Plato's, or arguments concern artistic facts. 1 have argued, indeed, that
68 Doing Things with Texts Whal's the Use o[ Thtorizing abouJ tht Arts~ 6g
even this in sorne ways claims too much-that the analytic In th~s res~ec~; one must be wary a bout the attempt by
paradigms for each type of critica! argument are of~en inap- E. D. Hirsch, m Value an~ Knowledge in the Humanities,"
plicable to fluid critica! discourse, and that not only _mt~rpre­ to renew our confidence "m the scientific side" of criticism
tations and evaluations but even what count as s1gmficant and related studies by claiming that they share with the sci-
artistic facts are to sorne extent relative toa theoretical frame ences a "universal logic of inquiry" which results in a body of
of discourse which has been elected by the individual critic. knowledge that "is scientific in precisely the same sense that
And this raises a crucial question: Is no certainty possible in ~eolo~ or ~hy~ics is _scien_tific," differing only in degree of
critica) discourse? And if not, how can we claim that critica) exa~~Jt.ude. Hirsch 1denufies the logic of inquiry common
discourse yields valid knowledge? to cnuc1sm and the p~ysical sciences as that described by Karl
Put in this way, the question is, I think, misleading, because Poppe~ _and oth_er phiiosophers of science: it is the method
"certainty" is a loaded term: it gives the impre_ssion _that it ~s of pos1~m?, testm~, a~d falsifying alternative hypotheses by
a universal criterion for knowledge, yet tends m philosophi- the. p~mC1ple of ev1dence and logic" with the result of
cal discourse to be tied to certain highly specialized models ac~Ievmg an _ever higher degree of tenability for the hypoth-
of reasoning. In the seventeenth century, when the mod_el eSIS that survives the ordeaJ. 4 3
for achieving certainty (outside of divine revelation) w~s lo~c, I co~cur _with t~e general tenor of Hirsch's argument for
defenders of the emerging "new science" tried to vahdate 1ts the ~atw~aht~ of hte~ary study and am dismayed, as he is, by
claim to certain knowledge by concepts, such as the "princi- th~.I~rauonahty and Irresponsi?ility of much that passes for
pie of sufficient reason," that seemed to bridge the gap cntiCism. And one ca~, hke Hirsch in his various writings,
between the necessary truths of logic and assertions of refer to the hypothetico-deductive model in order to say
empirical facts and laws. Later, when the p~ysical scie~~es en~ightening thi~gs about. the procedures, such as interpre-
had triumphantly established their own cla1m to cogmuve tatwn, that are mvolved m literary and aesthetic criticism.
validity, the methods of scientific verification tended to assume B~~ t~ look _at the procedures of a physical scientist and of a
a status, on a peer with that of logic, as the sole model for cntiC ~n the1r overall surroundings is to see how radical are
achieving knowledge in all empirical inquiries. Such was the the d1fferences in problems, aims, and activities that are
assumption, in the nineteenth century, of _the philosoph~ of obscur~d by asserting that both enterprises accord with a sin-
positivism, and, in the twentieth, of the ph1losophy of logical gle logical model.
positivism. And even in our post-positivist climate many of . For exampl~: the physicist tacitly shares with other physi-
us still feel uneasy about claiming validity for knowledge that ClSts a perspecuve that sharply limits what shall count as facts ·
-~ cannot be certified by sorne plausible simulacrum of the model he poses questions that rule out all normative or evaluativ~
of formal logic, or of "scientific method," or of ~th _toge~e~. te~ms;_ he tr~es to for~ulate hypotheses that are capable of
But we will get clear about what we are really domg m arusuc ~mg mdubltably fals1fied by specific experimental observa-
criticism, and in various related areas of inquiry, only if we u?ns; and hi~ overall aim, by a drastic exclusion of individual
face up to the full consequences of the realization tha_t these d1ffere;'1ces, 1s to achieve an ever greater generality in knowl-
pursuits are neither logic nor science, but their own kmds of edge, I;'1 a proce~ure _so controlled by rigid rules as to
discourse, adapted to ·their own kinds of problems, having approximate certamty (m the sense of universal agreement
their own criteria of rationality, and yielding their own kinds by ~ther ~ompetent observers) at every step of the way. In
( of knowledge, to which the term certainty does not apply. But deahng With complex literary texts, on the other hand, a critic
-~ if this knowledge is not "certain," neither is it, strictly speak- employs one of many available perspectives to conduct a fluid
ing, "uncert~in"; both terms, insofar as they are tied to alien and largely uncodified discourse, in which sorne facts have
models of discourse, are misleading. the property of being altered by the hypothesis that appeals
70 Doing Things with Texts
What's IM Use of Theorizing about the Arts7 71
to them for support; his questions typically inv?lve norn:a-
tive and evaluative elements; there is no clear lme. at wh1ch for. t~e play ~f irreducible temperamental differences, yet
decisions. an? judgments are not arbitrary, but are subject to
his interpretative hypothesis is f~lsifi.ed ; a cent:al a1m, at the
extreme from maximum generahty, IS to estabhsh the knowl- ~road enten a such as coherent-incoherent, adequate-omis-
SI~~· penetrating-silly, just-distorting, revealing-obfuscatory,
edge of individual objects in their distinctive, co~crete, an?
dlSlnterested-partisan, better-worse. Although such a mode
value-full particularity; and althou~h he may cla1m t~at h1s
of disc.ourse is r~rely capable of rigidly conclusive argu-
interpretation is uniquely true, he .~ ~ no~ really surpns~d to
~ents, It possesses JUSt the kind of rationality it needs to achieve
find that other intelligent and able cnucs d1s~gree. E. D. .Hirsch
does well to remind us that the progress1v~ness of ht~ra:y Its o~n ~urpo~es; .and altho~gh its knowledge is not, judged
studies depends on its status as a collaborauv~ e~terpnse. m b~ an. ah~n. cntenon, certam, it must satisfy an equivalent
cntenon m 1ts own realm of discourse, for which , in lieu of a
which diverse practitioners consent to the c.ntena of rauo-
specialized term, we use a word like valid, or sound.
nality. We must remember, however, that th1s prog~ess con-
sists in part in the accumulation of alter?auve ~nd A P.ertinent comment is that of Wittgenstein, in discussing
the d1fference between mathematical and other modes of
complementary critica! theories and proced~res, m a fash1?n
cenainty: "We remain unconscious of the prodigious diver-
very d ifferent from the progress of the sc1enc~ o.f p~ys1cs
sity of all the everyday language-games," and "the kind of
toward ever greater generality. The differen~e IS md1cated
certainty is t~e kind of language-game." H e goes on to remind
in Whitehead's dictum that a science that hes1ta~es to forget
us also that m these matters language is not the ultimate ref-
its founders is lost. A humane study that forgets 1ts f?unders
erence, for "what has to be accepted, the given, is-so one
is impoverished ; a great critic is. subject to correctwn and
supplementation, but is never enurely outmoded; a~d prog- could say-Jonns of liJe. '144 Let us imagine a criticallanguage-
ress in fact depends on our maintaining the persp~ct1ves and game, ~nd the f~rm of life that it inescapably involves, that
the insights of th'e past as live options, lest we fall mto a con- would m fact ach1~ve the goal of certainty that one is tempted
to hold up as the Ideal of all rational discourse . There would
temporary narrowness of vi~w, orbe d?om~d .to repeat old
be only one permissible theoretical stance, all the descriptive
errors and Jaboriously to red1scover anCient ms1ghts. .
and normat1ve terms would have fixed criteria of use and
Rather than to exaggerate the commonality of method m
reasoning would proceed entirely in accordance with ~stab­
science and criticism, it would be more profitabl~ to say that
l!shed logical calculi. Such a language, if applied toa work of
while criticism in vol ves the use of logic and scienufi~ method,
hterature by any intelligent and practiced critic, could indeed
it must go far beyond their capacities if it is todo Its pr~per
job. Though responsible to the formal rules of rea~o? I.ng,
?e expecte? to yield certai.nty, in the sense that the resulting
..
·- and though in its own way empirical, critici~m n:ust mltlat~
its chief functions in an area where these s1mphfied cal.cuh
stop, for the models of logic and of s~ie~tific method ach1eve
mterpretatwn a nd evaluauon would be conclusive and would
enforce the consent of all critics who follow the ru les of that
cr.itical game. lf, however, instead of holding up such cer-
their extraordinary efficacy and the1r dive:se ~odes of cer- tai~ty ~s an ~bstract ideal , we realize in imagination the form
of hfe m wh1ch such critica! discourse would be standard we
tainty by the device of systematically exclu~mgjust those fea-
find it inhuman and repulsive; for it is an ideal that could be
tu res of experience that, humanly speakmg, matter ~o~t.
Inevitably, theFefore, when critica! discourse engages w1th Its achieved only in a form of political, social, a_n d artistic life
like that which Aldous Huxley direly foreboded in Brave N ew
objects, it is controlled in conside~~~le part by norms that we World or George Orwell in rg84.
call good sense, sagacity, tact, sensibihty, taste. T~es~ are te~ms
by which we indicate that, though we are operaung m ~ reg10n Writing in the spirit ofWittgenstein,J. L. Austin remarked
where the rúles are uncodified and elusive and there lS room that our language is not an ideal form, but is designed for
use "in the human predicament."45 One way to describe crit-
134 Doing Things with Texts
eyes of a believer in it; to discover by what apparent facts it
was at first suggested, and by what appearances it has ever
since been rendered continually credible." 10 This way of
looking at the past is a Romantic discovery, and it seems to
me to be a necessary condition for any full understanding of
the past. In Natural Supernaturalism I tried, by an effort of
imagination, to understand a great Romantic enterprise by
looking at it from within. In the process of coming to under-
stand this segment of our past I also discovered, and tried at
Art~as~Such:
the end to communicate the discovery, that to know who and
what and where we . were then helps us to understand who
and what and where we are now. I tried in addition to com-
'fhe Sociology of
municate my sense that this Romantic past is a usable past, in
that it presents a stance toward ourselves and the world that Modern Aesthetics
affirms human dignity and the grounds for a qualified hope,
and thus shows us what was possible for men who were no
less sagacious and unillusioned than we are now.
Wayne Booth says that he was convinced and moved by
what I found moving and convincing in the history I tried to
tell. But Booth also says, and I entirely agree, that his response
of being persuaded "is an experience that many sincere and
F OR THE LAST TWO CENTURIES the professional phi-
losophy of art, and more recently the practica! criticism of
competent readers will for various reasons not discover" (p. the various arts, has been grounded on a theory that, for easy
150). A humanistic demonstration, unlike a scientific dem- reference, I shall call "art-as-such." This theory uses a very
onstration, is rarely such as toen force the consent of all qual- distinctive terminology to make the following claims :
ified observers. For it to carry the reader through its exposition ( 1) "Art" is u sed as a term interchangeable with "the fine
to its conclusions requires sorne grounds for imaginative con- arts," which consist primarily of five arts: poetry (or litera-
sent, sorne comparative ordering of values, sorne readiness ture), .painting, sculpture, music, and architecture. The con-
of emotional response to the matters shown forth, which the sideration of these essentially related products constitutes an
reader must share with the author even before he begins to area of inquiry which is sui generis.
read; and these common grounds are no doubt in part tem- (2) What defines a work of art is its status asan object to be
peramental, hence variable from reader to reader. 11 If this "contemplated," and contemplated "disinterestedly"-that is,
assertion constitutes relativism, then we simply have to live attended to "as such," for its own sake, without regard to the
with the relativism it asserts, for it is an aspect of the human personal interests or the possessiveness or the desires of the
predicament that the languages and complex strategies of perceiver, and without reference to its truth or its utility or
proof in humanistic inq~iries are designed to cope with, but its morality. A work of art may or _may not be true to the
can never entirely overcome. world or serve practica! ends or have moral effects, but such
considerations are held to be supervenient upon (or, in sorne
views, destructive of) the defining experience-that is, the
absorbed and disinterested contemplation of the product for
itself, simply as a work of art.
136 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modem Aesthetics 137

(3) A work of art is accordingly described as an object that erty, nor for talking about works of art in a way that under-
is self-sufficient, autonomous, independent. It is asserted to took to be distinctive for that class and exclusive of all other
be an end in itself, not a means to an externa! end, and its human artifacts. Instead, they discussed one of the arts at a
artistic value is said to be intrinsic, not extrinsic, to its own time; and when they paralleled that art to another of what
being. The work, in other words, is conceived as an entity we now call "the fine arts"-especially poetry to painting-it
that exists simply in order to be looked at or read or listened was for limited comparative purposes, and with reference only
to with an absorbed, exclusive, and disinterested attention. to selected features. And during those two millennia, it
One can illustrate such theories by two terse but compre- · occurred to no thinker to assert that a product of even one
hensive statements. One is by T. E. Hulme, whose views had of the human arts exists in order to be contemplated disin-
an important formative influence on T. S. Eliot and the terestedly, for its own sake, without reference to things, events,
American New Criticism that began about 1930. "Contem- human beings, purposes, or effects outside its sufficient and
plation," Hulme says, is "a detached interest." autonomous self.
The historical fact is that the theory and vocabulary of art-
The object of aesthetic contemplation is something framed as-such was introduced, quite abruptly, only sorne two or three
apart by itself and regarded without memory or expectation, centuries ago into what had hitherto been a relatively contin-
simply as being itself, as end not means, as individual not uni- uous d~velopment of the traditional views and terminology
versal.1 that phllosophers and critics had inherited from Greek and
Roman antiquity. And in retrospect, it becomes clear that the
The other is a felicitous summation by Iris Murdoch (a prac- revolution effected in the theory of art involved a replace-
ticing novelist as well as a philosopher) in her Romanes Lec- ment of the implicit understructure of traditional theory by
ture on art in 1976: a radically different understructure.
Theorists of the various arts, from classical Greece through
Good art [provides the] clearest experience of something grasped most of the eighteenth century, whatever their divergencies,
as separate and precious and beneficial and held quietly and had assumed the maker's stance toward a work of art, and
unpossessively in the attention .2 had analyzed its attributes in terms of a construction model.
That is~ they posited a poem or any other work of art to be
Such formulations are usually presented by aesthetic phi- an opus, a thing that is made according to a techne or ars, that
losophers and critics as universal and timeless truths about is, a craft, each with its requisite skills for selecting materials
works of art, and we tend to think of the history of art theory and shaping them into a work designed to effect certain
as a sustained movement toward the triumphant discovery of externa} ends, such as achieving pleasure or instruction or
these truths, sidetracked and delayed by various false leads. emotional effects on an audience, as well as for adapting the
The historical facts , however, make this view a dubious one. work to a particular social occasion or function. It is clear
For more than two thousand years after the philosophical that from the viewpoint of this construction model, the pat-
consideration of one or another of the arts was inaugurated ent differences between the materials and practica} skills of a
by Plato and Aristotle, theorists and critics did not even class poet, a painter, a sculptor, a musician, oran architect would
together the diverse products that we now identify as "the keep these diverse occupations and products from being
fine arts." Instead, they grouped one or another of these arts classified together in any systematic fashion, and for other
with mathematics or with the natural sciences or with a prac- than limited purposes. The critica} undertaking, conse-
tica! art such ~s agriculture or shoemaking. They proposed quently, was to deal with a single art-most often, in classical
no terms for specifying a distinctive or essential artistic prop- times, poetry or a subclass such as tragedy; and the critica}
138 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modern Aesthetics 139

treatises were designed at least as much to guide a poet in ings of Joseph Addison and of the third Earl of Shaftesbury;
writing a particular kind of good poem as to help a reader to only eighty years later, in 1790, they had developed into the
judge whether, and in what ways, the poem is good or bad. full modern formulation of art-as-such in Immanuel Kant's
In this orientation to the making of a poem, Aristotle's Poet- Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.
ics, whatever its important differences, is congruent with the Let me stress what, for our enterprise, are salient features
views of Horace, 3 whose enormously inftuential Ars Poetica is of Kant's theory. Despite its epoch-making importance for
explicitly a how-to document; that is, it is a verse-letter the philosophy of art, there is hardly a single observation
addressed to a novice instructing him how to write poems ·about the nature and experience of an aesthetic object that
that will appeal most widely and enduringly to a discriminat- Kant did not find in his eighteenth-century precursors, English
ing readership. In this aspect of their treatises, both these and German, beginning with Addison and Shaftesbury. In
writers are at one with lhe rhetoricians and with Longinus; fact, Kant rJoes not even argue for, but simply accepts, cer-
and all of these thinkers together established the basic mode tain concepts, already current, and devotes himself to
and operative terms for dealing with the verbal, and later the grounding and systematizing these concepts by showing how
plastic and musical, arts that persisted, without radical inno- the uniquely distinctive aesthetic experience (what he calls
vations, through the seventeenth century. "the pure judgment of taste") is possible, as he puts it, a priori-
In sharp contrast, theories of art-as-such tacitly presup- that is, how it can be accounted for by reference to the fac-
pose not the maker's stance to his work in process but the ulties and their operations that the mind brings to all its
perceiver's stance to the finished product; and they formu- experience. And his theory relies squarely and exclusively on
late their discussion not on a construction model but on a the perceiver's stance and the contemplation model. As Kant
contemplation model. That is, they assume that the paradig- posits the situation that he assumes to be paradigmatic for
matic situation, in defining and analyzing art, is that in which the philosophy of aesthetics: a pure judgment of taste "com-
a lone perceiver confronts an isolated work, however it hap- bines delight or aversion immediately [i.e., without the in-
pened to get made, and simply attends to the features that it tervention of "concepts"] with the bare contemplation
manifests to his exclusive attention. [Betrachtung] of the object irrespective of its use or of any
What I want to do is to sketch the emergence of the point end." 4 Only after he has established this frame of reference
of view and operative vocabulary of art-as-such, and then to does Kant go on, in the second book of his Critique, to discuss
investigate sorne of the attendant conditions, both social and what he calls die schonen Künste, or fine arts; his list of the
intellectual, that may explain why, after so many centuries of major arts is the one that had recently become, and still
speculation, this radical innovation appeared suddenly just remains, the standard one of poetry, painting, sculpture,
when it did and why it developed rapidly in just the way it architecture, and music-to which he adds the other arts,
too k. prominent in his time, of eloquence and landscape garden-
ing. In this second section of his treatise, Kant also intro-
duces the topic of the production of a work of art. His aim,
however, is precisely opposed to traditio~al constructive the-
l ories, which undertook to establish the principies by which
an artist deliberately selects and orders his materials in order
The perceiver's stance and the contemplation model were to effect preconceived ends. Kant's enterprise, on the con-
products not of late-nineteenth-century aestheticism but of trary, is to explain how the producing artist, despite such
the eighteenth C«;!ntury. More precisely, they appeared at the concepts and intentions, nonetheless manages, however
end of the first decade of the eighteenth century, in the writ- unintentionally, to achieve a product that meets the criteria

• • - ~ ---~· o# ~ .. • -
140 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modern Aesthetics 141

airead y established by reference to the concept-free and end- suits, was that each work is to be experienced disinterestedly,
independent encounter between a percipient and a ready- for its own sake, unalloyed by reference to the world, or to
made aesthetic work. human life or concerns, or to any relations, ends, or values
In discussing the nature of the normative aesthetic outside its all-sufficing self.
encounter, Kant encompasses all the key concepts and terms A conceptual revolution so sudden and drastic cannot be
that constitute the theory of art-as-such in our own time. plausibly explained as an evolution of the traditional ideas
Crucially, the percipient's aestheticjudgment is, he says, "dis- about the arts ; the orientation and operative terms of art-as-
interested" or "apure disinterested delight," in the sense that . such, as I have pointed out, were entirely alíen to that tradi-
it is "purely contemplative" [bloss kontemplativ], hence "impar- tion. To account for the revolution we must, I think, turn to
tial"-that is, it is free of any reference to the interests or externa! factors which enforced, or at least fostered, the new
acquisitiveness or desires of the perceiver, and is indifferent way of thinking. Let us pose this question : Was there, just
even to the reality of the thing that is represented in the mode preceding and during the eighteenth century, a radical alter-
of art. The object contemplated, Kant says, "pleases for its ation in the social conditions and social uses of the diverse
own sake" f!ür sich selbst], in strict independence from what products that carne during that period to be grouped as the
he calls the "externa!" ends of utility or of morality. A "fine fine arts-changes both concurrent and correlative with the
art," accordingly, is "intrinsically final, devoid of an [extrin- ~onceptual changes I have outlined? This is, broadly speak-

sic] end." 5 In Kant's overall view, a human work of art, no mg, a question concerning the sociology of art; but whereas
less than a natural object, is to be regarded as having no end altering social conditions have often been used to explain
other than simply to exist, to be just what it is for our disin- ch~nges in the. subject matter, forms , and styles of practicing
terested aesthetic contemplation. art1sts, I shall mstead advert to social conditions in order to
Aspects of Kant's theory were quickly adopted and devel- explain a drastic change in the general theory o[ art-that is,
oped by a number of German metaphysicians, including in the focal concepts by which the arts were identified, clas-
Schiller, Schelling, Hegel, and Schopenhauer, and so entered sified, and systematically analyzed.
the mainstream of aesthetic philosophy. What needs to be
stressed is the rapidity and completeness of this Copernican
revolution in the theory of art. In the course of a single cen-
tury a great variety of human products, from poetry to archi-
tecture, conspicuously diverse in their media and required
skills, as well as in the occasion and social function of individ- A conspicuous phenomenon in the seventeenth and eigh-
ual works within each art-produ,cts of arts that hitherto had teenth centuries was the rapid spread of a mode of life, hith-
been grouped with diverse human crafts, or even sciences- erto limited to a privifeged few , that I shall label
came to constitute a system of "the fine arts"; 6 that is, a single, "connoisseurship." By this term I mean the devotion of part
essentially related, and unique class of products. The con- of one's leisure to the study and enjoyment of the products
struction model, which had treated each of the arts as a pro- of an art for the interest and pleasure they afford . Since the
cedure for selecting and adapting its distinctive elements to attitude and theory of art-as-such emerged in England and
preconceived ends and uses, was replaced by the contempla- was develqped in Germany, I shall focus on the social phe-
tion model, which treated the products .of all the fine arts as nomenon of the spread of connoisseurship in those two
ready-made th4ngs existing simply as objects of rapt atten- countries. .
tion. And the essential feature predicated for the fine arts, We c~n begin in the seventeenth century ~ith the intro-
setting them off from all cognitive, prattical, and moral pur- duction of two new terms from the Italian into the English
142 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: T he Sociology of Modern Aesthetics 143

criticallexicon. The first term was gusto, translated as "taste," fare, .announced in 1719 "a new science to the world" which,
and applied in the metaphorical sense of a capacity to respond he says, since "it is yet without a name," he will call "the SCI-
to the beauty or harmonious arder of objects, whether natu- ENCE of a CONNOISSEUR." He points out that in England;
ral or artificial. This responsiveness was considered to be an unlike in Italy, although there are many "gentlemen ofajust
innate sensibility, inherited by individuals in various degrees, and delicate taste in musick, poetry, and all kinds of literature
yet capable of being trained so as to constitute a socially ... very few [are] lovers and connoisseurs in painting." His
desirable "good taste" ora "polite" (that is, a polished, upper- great endeavor, he says, is "to persuade our nobility and gen-
class) taste; and even of being so informed by the acquired try to become lovers of painting and connoisseurs ... by
knowledge of the "rules" of a particular art that it becomes a shewing the dignity, certainty, pleasure and advantage of that
'just taste" ora "correct taste." This new term quickly became science." 8
a staple in critical dis<;ussion, where it obviously served to Note two features of Richardson's exposition. He points
emphasize the perceiver's point of vantage to a finished arti- · out, first, that in England an aristocratic connoisseurship-
fact. (Note that in 1790 Kant labeled the normative aesthetic which he equates, using our earlier term, with "a just and
response by a deliberately paradoxical phrase: "a pure judg- delicate taste"-already exists for poetry and music. He now
ment of taste. ") undertakes to add painting (and, later in his book, sculpture)
The second, and related, word from the Italian is virtuoso. to thi~ class-thereby linking, for his purposes, four of what
This was introduced into the English vocabulary in 1622 by were soon to be grouped as the fine arts. He does so, how-
Henry Peacham, in his book on the requisites of an upper- ever, not on the ground that these arts possess a common
class education that he entitled The Complete Gentleman. Men nature or shared objective features, but solely on the ground
who are "skilled" in such antiquities as "statues, inscriptions, that they are all capable of a common function or social role-
and coins," Peacham says, "are by the Italians termed vir- that of yielding to the perceiver what he describes as "at once
tuosi. "7 In the course of the seventeenth century, the term an intellectual and a sensual pleasure," that is enhanced for
virtuoso carne to be applied to a mode of life increasingly "those who have learned to see these things." Second, .he
engaged in by gentlemen of the leisure class who applied reveals that a prime value of connoisseurship, in addition to
themselves to one or both of two pursuits. One pursuit was the refined pleasure that it yields, is its conspicuous useless-
collecting, and developing a degree of expertise about, the ness, which makes it an index that one belongs to the leisure
curiosities of natural history and the contrivances of contem- class-i'n his term, to "our nobility and gentry." Connoisseur-
porary technology. The other was collecting, and developing ship, Richardson points out, is "not for the vulgar" (that is,
an informed taste for appraising, various artifacts, which the common people). The fact that it is a nonproductive,
included an extraordinary range of rarities and bric-a-brac, nonutilitarian way of employing one's time is what enhances
but most prominently paintings and statuary. By the end of the "dignity" of a connoisseur, making him "always respected
the seventeenth century, the term virtuoso had already become and esteemed. "9
derogatory, largely because ofthe devastating attacks by Res- The virtuoso vague in the seventeenth century (as Walter
toration wits against the pedantry and fondness for natural Houghton has pointed out) 10 had all along been "strongly
and artificial oddities by the science virtuoso. The life-style class-conscious," flaunting a leisure-time avocation free of
of the aristocratic art virtuoso nonetheless continued to flourish J material and utilitarian ends as a sign of social rank una-
and expand in the eighteenth century, although now under 1
chievabl~ by what a number of virtuosi, like Peacham, had
a new title, this time imported from France, of "connois- ~ called "the vulgar" and requiring a cultivated knowledge and
seur." taste that serves to distinguish the "polite" class from social
The English painte~ J onathan Richardson, with great fan- climbers. This defensiveness of the landed upper classes
144 Doing Things with T exts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modern Aesthetics 145

against interlopers from below is itself an index to the insta- the sale of their books to the general public. By Dr. Johnson's
bility of the established class structure in England, in an era time, in Germany as well as England, there existed for the
of new wealth acquired by flourishing commercial and man- first time a reading public in the modern sense, large enough
ufacturing enterprises. But the rapidly enlarging class of the to support, though in many instances on a level of bare sub-
well-to-do i? the e_ighteenth_century were not to be foiled by sistence, a substantial number of writers by the books they
such defens1ve tacucs. They s1mply took over from "the nobility bought. In this period new literary forms were invented to
and gentry" the cultivation of connoisseurship, in part as a satisfy the expanding demand-above all the novel, which at
pleasant pursuit to fill a newfound leisure, but also, clearly, first pretended to be both true and edifying, but soon relaxed
because 1t served as a prominent indicator of the gentle- into the candid condition of being produced to be read merely
manly or "polite" status t.o which they aspired. for the pleasure in the fiction, by a readership now composed
in large part by tradesmen, and especially the newly idle wives
and daughters of tradesmen. Another commercial institu-
tion was invented, the circulating library, to make literature,
3 and especially novels, cheaply available to those who could
not afford, or chose not, to buy them outright. This was the
In his Spectator 419 on "Taste," published in 1712, Addison age also of the emergence and rapid development of various
tells his large, primarily middle-class readership that since types of periodical publications. One was the critica! review,
"the fine taste . . . arises very often in conversation, 1 shall which served to guide the public in the appreciation and
endeavor to give sorne account of it and tola y clown rules ... appraisal of works of literature. Another was the magazine,
how we may acquire that fine taste of writing which is so much so called beca use it included a variety of prose and verse forms.
talked of among the polite world." Such a deliberate cultiva- A clear indication that such new publications owed part of
tion of connoisseurship in the eighteenth· century by a rap- their appeal to upper-class aspirations is the fact that the first
idly expanding part of the population resulted in a periodical of this latter type, published in the 169os, was named
conspicuous set of social innovations. 1 refer to the sudden The Gentleman'sjournal, and that in the next century the most
appearance and accelerating development, for the first time successful example (it endured until 1914) was named The
in Western history, of a great variety of institutions and Gentleman's Magazine. 11
arrangements for making one after another of the objects of It was, i:.hen, in .the eighteenth century that literature became
"fine taste"-that is, products of the diverse arts-accessible, a commodity, subject to the exchange values of the market-
usually for pay, toan ever growing public. 1 have time to give place, with all the consequences of such a condition. But for
only a brief overview of this remarkable but neglected social our present purpose, note that both books and magazines
phenomenon, in each of what at that time carne to be classi- incorporated literary form.s that were bought to be read by a
fied as "the fine arts," that is, the nonutilitarian arts. reader in isolation, for the interest and pleasure of doing so,
And first, literature. In the latter seventeenth century, sec- independently of any practica! purpose or specific occasion,
ular literature was still being written largely under the and at a distance from their author and his circumstances. It
patronage of the nobility arid of political parties; an author was in 1710 that the term belles lettres. was imported from
was supported by writing to order, asan occasion or commis- France, to signify those literary works that were not doctrinal
sion required, or else to gain favor with the patron or patrons or utilitarian or instructional, but simply appealed to taste, as
on whom he depended for a livelihood. A century later this writings to be read for pleasure. In the course of time belles
system had given way to one in which booksellers paid for lettres became simply "literature" and replaced the earlier
and published litérary works, and so made authors reliant on generic term poetry, which was based on the construction
146 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of M odern Aesthetics 147

mod~l; for in the _ r~ot sense that endured through the Painting and sculpture I'JI deal with in conjunction. There
Rena1ssanc~, poetry s1gmfied the art of constructing a "poem"- were contemporary and parallel innovations in the arrange-
a word_ den ved from the. Gr~ek poiema, "a made thing." ments for providing public access to pictures and statues. The
. M~zc. Through the Rena1ssance, composed music (as dis- Continental Grand Tour, usually lasting severa! years and
tmglllshed from folk music) had been available to a broad with Italy anq Romeas its chief goal, had by the seventeenth
nonaristocratic audience only in churches, or on the occasio~ century beconie almost obligatory as a finishing school for
of public festivals. The latter seventeenth century, however, the sons of the high aristocracy in England and elsewhere;
saw _the e~ergenc~ of the earliest organizations for making and sorne graduates of that school emulated noble or rich
mus1c pubhc-that 1s, regularly accessible to all who were able Italian collectors of the visual arts-a vague that had begun
and willing to pay to hear it. Examples are the Abendmusiken in Italy in the early Renaissance-by buying the works they
and Collegia Musica in var~ous German towns, then in Hol- had learned to prize. 13 Enormous collections were gath-
land and elsewhere. In Restoration London, regular public ered- by purchase, or not infrequently as loot following a
concerts carne to be offered in a number of taverns; and the military conquest-by princes and noble landowners, then by
first hall specifically designed for public concerts was con- wealthy merchants and industrialists, in many cities of Europe,
s_tructed in the York buildings. The earliest of the great pub- and notably in London. In England prívate collectors, from
he gardens, Vauxhall, began to provide instrumental and vocal the late · seventeenth through the eighteenth centuries,
programs of both light and serious music, and was fre- acquired the bulk of the sculpture and paintings that have
quented by all classes of citizens, from the high nobility down ever since made that country a majar place for the study of
through merchants and their apprentices-together with the the art of Europe, both classical and postclassical. 14
usual c~mp followers of such diverse crowds. In the process Sorne collectors were doubtless, in sorne part, impersonal
of the e1ghte~nth century, public concerts-music for profit, connoisseurs of works of painting and sculpture; but their
as a commo?Ity-art-b~came a matter of course, not only in motives were al so acquisitive and proprietary, and they were
London (as m other maJar European cities) but also in cathe- of course very few in number. Our concern is with the grow-
dral towns, the university towns, the new industrial cities, and ing number of nonowners who visited such collections because
even in many villages, where groups of amateur musicians of interest in the works themselves. Through most of the sev-
offered performances for a small admission fee. Such con- enteenth century, access to the princely galleries had, with
certs in~l~ded what, in . their origin, had been a diversity of few exceptiQns, been restricted to persons of quality and to
composnwns to serve d1fferent social purposes; all were now qualified scholars. But gradually, as the vague of art connois-
equivalently presented, however, for no other end than to seurship spread, and in response to increasing demands, a
provide pl~asure t? a broad audience-including, specifi- number of prívate galleries were, at first de Jacto, then offi-
cally, the t1red busmessman. As one English commentator cially, converted into the first public museums. The British
put it in 1724, music is "a charming Relaxation to the Mind Museum was established as a national institution in 1'759, fol-
when fatigued with the Bustle of Business." 12 Various ne~ lowed in 1773 by the establishment of the Vatican Museum,
musical forms, designed to be suitable for performance to a as well as by the Uffizi gallery in Florence; from then to our
large _audie?ce and to be botl:t attractive and intelligible to own time the public collections have, like insatiable sponges,
untramed hsteners, were developed to satisfy the growing absorbed ever more of the majar works in prívate hands. 15
demand-mo~t prominently, the symphony scored for a large Other institutional innovations served to feed the growing
orchestra, wh1ch was for the middle-class music public very appetite for the visual arts. Attending public auctions of these
much what the new novel was for the middle-class reading arts became a popular amusement; Sotheby's was founded in
public. the 1740s, and Christie's in 1762. To visit annual exhibitions
148 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modern A esthetics 149
sponsored by academies of living painters became nothing experienced by sorne members of its audience, no doubt, as
short of a craze and filled both building and street with crowds the occasion for what we now call an "aesthetic experience,"
of people. Horace Walpole, with his union of caustic wit and but at the same time as thoroughly embedded in a particular
sense of gentility, wrote in 1779 that "the taste for virtu has institution or event, and as an integral component in a com-
become universal; persons of all ranks and degrees set up for plex ofhuman activities and functions . .Now.' howeve~ , the
connoisseurs, and even the lowest people tell familiarly of
Hannibal Scratchi, Paul Varnish, and Raphael Angelo." 16
lt new institution of the public concert mtght mclude pteces,
both vocal and instrumental, that had originally served to
Walpole's comment is a humorous exaggeration of the intensify sacred feelings in a religious ceremony, or to add
remarkable diffusion of interest in the visual arts, while his 11
1 splendor and gaiety to a prívate or publi~ celebration, or. to
defensive snobbery reminds us of the persisting function of provide melodic rhythms for social danct? g-together wt~h
connoisseurship as a sign of social rank. To cite another new pieces written for the concert hall 1t~elf. T?ere extst
example: in 1767 Thomas Martyn published in two volumes numerous paintings that represent a room m an etghteenth-
The English Connoisseur, a guide to collections of painting and century gallery or museum. One can see that they display
sculpture "in the palaces and seats of the nobility and prin- side by side statuary that was both ancient and recen.t, pag~n
cipal gentry of England," intended specifically for the an<l Christian, sacred and profane. And the walls dtsplay m
instruction of what he calls "the rising Connoisseur." Now, el ose arra y, extending the length of the room and from floor
"the rising connoisseur," translated into modero sociologese, to ceiling, paintings that were originally made to serve as altar
is "the upwardly mobile connoisseur"; and Martyn's book is pieces, or else as reminiscences of classical ~yth, moral a~le­
motivated, he tells us, by "the great progress which the polite gories, a Flemish bedroom record of a marnage, memonals
arts have lately made in England, and the attention which is of historie events, representations of a family estate, or orna-
now paid them by almost all ranks of men." 17 mentsfor a noble salon. All such products, in the new modes
of public distribution or display, have been pulle? ?ut of t~eir
In sum: during the span of less than one hundred years, an intended contexts, stripped of their diverse rehgwus, soClal,
extensive institutional revolution had been effected, with the and political functions, and given a single and unif~rm new
result that, by the latter eighteenth century, the cultural sit- role: as items to be read or listened to or looked at stmply as
uation in England (as, to various degrees, in Germany and a poem, a musical piece, a statue, a painting.
other countries) was recognizably the present one, with a large, Suppose, while yo u are looking ata painting of the Madonna
primarily middle-class public for literature, together with and Child in its originallocation in a chapel, you are asked:
public theaters, public concerts of music, and public galleries "What's the painting for?" A manifest answer is : "To illus-
and museums of painting and sculpture. We now take suc):l trate, beautifully and expressively, an article of faith, and
a situation so entirely for granted that it requires an effort of thereby to heighten devotion." Now suppose that same
the historical imagination to realize the radical difference this painting moved to the wall of a museum and hung, let's say,
made in the social role of the arts and, as a consequence, in next to a representation of Leda and the Swan. To the ques-
what philosophers and critics assumed to be the standard sit- tion "What's it for?" the obvious answer now is: "To be con-
uation when theqrizing about them. Through the Renais- templated, admired, and enjoye~. " !'l"ot~ t~at eac? o~ th~se is
sance and later, works of music, painting, and sculpture had a valid answer to the same quesuon-wtthm the msututwnal
been produced mainly to order, on commissions by a church- setting in which that question is asked.
man, prince, wealthy merchant, town council, or guild; very I have reserved for special treatment architecture, the fifth
often they were produced for a specific function or occasion, of the standard fine arts, beca use it is an especially instructive
religious or secular; and the accomplished work had been instance of the way in which an altered social role effected ·á
Art-as-Such: The Sociology o[ M odern Aesthetics 15 1
150 Doing Things with Texts

drastic alteration in the conception of a craft. For of all the of Pemberley, at a time when its owner is supposedly absent.
fine (that is, nonutilitarian) arts, architecture seems the most It is also noteworthy that in the eighteenth century a flour-
obviously and thoroughly utilitarian, in that a building is spe- ishing market developed for books of engraved views of royal
cifically designed to serve as a shelter and to subserve a vari- palaces and famous urban and country houses. 19 Buildings
ety of other purposes-to be a sacred place for worship, to can't easily be relocated in museums, but these published
house a great family and its retainers, or to function as head- engravings served as a museum without walls, hence as yet
quarters for a political or social or economic body; as well as another vehicle to move works of architecture into their new
to announce by its magnitude, formal symbolism, and orna-
and widespread social role as, like the products of sculpture
ment, the status and wealth of the institution or. family for and painting, a set of things to be pored over, as such, simply
which it is intended. On the Continental Grand Tour in the for their capacity to interest and give pleasure to the observer.
seventeenth century, however, one aim had been to seek out What had been a utilitarian craft thus became an art-a fine
a diversity of ancient and modern structures simply as instances art.
of architectural achievement. Such a pursuit, hitherto lim-
ited to a few members of the aristocracy, grew enormously What we find , then, beginning late in the seventeenth cen-
in the eighteenth century. For this was precisely the period tury, is the emergence of an astonishing number of institu-
both of the inauguration and the rapid development of a tions for making a diversity of human artifacts public-as
new human activity, and that was the leisure-time journey, ~ommodities, usually for pay-in order to satisfy a burgeon-
not to Italy but within England itself, and for no other pur- mg demand for the delights, but also for the social distinc-
pose than to get acquainted with places and things. Before tion, of connoisseurship. The sum of these changes constitutes
the end of the century, this activity had become so wide- a new "form of life" (in Wittgenstein's phrase) in the leisure-
spread asto require an invented word: tourist. The company time pursuits. both of the high-born and the newly well-to-
of English tourists included increasing numbers of the middle do. Since hum~nkind is an enquiring and loquacious being,
classes. A principal aim of the tour, in addition to viewing a new form of hfe calls for an appropriate language-a set of
picturesque landscapes, was to visit great country houses- terms for sorting things out and for systematizing and ana-
many of these soon provided (for a fee, of course) detailed lyzing them in accordance with the altered mode of common
guide books to the esta te-in order to admire and judge the or normal experience. In such an enterprise, the normal
works of art, the interior appointments, and the landscaped experience readily becomes the normative experience. The
gardens, and very prominently, the architedural structure new criticallanguage, accordingly, does not envision a prod-
itself. 18 It may surprise you, as it did me, to learn that in the uct of art from the traditional point of view of its expert con-
year 1775 alone, el ose to 2 ,soo tourists visited the famous structor or maker, but from the point of view of the
country estate at Stowe; multiply that number by ten or twelve, co~noisseur, who confronts the work as a completed product
to correspond to the increase in the present population of wh!Ch he attends to as an isolated thing, for the sake of the
England , and it turns out that the popularity of English tour- s~ti~factions t~at doing so yields. And certain hitherto largely
ism, very soon after that activity began, nearly equaled its d1stmct and d1versely classified human products-especially
popularity now. Y~m will recall that the turning point of the poetry, music, painting, sculpture, architecture-since all of
?ovel Pride and Prejudice, which Jane Austen began writing them have now acquired , on a broad scale, the same social
m 1798, occurs when Elizabeth Bennet is taken by her aunt role as standard objects for connoisseurship, are for the first
and uncle, the Gardiners-who, the author stresses, are "in time gathered together as an entirely distinctive class of things
trade," members of the merchant middle class-on a vaca- called "the fine arts." Addison, with his customary acumen,
tion tour that includes her rejected lover Darcy's great estate identified this new principie of classification when he remarked
152 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modern Aesthetics 153
in Spectator 29 that "music, architecture, and painting, as well succumb to the institutional compulsion, assume the aes-
as poetry and oratory, are to deduce their laws and rules from thetic attitude, and begin to contemplate the object as such,
the general sense and taste of mankind, and not from the in its austerely formal and monochromatic harmony.
principies of those arts themselves." This is a contemporary
recognition of the turn from the construction model to the
spectator model for the newly identified class of the fine arts;
and for the philosophy of this class of objects, the German 4
theorist Baumgarten in the mid-eighteenth century coined
the term aesthetics. Let me anticipate what sorne of you are no doubt thinking,
In such a philosophy, works of fine art, despite their con- and admit that the conditions for the emergence of the the-
spicuous differences in physical and other attributes, are nat- ory of art-as-such are not so simple as I have made out. In
urally enough assumed to share a distinctive quality or essence this short presentation, I have had to omita number of com-
that enables them to perform their common role as objects plications and qualifications. Above all, I have omitted a sur-
of connoisseurship. This role, although often requiring pay- prising fact, which becomes evident only if we turn our
ment of afee, was, anomalously, not utilitarian or moral but attention from the sociology of art to intellectual history. I
specifically a diversion or escape from ordinary utilitarian and said that the theory of art-as-such was a radical conceptual
moral interests and pursuits. The essential feature that qual- innovation of the eighteenth century. That assertion is valid,
ified a product to be accounted a work of fine art was accord- so long as we limit our purview to the basic concepts and
ingly identified as its inherent capacity to serve as a sufficient operative vocabulary within earlier theories of the arts. But
and rewarding object of attention as an end in itself-a very if we take a more comprehensive historical overview, we find
elusive, nonmaterial feature that Kant called its "beauty" or that the vantage point, the defining concepts, and the dis-
"forro" or "aesthetic quality." tinctive vocabulary of art-as-such were actually common-
To put what I have just said in a different philosophical places-indeed, they were very old and familiar common-
idiom: the condition and status of being a work of art, in places; they had functioned, however, not in the tr~ditional
accordance with the standard definition of art-as-such, is not philosophy and criticísm of the arts, but in alien realms of
an inherent fact but an institutional fact. The most promi- metaphysics, and especially of theology. These ancient com-
nent institution that functions to confer this status has become monplaces were imported into, and specialized for , the the-
~ 12ublic museum; the exemplary art-of-arts, which over ory of fine art-they achieved, that is, a radical novelty of
the centuries tiad been poetry, has become painting, in which application-only when the new social role of the various arts
the product is hung on a wall and isolated from its surround- invited and fostered concepts of a requisite sort. It seems highly
ings by a material frame ; and the disinterested and absorbed likely that, if these concepts and terms had not existed ready-
contemplation of an isolated art object-the paradigmatic . made, modern aesthetics could not have developed so quickly
experience of the theory of art-as-such-is typically a museum from its beginnings into the complex, complete, and sophis
experience. The power of being accepted and displayed by a ticated forro of Kant's Critique ofJudgment.
reputable museum t9 transform a utilitarian object into a work I have told this story at sorne length elsewhere, 20 and have
of fine art was melodramatically revealed when Marcel time only to present a few highlights. The prototypical con-
Duchamp took a very homely utility, machine-made and mass- ception of an object that evokes a selfless and absorbed con-
produced-a urinal-from the thousands of its duplicates and templation is Plato's Idea of Ideas-that ultimate essence,
had it mounted on a museum wall. Many of us, once the uniting Beauty, Goodness, and Truth that Plato posited as
initial shock or indignation or derisive laughter has worn off, the terminus of all human love and desire. The ultimate
154 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modero Aesthetics 155

knowledge,. and ~he supreme human value, Plato says, is "the plation of God's supreme beauty and excellence in terms
contempla~10n w1th the eye of the mind" of "beauty absolute, familiar to us: He is enjoyed as His own end, and non propter
separate, s1mple, and everlasting"-an entity that is "perfect" aliud, for His own sake [propter se ipsam], simply for His
because, possessing autarkeia, it is utterly self-sufficient.21 Plo- inherent excellence and, in Augustine's repeated term, gra-
tinus, following Plato, similarly endowed his Absolute with tis-that _is, gratuitously, independently of our personal
the attribute of being "wholly self-sufficing," "self-closed," and interests or of any possible reward. 23 Here are all the ele-
"aut?n_omous." And in passages of high consequence for later ments of the theory of art-as-such; the radical change is the
Chnst1an thought-and if I am right, also for modern aes- shift of reference from God to a beautiful work of art as the
thetics-Plotinus described the highest good of the human sufficient object of contemplative enjoyment, and not by the
soul to be "contemplation" of the essential Beauty and Good eye of the mind but by the physical eye.
which is a state of "perfect surrender" of the self that consti- The crossing over of these theological terms, especially
tutes "the soul's peace," with "no passion, no outlooking desire contemplation and disinterested, into aesthetic theory occurred,
... reasoning is in abeyance and all Intellection and even .. . ?S I have indicated earlier, in 1711 in the book by the Earl of
t~e very self." The soul in this contemplation "has in perfect Shaftesbury entitled Characteristics. The express subject of
stillness attained isolation. " 22 Shaftesbury's urbane essays, however, was not aesthetics or
By one of the strangest developments in intellectual his- art-his book has been preempted by historians of aesthetics
tory, t~is pagan concept of a self-sufficient Absolute Beauty, only retrospectively-but religion, morals, and the life-style
wh1ch 1s to be contemplated without reference either to the appropriate to a gentleman. Shaftesbury's ideal is the vir-
self or to anything beyond its own bounds, became thor- tuoso ideal of connoisseurship, a mode of contemplation that
oughly identified, early in Christian theology, with the God (in his Platonic way of thinking) applies equally to God, to
of the Old Testament, a very personal God. He is described objects of beauty, and to moral goodness. Shaftesbury's first
in t?e Bible a~ creative, lo~ing, just, and often very angry, published work had been an edition of the sermons of Ben-
but 1s never sa1d to be beaut1ful or self-sufficient oran imper- jamín Whichcote, in which that Neoplatonic theologian had
sonal essence or Absolute. It was St. Augustine who, in his argued that God is to be loved not from a desire for personal
eminently influential expositions of the nature of Christian gain, nor as "a Mean, but [as] an End," and "for what he is in
caritas, or love, early in the fifth century, was more than any- himself," in "his own Loveliness, Excellency, and Beauty."24
one responsible for this fusion of the Christian God and the In his later Characteristics, Shaftesbury imports the rest of
classical Absolute; and in doing so he promulgated the lexi- Augustine's vocabulary, which he applies primarily to theol-
con of the categories and terms that, sorne fourteen hundred ogy and morality, and secondarily to the beauties of nature
years later, carne to constitute the spectator's vantage and the or of works of art.
contemplation model of the theory of art-as-such. Augus- I shall cite one German thinker, largely neglected by his-
tine's controlling distinction is between uti andfrui, between torians of aesthetics, Karl Philipp Moritz, who in · 1785, five
lo~ing something for its use and loving something for pure years before Kant's Critique, published a short essay that is
enjoyment, as an end in itself. All the good and beautiful the earliest unqualified presentation of the view of art-as-such.
things in this world, he asserts, are to be loved for their util- The essay demonstrates that, in little more than seventy years
ity, as a means to something else. Of all things in the uní- after Shaftesbury, these distinctive theological and moral terms
verse, God, and God alone, because He is the ultimate in have not only become specialized to the arts but are used to
beauty and excellence, is to be loved with a pure enjoyment, oppose the experience of a work of art to religious and moral
and in a visio Dei; that is, in a contemplation of God by "the experience, as well as to all practica! concerns. Only the
eye of the mind:" And Augustine details the loving contem- mechanical or useful arts, Moritz says, have an "outer end"-
156 Doing Things with Texts Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modern Aesthetics 157
that is, an end "outside themselves in something other." He Art galleries .. . ought to be temples where, in still and silent
poses instead a contemplation model for discussing the fine humility and in heart-lifting solitude, we may admire great
arts : artists as the highest among mortals . .. with long, steadfast
contemplation of their works .... I compare the enjoyment
of nobler works of art to prayer. .. . Works of art, in their way,
In the contemplation [Betrachtung] of the beautiful object ... no more fit ínto the common flow of life than does the thought
I contemplate it as something which is completed, not in me, of God .. .. That day is for me a sacred holiday which . .. I
but in its own self, which therefore constitutes a whole in itself, devote to the contemplation of noble works of art. 26
and affords me pleasure Jor its own sake [um sein selbst willen] .

Well, what does this excursion into social and intellectual


In adding to this formulation the further concepts of aes-
thetic disinterestedness and the self-sufficiency of a work of history cometo? .
The theory of art-as-such consists of assertions that have
art, Moritz inadvertently reveals the degree to which his views
qeen claimed, or assumed, by a number of philosophers and
are indebted to the ancient Plotinian and Augustinian rep-
critics to be timeless truths about a distinctive class of arti-
resentation of the selfless and gratuitous contemplation of
facts. I l:lave proposed, on the other hand, that it is a way of
the ultimate beauty of God:
1talking about art that emerged at a particular time, as an
integral and reciprocative element in an altering forro of social
While the beautiful draws our attention exclusively to itself life, marked by the development of many new institutions to
. . . we seem to lose ourselves in the beautiful object; and pre- make highly diverse human products widely public, and for
cisely this loss, this forgetfulness of self, is the highest degree no other ostensible purpose than simply to be attended to for
of pure and disinterested pleasure that beauty grants us. In their own sake. I have also proposed that these changes were
that moment we sacrifice our individual confined being to a
in part motivated by the prestige of connoisseurship, and of
kind of higher being.... Beauty in a work of art is not pure
... until I contemplate itas something that has been brought
a nonutilitarian aesthetic culture, as a sign-ef upper-dass sta-
forth en tire! y for its own sake, in order that it should be some- tus ;..and furthermore, that the determinative idiom and con-
thing complete in itself. 25 cepts of the new theory were translocated into the realm of
art, ready-made, from the realm of a Platonized Christian
theology. · .
K,e_nt must surely have studied Moritz's writings-there are I do not, however, mean to assert that this theory of art is,
many parallels I havtm't cited-but he stripp-e y t e pat- as a consequence, an invalid theory. It describes the way that,
ent indicators in Moritz of an origin in a Platonized Christiañ in our present circumstances, many of us in fact frequently
theology. Other writers of that time, however-like a ñum- experience works of art. Furthermore, when a theory of art
ber of more recent proponents of art-as-such, from Flaubert is put to work in applied criticism, its provenience ceases to
and Clive Bell through James Joyce and sorne of the Ameri- matter, and the criterion of its validity becomes the profita-
can New Critics-manifest the tendency of a contemplation bility of what it proves capable of doing. (The same holds for
theory of art to re!=uperate· aspects of its original context in sorne of the profitable theories in the natural sciences, which
religious devotion. Here is Wilhelm Wackenroder, for have also hada strange, and even dubious, provenience.) In
example, writing in 1797, seven years after Kant's Critique, criticism, the view of art-as-such has fostered an unprece-
on the experience of objects of art-as-such; and explicitly, dented analysis of the complex elements, interna! relations,
now, in what has beco me their normative setting in a public and modes of organization of works of art that has undeni-
museum: ably deepened and subtilized our experience of them. This
158 Doing Things with Texts

theory has also been held as their working hypothesis by m.Yor


modern artists, including such literary masters as Flaubert,
Proust, Joyce, and Nabokov.
lt is, then , in this heuristic and pragmatic sense, a valid
theory; bu~ like all competing views of art, it is also a partial
theory. lt IS a very profitable way of talking, when we want
to deal with a work of any of the arts simply in its formal
aspect~ and internal organization. For sorne kinds of works,
this way of talking is relatively adequate. But if we turn to
From Addison to Kant:
King Lear, or Bach's St. Matthew's Passion, or the frescoes of
Michelangelo (still, happily, in their original situation in the Modern Aesthetics and the
Sistine Chapel)-or for that matter, to Byron's comic master-
piece, Don juan-the view of art-as-such, while it remains
pertinent, becomes woefully inadequate. We need to substi- Exemplary Art
tute a different perspective, and a very different critical
vocabulary, to begin to do justice to the diverse ends and
functions_ of such works, and the patent way that our responses
THE ERA from Addison to Kant was one of unprec-
t~ t?em mvolve our shared experiences, appeal to our con-
VICtiOns about the world and our life in that world, implicate edented interest in the fine arts, and of unexampled expan-
our moral interests, and engage our deepest human con- sion and innovation in the philosophical and critical theory
cerns. of the arts. Eighteenth-century theorists had inherited from
the Renaissance treatments of a single art, above all of poetry,
in which the writers for the most part had explicated and
played changes upon the vantage points and analytic terms
they had found in their Greek and Roman progenitors. From
the time of the Greeks, what we call "the arts" had been clas-
sified with crafts such as carpen ry and cookery, and had only
occasio"nally and in limited aspects been linked one to another.
In the course ofthe eighteenth century, however, the various
arts (especially poetry, painting, sculpture, music, and archi-
tecture), so patently diverse in their media and modes, in the
skills they require, and in the occasion and social function of
individual works, carne to be systematized as "the fine arts,"
or simply as "art.'>~ They were treated for the first time, that
is, as a single class of products, sharing an essential feature
that made them sui generis. By the middle of the century,
Baumgarten had provided the new science of the arts-in-
general with the coined name aesthetics, and had made it,
enduringly, a part of any philosophical system that under-
160 Doing Things with T exts From Addison lo Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 161

took to account for our majar modes of experiencirrg and genuineness of its correspondence to the feelingful state of
dealing with the world. By the end of the century, Friedrich mind of the artist; often, the work is regarded also as a rev-
Schelling, in his Transcendental Idealism (18oo), made the dia- elation of the unique personality of the artist. It needs to be
lectical process of imagination in producing a work of art stressed, however, that this shift took place by an expansion
into the central and controlling concept of his entire meta- and change in function of concepts ·and terms that were
physics-in his words, "the general organon of philosophy already present in the inherited vocabulary of eighteenth-
and the keystone of its arch." 2 century criticism. The notion, for example, that the language
Despite these drastic changes in the professional philoso- of poetry, in addition to its representational function, can
phy of art, the working premises of practicing critics, through express emotions and manifest the ethos, or character, of the
much of the century, continued to be primarily pragmatic, speaker, was entirely traditional, though it had earlier been
based on Horace's Art of P,oetry and classical theories of rhet- used not to define poetry but to discuss style, or else to spec-
oric, but incorporating concepts derived from Aristotle and ify the matching of an utterance to the state of mind of a
Longinus. In general terms: a work of literature or of art was ch~racter within a poem. And in stressing the requirement
conceived to be, as Aristotle had said , n imitation but with . that the poet evoke emotions in his audience, pragmatic the-
its materials s cted, altered, and ordere in arder to ac iev-e orists often added Horace's corollary, si vis me fiere, that is, "if
pre~i ed ends, oreffects. These ends were to move you wish to move me, you must first yourself be moved." In
and give pleasure to the audience; variable stress was also short, the change from a mimetic and pragmatic to an
given to the Horatian utile, that is, the moral and intellectual expressive theory was an evolutionary process, in which, in
improvement of the audience. The excellence of a work, in response to altering social circumstances, sensibility, and artistic
its specific genre, was theoretically to be measured by the kind practices, certain terms that had hitherto been marginal and
and degree of its emotional and pleasurable effectiveness. A subordinate became central and controlling, and so effected
primary criterion was that of "truth" to the nature that art an interna! revolution in critica! theory.
imitates; this truth, however, was not verity, but "verisimili- The case, however, is quite different for two other eigh-
tude" or "probability," which is truth adapted to the respon- teenth-century innovations that are my particular concern
siveness of the audience. That is, the people, objects, and here. Both of these introduced new sets of terms, without
events imitated in a work, though they deviate from history precedent in the traditional critica! vocabulary, for specifying
and may violate the known constitution and course of nature, the nature and criteria of a work of art. Both innovations are
must be so rendered that the audience will accept them as the achievement mainly of philosophers rather than practic-
credibly like the world if the work is to achieve its justifying ing critics; they did not emerge fully as the express and inclu-
end of effecting pleasurable emotions. sive premises of critics, and also of artists, until after the
Almost three decades ago, in The Mirror and the Lamp, I Romantic period, in the mid-nineteenth century; and their
undertook to chronicle the shift in critica! theory, beginning full effect was delayed until they re-emerged to constitute, in
in the latter eighteenth century, from the mimetic and prag- diverse developments, the dominant modes of critica! theory
matic orientation to the Romantic, or expressive, orientation. and discussion of the arts after the third decade of the pres-
According to this view, a work .of poetry or art is not primar- ent century. If these innovations are taken ·into account, it
ily an imitation, but the expression of the emotions or of the can be claimeq that eighteenth-century theorists supple-
feelingful imaginative process of the artist. Its cardinal cri- mented the traditional repertory of critica! discourse with the
terion, consonantly, is no longer its truth, in the sense of a majar alternative concepts that have been exploited by critics
credible correspondence to reality, but its sincerity, or the and aestheticians up to the very recent past.
Doing Things with Texts From Addison lo Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary A rt
tion of a new paradigm for dealing with a work of art.
l. PARADIGMS OF CRITICISM AND MODELS
Traditional critica! theory, from Aristotle on, had assumed a
OF ART construction paradigm . The Greek and Latin terms for
"poem" [poiema, poema) signified a "made thing"-made, that
For easy reference, let us call these innovative elements "the is, by the poet ("maker") in accordance with an "art" (a craft,
contemplation model" and "the heterocosmic model" for a or skill) for selecting materials to imitate, and for rendering
work of art. I cite two twentieth-century examples of each and or dering these materials toward the end of achieving
model. appropriate effects on the audience. And traditional treatises
In his inftuential Speculations ( 1924), T. E. Hulme, after did not distinguish between their function as a guide to the
defining contemplation as "a detached interest," wrote: "The poet in making a good, or successful, poem and as a guide to
object of aesthetic contemplation is something framed apart the reader in judging whether the made poem is good. This
by itself and regarded without memory or expectation, sim- paradigm , which is assumed throughout Aristotle's Poetics,
ply as being itself, as end not means, as individual not uni- becomes blatantly explicit in Horace's Ars Poetica, which later
versal."3 And in 1960 Jerome Stolnitz began his Aesthetics and critics applied to painting and the other arts as well as poetry.
Philosophy of Art Criticism by defining "the aesthetic attitude" For the ,Ars Poetica is a how-to letter addressed to a poetic
as "disinterested and sympathetic attention to and contem- novice, advising him how to construct a poem that will achieve
plation of any object of awareness whatever, for its own sake maximal and enduring effects on the widest possible audi-
alone." To apprehend a work of art with the attitude appro- ence. In sharp contrast, Hulme and Stolnitz take for granted
priate to it, consequently, is to see "the work as a self-con- a perceptual paradigm for art, and within this paradigm they
tained object which is of interest in its own right." And total k formulate the mode of perception by reference to a contem-
"about works of art as aesthetic objects" is to talk "about what plation model. That is, they assume that the representative
is within the work itself... . [The work] has a significance situation, in establishing what constitutes a work of art, is one
and value which is inherent in itself alone." 4 in which a perceiver confronts a completed work, however it
In both these passages the terms are the common currency got constructed; and they define the way he perceives that
of modern critica! discourse, and the predications are often work as a "contemplation" that is "disinterested," or "de-
taken to be timeless truths about the nature and perception tached ," and is focused exclusively on the isolated object as
of works of art. T , however, r an radie-al nov- its own end, ·or for its own sake.
e~s in the two-thousand-year istOL}' of ar.t criticism. Prior To introduce the second eighteenth-century innovation by
to the el hteenth centuLy, it had occurred tono P-hilos~ a twentieth-century instance, here is what A. C. Bradley said
o r critic to assert that a work of human art is to be attended about the distinctive nature of a poem in an essay written
to with a "contemplation" that is "disinterested," and "for its m 1901:
own sake alone"; orto identify the work asan object "framed
apart by itself" and regarded "as being itself, as end not Its nature is to be nota part, nor yet a copy, of the real world
(as we commonly understand that phrase) but to be a world
means" ; orto distinguish sharply between what is inside and
by itself, independent, complete, autonomous; and to possess
outside a work, and to claim that, since the work is "self-con- it fully you must enter that world, conform to its Iaws, and
tained," properly aesthetic criticism must confine itself solely ignore for the time the beliefs, aims, and particular conditions
to its "inherent," or interna!, "significance and value." which belong to you in the other world of reality... .
The key term in these commentaries is "contemplation," [Poetry and reality] are parallel developments which nowhere
and the shift in theory that the word signals is not a reorga- meet . .. they are analogues . . . . They differ . .. because they
nization within the inherited critica! system but the introduc- have different kinds of existence.5
Doing Things with Texts From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art

The paradigm is a perceptual one, as in the preceding although diverse in their original formulations and distinc-
ex_amples, but Bradley form_ulates the nature of the per- tive features, nonetheless fostered similar assertions about the
ceived poem on a heterocosmiC model. He substitutes for the nature and criteria of works of art-assertions that constitute
view that a poem is an imitation-"a copy"--of the real world what 1 shall call the view of "art-as-such," and that have in
the _claim that each poem is its own world, analogous to the large part dominated both the theory of art and the practice
ordmary world, but complete in itself, and (in another term of artistic criticism from the 1920s to the present time.
unprecedented before the eighteenth century) "autono-
mous," that is, subject only to laws specific to its individual
cosmos. The Contemplation Model
In the 192os the novelist and critic E. M. Forster asserted The key terms contemplation and disinterested had been
in parallel fashion that the poet's use of words has the power introduced into contexts that included reference to the arts
:'to create . . . a world" that is governed by laws specific to as early as 17 1 1, in the Characteristics of the Earl of Shaftes-
Itse~f, is complete in itself, is self-referential, and replaces the bury.7 The first full and systematic treatment of the fine arts
ordmary truth of correspondence to reality by the poetic truth exclusively in terms of the contemplation model, however,
of self-coherence. Reading the Ancient Mariner, for example, occurs in a short, densely written essay published in 1785 by
a young German thinker, Karl Philipp Moritz. The essay was
we have entered a universe that only answers to its own Iaws entitled "On the Unification of All the Fine Arts ... under
supports itself, internally coheres, and has a new standard of the Concept of the Complete-in-Itself"-that is, des in sich
truth. lnformation is true if it is accurate. A poem is true if it selbst Vollendeten, which is also translatable as "the perfected
ha~gs togethe~. lnfor~ation points to something else. A poem in itself." Moritz begins by rejecting the reigning attempts to
pomts to nothmg but 1tself. ... It is not this world, its Iaws are define the arts as an imitation of nature that is subordinated
not the laws of science or logic, its conclusions not those of to the end of giving pleasure to its audience. He sets up a
common sense. 6
basic opposition between useful objects, which are perceived
merely as means to an end outside themselves, hence as
. Here we have,_ then, within the shared perceptual para- "completed" ·only by achieving that externa! end, and beau-
digm of a work-m-being, two distinct ways of dealing with tiful works of art, which are perceived as wholes that are
art. One deploys a model in which each work is a self-suffi- complete in themselves. He then proposes the following model
cient object that is contemplated for its own sake; the other for the way in which we perceive a work of art:
deploys a model in which each work is a unique, coherent,
and autonom_ous world. My concern is to show--cursorily, in In the contemplation [Betrachtung] of the beautiful 1 roll its
the space a~aiiable-that: (1) both the contemplative and the end back from me into the object itself; 1 contemplate itas
heterocosm1c mode_Is for art were first exploited in the eigh- something which is completed, not in me, but in its own self,
teenth century; the1r novelty, however, was not in their con- which therefore constitutes a whole in itself and affords me
ceptual content but in their application. For both models were pleasure for its own sake [um sein selbst willen] . ... Since the
imported into the· ~r.iticism of the arts from theology, where beautiful object is valuable to me more for its own sake, [it]
they had_ been fam1ha~ though discrepant commonplaces in provides me with a higher and more disinterested [uneigen-
formulatmg the essent1al nature and activity of God; (2) each nützigeres] pleasure than the merely useful object. 8
mo_del _was at first brought to bear primarily on that art to
w~uch It was mo&t plausibly applicable, but was Iater gener- The concept of the disinterested "contemplation of a beau-
ahzed to account for the other arts as well; (3) these two models, tiful work of art" thus involves a distinction between what is
166 Doing Things with Texts From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 167
inside and what is outside the work; in its self-sufficiency, the lute good. The summum bonum-"that life above all others
contemplated object replaces what Moritz calls an "external which men should live''--consists in this "contemplation of
purposefulness" with an "internal purposefulness" [innere beauty absolute ... divine beauty ... pure and clear and
Zweckmdsseigkeit] of all its parts toward the achievement of the unalloyed," which is viewed not with the bodily eye but "with
perfected whole. Hence the pleasure we experience in con- the eye of the mind." In the Philebus, Plato stressed the fea-
templating the work is merely supervenient upon an exclu- ture of autarkia, or self-sufficiency, of this divine object of
sive attention to the self-bounded whole, which is regarded, contemplation: such a being "always everywhere and in all
in Moritz's reiterated phrase, simply "for its own sake."9 things has the most perfect sufficiency, and is never in need
Where did this complex of new terms for defining a work of anything else ." 12 Self-sufficiency is also th~ P.:ime attr~bu.te
of art come from? Moritz himself provides the primary clue. of the Absolute of Plotinus, whose beauty ts perfect m tts
purity," and who in his perfection is "wholly self-sufficing,"
While its beauty draws our attention exclusively to itself . .. it "self-closed," "autonomous," and "most utterly without need."
makes us seem to lose ourselves in the beautiful object; and The apex and terminus of atl human love, Plotinus says, in
precisely this loss, this forgetfulness of self, is the highest degree passages that became central re~erenc~s ;or r~li?ious co?-
of pure and disinterested pleasure which beauty grants us. In templatives and are echoed both m Montz s Qmettsm and m
that moment we sacrifice [opfern auf1 our individual confined his aesthetics, is to "contemplate" this "Absolute Beauty" in a
being toa kind of higher being. Pleasure in the beautiful must "perfect surrender" of the self which is "the soul's peace,"
therefore come ever closer to disinterested love, if it is to be since in such contemplation alone there is "no movement ...
genuine. 10 no passion, no outlooking desire," but only "perfect still-
ness."1 3
The idiom of self-abandonment, self-loss, and the sacrifice of In the theology of divers Church Fathers, the Absolute
self to a "higher being" is patentl-y theological; most strik- Beauty of Plato and Plotinus, impersonal, indifferent, and
ingly, it assimilates the "pure" pleasure in the selfless contem- self-bounded, was merged, very incongruously, with the per-
plation of a work of art to a "disinterested love." sonal, loving,just, and often angry God of the Old and New
In such a passage, as Martha Woodmansee has pointed out, Testaments. And with this concept ofthe biblical Deity as the
Moritz has translocated into discourse about art the religious perfection of both beauty and goodness carne the correlative
terminology of the Quietist creed in which he had been concept that the highest human good is to contemplate this
brought up; for in Quietism the primary emphasis-as Mor- self-sufficient God with a selfless love, not for our sake but
itz himself described it in his autobiographical novel, Anton purely for His sake. Especially relevant for the Western
Reiser-had been on "the total annihilation of all so-called Church are the views of St. Augustine, who converted the
selfhood" in "a totally disinterested [uninteressierte] love of pagan eros doctrine into the doctrine of Christian caritas which
God," which is "pure" only if it is totally unalloyed by "self- dominated much ofWestern theology. Augustine deploys an
love. "11 In a larger historical purview, however, this concept opposition between uti and frui , "to use" and "to enjoy,". to
of the contemplation of a self-sufficient object as the mani- establish two sharply distinct kinds of love: to love somethmg
festation of selfless love tl)rns out to be a long footnote to for its use, as means to an end outside itsetf [propter aliud],
Plato. In the Symposium Diotima describes to Socrates the ascent and to lo ve som.e thing in a pure enjoyment ffruitio] ofitas its
of human love from the beauty of sensible objects through own end, and for its own sake. The first class comprehends
ever-higher stages, to culminate in the contemplation of the all the good and beautiful things in the sensible world, whether
supersensible Idea of Ideas, which is "beauty absolute, sepa- natural or works of the human arts; all these are to be loved
rate, simple, and everlasting," and constitutes also the abso- only as means to the end of the supreme beauty and good-
From Addison t~ Kant: Modero Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 169
168 Doing Things with Texts
irrespective of its use or any end." This judgment "is the one
ness w?ich is God. The second constitutes a unique class: God
and only disinterested [uninteressiertes] an~ free delight," in
alone IS to be loved with a pure enjoyment, gratis (free of
that it is "purely contem plative [bloss kontemplativ]," hence
pr_ofi_t to the self), and propter se ipsam (for His own sake). In
without desire, indifferent "to the real existence of the object,"
th1s hfe, such a !ove manifests itself at its highest in the enjoy-
and totally independent of reference to the "externa!" ends
ment of ~he supreme b_eauty in a visio Dei, although not with
of utility, pleasingness, or moral good. The object contem-
the ph~siCal eye, _but w1th the eye of the mind; only in God's
pl_ated , Kant says, is thetefore experienced as "purposeful
own K1~gdom w11l we be capable of that "enjoyment of con-
Without a purpose," and "pleases for its own sake rJür sich
templauon rJructum contemplationis]" that "will be our reward
selbst gefallt]." 15
itself, . .. when we enjoy completely [perfruamur] His good-
ness and beauty." 14
The Platonic and Augustinian doctrines of a !ove that ter-
mi~ates in t_he selfless contemplation and enjoyment of an
object of ult1mate beauty and value, not for its use but as an 2. THE WORK AS A WORLD
end in itself, and for its own sake, constitute both the con-
templation model and the distinctive vocabulary of Moritz's
Three years after his essay of 1785, Moritz, in "The Forma-
theory of art. The difference, to be sure, is a radical one: the
tive Imitation of the Beautiful," turned from the topic of how
Platonic Absolute, and Augustine's God, have been displaced
we contemplate a completed work of art to "the question,
by a human product, the self-sufficient work of art, and the
how a thing must be created [beschaffen] in order not to need
organ of contemplation, the eye of the mind, has become the
to be useful"; in his answer, he introduces a new order of
physical eye. Yet even today, phrases such as "an art lover"
concepts. In bringing a work of art into being, the "formative
and "an amateur of art" serve as indexes to the origins of
artist" does not imita te the sensible reality of nature· instead
he "imitates" the creative power by which nature ~roduce~
modern concepts of art in the philosophy and theology of
earthly and heavenly !ove.
this reality. (For this transformed sense of the ancient phrase
The main conduit, however, from the ancient doctrines of
"to imitate nature" Moritz uses as synonyms nachstreben, wet-
selfless _contemplation of an otherworldly object to modern
teifern, nacherschaffen: to "strive after," "vie with," "create in
aesthet1c theory was not Moritz (whose writings have until
the manner of" nature.) The "formative power" of the artist,
recently been inadequately heeded) but Immanuel Kant. In
penetrating to the "inner being" and interna! relations of
his Critique of Judgment, published in 1790, five years after
creative nature, dissolves the sensible particulars of reality
Moritz's seminal essay, Kant develops a complex account of
into "appearance," in order "to form and create" what nature
~ow ~he ~~perience of a ?istinctive aesthetic perception is
has le_ft unrealized "into a self-governing [eigenmiichtig], self-
poss1ble, m terms of an mterplay of the faculties that the
suffioent whole. " In this way the "active power" of the artist
mind brings to all its experience. He simply takes for granted,
"creates [schafft] its own world, in which nothing isolated any
however, what it is that constitutes the normative aesthetic
longe~ has a place, but every thing is, in its own way, a self-
perception of an object (in his phrase, "the pure judgment of
suffioent whole [ein für sich bestehendes G~nze]." 16
taste") whost: possibility he sets out to explain; and the fea-
Two years later Kant also turned his attention to the men-
tu:es . of a~sthetic perception that Kant takes for granted tal processes of the artist that bring into being a work that
~o.mode w1th the contemplation model and the philosophical
will satisfy the criteria he has already established by refer-
~d10m already established by Moritz. Thus for Kant the pure
ence to the contemplation model. He introduces a similar
JU_dgment ~f taste "comb~nes delight or aversion immediately
concept:
w1th the mere contemplatwn [blossen Betrachtung] of the object
170 Doing Things with Texts From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 171

The imagination (as a productive faculty of cognition) is a faculty of reason as the nearest human approximation to the
powerful agcnt for the creation [Schaffung], as it were, of a
processes of divinity.
second nature out of the material supplied to it by actual nature.
... We even use it to remodel experience, always following,
Second, in contemplation theory the visual arts, and paint-
no doubt, laws that are based on analogy, but still also follow- ing above al!, had been the exemplary form. The contempla-
ing principies which ha ve a higher seat in reason ... with the tion of Absolute Beauty by the "eye of the mind," from Plato
result that the material can ... be worked up by us into some- on, had been based on express analogy with visual percep-
thing else-namely, what surpasses nature. 17 tion by the bodily eye. 18 When translated from its other-worldly
to a this-worldly form, the representative instances of con-
templation became the arts accessible to the eye; only grad-
The radical metaphor in both Moritz and Kant is "create," ually were the categories of the contemplation model
and, as applied to art in the eighteenth century, this concept expanded to other arts, but perforce in an attenuated form.
has three dimensions of application: the artist is a creator; Even in the present century contemplation theorists tend to
his creative power resides in a mental faculty, usually identi- advert to painting as the exemplary art. We can understand
fied as the imagination ; and the resulting work of art consti- why. We confronta painting on a wall, sharply demarcated
tutes a new creation-"its own world" or "a second nature." from its surroundings by a material frame and taken in by a
My concern in this paper is with the exploration of the third glance of the eye. It seems on the face of it plausible to claim
aspect, the concept that the work of art is its own world. Before that the painting is contemplated as a self-bounded object
turning to this topic, I want to note two important differ- that is entirely constituted by its components and their inter-
ences between the contemplation model and the creation na! relations. Such categories, however, become much less
model as applied to art. plausible when applied to the art of poetry, in which the ver-
First, although both models originate in views about God, bal medium signifies many nonvisual elements, and espe-
they are based on very divergent concepts of the divine Being cially when applied to a long narrative form, such as the /liad
which it has been a formidable challenge for theologians to or Paradise Lost, which is read intermittently and in which the
reconcile. The contemplation model, derived from pagan narrative evo)ves in time.
metaphysics, posits a self-bounded and self-sufficient Deity, Even in painting the representational elements, with their
totally unconcerned for anything beyond Himself, who is to seeming reference to things existing outside the frame, have
be loved and contemplated entirely for His own sake. The been something of an embarrassment to proponents of aes-
heterocosmic model, on the contrary, posits the God of Gen- thetic contemplation. They have focused instead on the elu-
esis, who in a totally other-oriented act wills the creation of a sive, nonrepresentational feature of a painting which they
world out of n.othing, and outside the limits of His own being. call its "beauty," and which Kant, following Shaftesbury,
(In Moritz God's creative power has in turn been delegated . interchanged with the even more elusive term "form. " For
to a principie, a natura naturans, that is active within created example, in his inftuential little book Art (1914), Clive Bell
nature itself.) In the former theory, God Himself is the pro- posited that "form," or "significant form," is "the essential
totype for the self-sufficient work of art that demands disin- quality" of the fine arts, and asserted that "the contemplation
terested contemplation: In the creation theory, it is not the of pure form ... leads to a ... complete detachment from
work of art but the artist, or creative "genius," who is godlike the concerns ·of life," and also that ''the formal significance
(for example, in his freedom from the constitution and laws of any material thing is the significance of that thing con-
of this world, and in his power of radical innovation, or sidered asan end in itself," not "as a means to practica! ends"
"originality"); the work of art is an analogue to God's created in "the world of human business and passion." Bell in turn
world; and ihe "creative imagination" tends to displace the grades the various arts according to the "purity" of their
172 Doing Things with Texts From Addison lo Kant: Modem Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 173

independence from externa! reference; at the bottom of this "Poesie therefore is an arte of imitation, for so Aristotle ter-
~cale is literature, which "is never pure" because "most of it meth it in his word Mimesis ... to speake metaphorically, a
1s concerned, to sorne extent, with facts and ideas."i9 It is speaking picture: with this end, to teach and delight." 23
precisely the art of literature, however, that was central and Not until the eighteenth century was the di'vine analogy
exemplary for the alternative theory that a work of art is a con verted from a topic of laudation into a principie of critica!
created thing that constitutes its own world . theory, for only then was the concept that a poem is its own
world exploited so asto qualify, then to displace, the concept
Th~ antecedents of heterocosmic theory emerged in critics that a .poem is a "credible imitation of the existing world. The
of hterature who, beginning in the late fifteenth century process begins with Addison's defense, in 171 2, of "the fairy
reversed the traditional comparison of God the creator to ~ way of writing"-defined as the presentation of supernatural
~uman art~san by making the portentous comparison of the beings such as "fairies, witches, magicians, demons, and de-
hter~ry art1san to God th~ creator-with the cautious quali- parted spirits"-against men of "philosophical dispositions"
ficatwn, however, that wh1le God created this world ex nihilo wh<? object that such poetry "has not probability enough to
a poet makes his own world by reworking the materials of affect the imagination." 24 Addison's counterclaim, expand-
God's prior creation.20 In the sixteenth century the partial ing on a suggestion by Sir Philip Sidney, is that in reading
parallel between the poet's making and God's creating, with about such poetic beings, who are entirely the product of the
the corollary parallel between God's created world and the poet's "invention" and "imagination," "we are led, as it were,
poem as "an other nature" or "a second world," occurred into a new creation, and see the persons and manners of
fr~9~ent~ enough to be almost a standard topos in literary another species!" The allegorical personification of abstract
cntiCI.sm. Bu.t thr?ugh the s~venteenth century this analogy concepts also "has something in it like creation." In both its
functwne~ pn~anly as a topiC of praise, designed to defend nonrealistic and allegorical components, then, poetry
poetry agamst 1ts detractors by assigning ita quasi-divine sta-
tu~. Sir Philip S~dn.ey's Apol?gie for Poetry (c. 1583) is typical.
22
has not only the whole circle of nature for its province but
H1s express a1m m mtroducmg this concept is to confound makes new worlds of its own, shows us persons who are not
t?e. derogators who have "throwne downe [poetrie] to so to be found in being, and represents even the faculties of the
ndiCulous an estimation." Todo so, he traces the etymology soul, ~ith her several virtues and vices, in a sensible shape and
character. 25 ·
of poet t~ the G:eek. verb poiein, "to make," and suggests that
the poet s makmg 1s parallel to the creative fiat of God in
Genesis. While all other arts and sciences have "the workes After Addison, limited claims that the supernatural and
of Nature" for their "principall object . .. onely the Poet .. . allegorical elements in poetry are not imitations of this world,
dooth growe in effect another nature." For "the heavenly since they constitute a world of their own, became corp.mon
Maker of that maker .. . set him beyond and over all the among English defenders of such deviations from reality in
workes of t?at seco?d nature, which in nothing hee sheweth Ovid, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton. For the develop-
so much as m Poetne, when with the force of a divine breath ment of the heterocosmic model beyond this restricted appli-
he ?ringeth thiQgs forth. far surpassing her dooings." But cation we must turn, as we did for the development of the
havmg, as he says, attributed to the poet "so unmatched a contemplation model, to German philosophers; first, to
praise as the Etimologie of his names wil grant," Sidney goes Alexander Baumgarten. In 1735 Baumgarten, only twenty-
~n t~ "a more .ordi~ary opening" of his subject, which con- one years of age, published his master's thesis, Philosophical
s~sts m groundmg h1s critica! theory on the standard defini- Reftections on Poetry. The radical nature of this forty-page essay
twn of a poem as an imitation designed for externa! ends: is veiled by its terse and awkward Latín, its outmoded philo-
174 Doing Things with Texts From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 175
sophical terminology, and its deductive procedure for estab- opposition to the features of logical reasoning. Thus, the ele-
lishing the distinctive features and criteria of poetry. ments of logical discourse in philosophy are "conceptually"
Baumgarten writes in the method and idiom of "ratio na! phi- clear and "distinct," but the representations in poetry are clear
losophy," in the lineage of Descartes, Spinoza, and above·all in a specifically sensuous way, and are not distinct, but "con-
Leibniz-a mode rigorously systematized by Christian Wolff. fused" (that is, fused together, without distinction between
This philosophy had claimed that the faculty of reason, which essence and accidents). As a consequence, however, the ele-
employs a deductive logic, is the sole mode for achieving a ments of poetry, unlike those of logic, are "vivid" and "lively."
kind of knowledge that is "perfect," in the sense that it is Logic is abstract and general, but poetry is determinately
necessarily true; it had, accordingly, relegated the factual and particular, individual, specific. Logical concepts are simple
merely contingent knowledge achievable through sense per- and signify essences, but poetic representations are qualita-
ception to the st~tus of "an inferior cognition." Baumgarten tiv~ly rich, abundant, imagistic, and constitute concrete wholes.
undertakes to show that the systematic study of poetry has its And as distinguished from rational or philosophic discourse,
proper place in philosophy, in that a poem provides a mode the -sensate language of poetry is densely figurative, and above
of knowledge that possesses its own kind of "perfection"-a all metaphorical; it also exploits the pleasurably sensuous
perfection specific to sensory discourse, which can be vali- appeal of rhythm and meter. .
dated by criteria that are counterparts of the criteria by which Such conclusions seem to make Baumgarten a Continental
we validate the logical process for achieving intellectual per- Formalist, and even more a New Critic, avant la lettre-by
fection, or "truth." 26 sorne two hundred years. And with good methodological
Baumgarten sets out from the definition: "By poem we reason . Both Formalists and New Critics, like Baumgarten,
mean a perfect sensate discourse." He begins, that is, with take as their premise that poetry is to be dealt with as a dis-
the achieved poem-in-being; takes the approach that it is to tinctive mode of language and-on the assumption that uses
be analyzed as a distinctive mode of language, or "dis- of language fall into a bipolar distribution-these theorists
course"; and sets up as its essential attribute that it is a lan- proceed, as does Baumgarten, to establish the distinguishing
guage of sensory representations which is so developed as to features of poetry, or of literature in general, by systematic
exploit to the full (that is, "perfectly") its "sensate" or nonlog- opposition to what are held to be the standard features of
ical potentialities. He explains that this perfection of its pos- "practica!," or "logical," or "scientific" language. The parallel
sibilities applies to all three aspects of a poem: the objects is especiaUy manifest in John Crowe Ransom who, in a fash-
that the words represent, the specific "inter-relationships" of ion similar to Baumgarten, proposes that poetry is a mode of
these objects, and the "articulate sounds" that constitute the language that conveys a "kind of knowledge" antithetic to the
verbal medium itself (pars. 6-11). Baumgarten goes on, with knowledge provided by science, which is "only the cognitive
a great show of rigor, to deduce as the "consequences" of this department of our animal life." And science and works of
definition all the distinctive features of a poem. Throughout art, he claims, "between them ... exhaust the possibilities of
he cites classical critics and rhetoricians, Horace's Ars Poetica formal cognition." 27 Hence, by Ransom's dialectic of contrar-
above all, but his process of reasoning and his overall conclu- ies, the scientist interests himself "strictly in the universals,"
sions are very differ~nt from Horace's pragmatic recourse to but "the artist interests himself entirely in individuals"; sci-
the poet's ruling aim to achieve effects on an audience. For ence abstracts, but poetry is "knowledge by images, reporting
Baumgarten's reasoning is controlled throughout by his the fulness or particularity of nature." "Science gratifies a
undertaking to show that a poem yields valid knowledge, but rational or practica! impulse and exhibits the mínimum of
that since this is sensuous as opposed to conceptual knowl- perception," as opposed to poetry, which exploits "many tech-
edge, its · features are derivable by systematic parallel and nical devices for the sake of increasing the volume of the
176 Doing Things with Texts From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 177

percipienda or sensibilia." Among these devices are meter a worlds, there are also an infinity of laws, certain ones appro-
p~tent _fictionality, ~nd. figurative language, especially "the priate to Qqe; others, to another, and each possible individ-
ch~~ct~c. figure , whtch 1s the metaphor" ; all these features, ual of any world involves in its concept the laws of its world."30
by mv1tmg perceptual attention," serve to weaken "the tyr- :rhe world in which we ourselves live was realized only because
anny of science o ver the senses. "28 And in a fusion of con- God's excellence entailed that, from these alternative models,
te~plative and heterocosmic concepts that is frequent in recent He bring into existence this world as the best of all possible
cntlCs, Ransom asserts that when "we contemplate object as (which is to say, compossible) worlds.
object," under "the form of art," we do so notas in science, . Baumgarten converts Leibniz's cosmogony into poetics by
"for a set of practica! values," but in arder to know the ob- distinguishing between two types of "fictions" in representa-
ject tions of characters, objects, and events. The first type he calls
"true fictions" in that, though nonhistorical, they are possible
in "the real world in which we find ourselves." The second
fo~ i~s own sake, and conceive it as having its own existence;
th1s IS the knowledge . . . which Schopenhauer praised as type are fabulous and mythical elements that violate both the
"knowledge without desire." ... The knowledge attained there · constitution and the causal arder of the real world. Justifia-
[i.e., "in the poem, or the painting"], and recorded, is a new ble poetic instances of this type, which are necessary to sorne
kind of knowledge, the world in which it is set is a new world.29 kinds of poems, he labels "heterocosmic fictions ," in the sense
that they are capable of coexisting in sorne other "possible"
Two centuries earlier Baumgarten had introduced the same world. He rejects from poetry only a third class of fictions
radical metaphor of a poem-as-world into his logic of poetic that he calls "utopian," in the literal sense of belonging "no
knowle_d ge, ~~d had explored its implications beyon any place" ; that is, either because they are logically "self-contra-
precedmg cnt1c. He was able todo so because he had conve- dictory," or because they are "mutually inconsistent," such
ni~ntly at ~and the account of God's procedure in creating
fictions are "absolutely impossible," since they cannot have a
th1s world m the Theodicea of the ph.losopher whom he hails place within the coherent constitution of any possible world
as "the illustrious Leibniz" (par. 22). In summary: Leibniz whatever. And for acceptable "heterocosmic fictions," the
?e Id. that God at the creation had -in his understanding an justifying critenon is not ~heir "truth" o corr~pon.~!.!.nc~.l.l.l-­
I~fin.~te number of mo~el worlds, each of which is a "pos-
the nature of the real world but a purely interna! com o ·
Sib~; world. Eac~ p~sstble ~orld, however, is a "compossi-
bility, or self-consistency (pars. 51-59).
ble world; that 1s, tt cons1sts only of those essences and Baumgarten takes a cruoal step wfien he turns from het-
relations of things which are capable of coexisting, by virtue erocosmic fictions, or the nonrealistic elements in sorne poems,
of the fact that they are mutually consistent. The universal to what he calls the "method," or overall principie which
necessities of logic, based on the Principie of Contradiction determines the "interconnection," or "co-ordination," in "the
apply to the entire array of possible worlds. The factual and succession of representations" within any poem whatever; for
contingent truths that apply to the existents, relations, ·and in this context he extends the heterocosmic analogue to apply
events within a possible world, however, are based on an to the ordonnance of all works of poetry:
alt:rnativ~ principle that Leibniz calls "th Erinciple of Suf-
ctent_g_eason." And the specific modes in whicluhis Princi- We observed a little while ago that the poet is like a maker or
pl manifests itself are not universal, but relative to the a creator [quasi factorem sive creatorem esse] . So the poem ought
constitution of each model world . As Leibniz put it, with ref- to be like a world [quasi mundus]. Hence by analogy whatever
erence to the individual things and laws of arder that consti- is evident to the philosophers concerning the real world, the
tute any possible world: "A there are an infinity of possible same ought to be thought of a poem (par. 68).
178 Doing Things with Texts From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 179
What is evident to the philosophers about the real world, it into which we are introduced, not only by a writer "whether
turns out, is that Leibniz's Principie of Sufficient Reason in verse or prose" but also by "a painter or a sculptor, etc."
determines the sequence and interconnections of its ele- (par. 592).31 As in his Reflections on Poetry, however, all of
ments, together with the assurance that the ultimate "rule" Baumgarten's specific analyses of artis~ic oth~r-w_orlds are
of our mundane order is that "things in the world follow one applied only to works of literature and, m cons1denng these ,
another for disclosing the glory of the Creator." By analogy, he supplements his earlier work with a larger number of top-
each poetic other-world has its own inherent principie which ics derived from classical theories of rhetoric.
determines the order and relations of its representations. In the Swiss-German critics and collaborators Bodmer and
Baumgarten calls this principie its "theme" [thema], and defines Breitinger, a resort to the heterocosmic model effected si~­
a theme as "that whose representation contains the sufficient ilar revisions in the standard concepts of the nature and cn-
reason of other representations supplied in the discourse, but teria of a poem. Both these critics set out from the rei~ning
which does not have its own sufficient reason in them." The premise that a poem is an "imitation of nature," so des1gned
consequence for poetics is that all the elements of a valid poem by the poet-maker as to please and be morally us~ful .to the
will either be "determined through the theme," or else "will reader. Both were also passionate defenders of Mtlton s Par-
be connected with it." "Therefore, they will be connected adise Lost (which Bodmer had translated into German) against
among themselves. Therefore, they follow each other in order, detractors such as Voltaire and Gottsched', who had decried
like causes and effects." And the "general rule" for the Milton's supernatural beings and events, together with his
"method" that orders any poem is that "poetic representa- allegory of Sin and Death, as "improbable," in that they do
tions are to follow each other in such a way that the theme is not correspond to the experienced world; their ?~feos~ of
progressively represented in an extensively clearer way" (pars. such nonrealistic elements forced Bodmer and Brettmger mto
66-71). a radical modification of their initial premise.
In sum, what emerges from Baumgarten's parallel-in- Bodmer's book The Marvelous in Poetry ... in a Defense of
opposition between rationallogic and what in his later Aesth- "Paradise Lost" appeared in 1740, five years after Baumga~­
etica he called "esthetico-logic," the "logic of sensuous think- ten's Reflections on Poetry. Bodmer expressly follows Addt-
ing," is a view that has become familiar in modero criticism. son's lead in treating nonnatural invention as "a new creation"
A poem provides sensuous knowledge of its own poetic that "makes new worlds." He elaborates this suggestive ana-
world-a world governed by laws analogous to causallaws in logue, however, as had Baumgarten, by recourse to t~e ~he­
our world but specific to itself; a world whose "poetic" truth ory of God's creative procedure proposed by Letbmz-
and probability does not consist in a correspondence to the "Leibniz," as Breitinger eulogized him, "the great world-sage
actual world but in the interna! coherence of its elements; of our Germany." 32 "The task of the poet," says Bodmer: "is
and a world that is not ordered to an end externa! to itself to imitate the powers of Nature in bringing over the. poss_tble
but by an interna! finality whereby all its elements are sub- into the condition of reality." "Every poet who tmagmes
ordinate to the progressive revelation of its particular theme. something possible as real ... imitates Nature and c.re~tio.n. "
In his Aesthetica of 1750, Baumgarten altered and gener- Bodmer, by sleight of words, thereby converts an tmttatw.n
alized his definition of a poem as the perfection of sensuous theory into a creation theory of poetry, in which the poettc
discourse to apply to other arts, and for the first time identi- world is not a reflection but an analogue of the world that
fied this achieved perfection as beauty: "The aesthetic end is God has brought into being. As he also says:
the perfection of sensuous cognition, as such [qua talis]; this
is beauty" (par. 14). He also applies the term "a new world" This mode of creation is the chief work of poetry, which by
[novus mundus], passingly, to the realm of nonrea1istic fictions this very fact distinguishes itself from the writings of histori-
180 Doing Things with Texts
From Addison to Kant: Modero Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 181
ans a~d nat~ra.l s~ie~tists, in that it always prefers to take the
matenal of lts ImJtauon from the possible world rather than This poetic truth is not without a certain reason and order; it
from the actual world. 33 has for the imagination and the senses its sufficient ground ,
it has no interna! contradiction, and one part of it is grounded
in the other.... For our part, we will look for metaphysics
. In h~s Critische Dichtku.ns_t, published that same year, Brei- among the teachers of metaphysics, but demand from poets
tmger IS even more exphCit and detailed in his conversion of nothing more than poetry; in this we shall be satisfied with
poetic imitation into a version of Leibnizian cosmogony. "All the probability and reason that lies in its coherence with itself. 35
the arts," he says, "consist in a skillful imitation of Nature
for the general profit and pleasure of men." But Nature i~ Breitinger, like Bodmer, sets up a distinction between "his-
only one of many possible worlds. torical" or "rational" truth and "poetic" or "imaginative" truth,
then goes on to analyze-as had Baumgarten, but in much
greater detail-the interna! organization of a poem in a way
Nature--or rather the Cre~tor, who works in and through
Nature-has from all poss1ble world-structures chosen the
that parallels Leibniz's view of the empirical order of the
present on~ t.o bri~g o~er. into the condition of reality beca use existing world:
It was, to h1s mfalhble ms1ght, the best of all possible worlds.
1 regard the poet as a wise creator of a new ideal world or of
a new interrelation [zusammenhang] of things, who not only
Hence, in addition to the present world, "there need to be has the right and the power to impart probability to those
countless possible worlds, in which there obtain other inter- things which do not exist, but also possesses so much under-
rela~ions and connections of things, other laws of Nature and standing that, in order to achieve his dominant intention
mot10n . : . ev~n ~roductions and beings of entirely new and [Absicht], he binds to one another his individual intentions in
strange kmds. It IS precisely these innumerable other worlds such a way that one must always serve as a means to the oth-
which provide the poet with ers, but all together must provide a means to the dominant
intention. Accordingly, in this poetic world, as in the actual
world, all things must be grounded in one another according
the model and ~a~eri~ls for his imitation . ... Since he is capa- to time and place, and the concordance of these toward a sin-
ble ~ot only of ImJtatmg Nature in the actual, but also in the gle end [Zwecke] constitutes precisely the perfection of the
poss1ble~ the power of his art extends as far as the powers of whole. 31l
~atu~e Jtself.: .. [lndeed] the imitation of Nature in the pos-
Sible IS the ch1ef work that is specific to poetry. 34 As in Baumgarten, the inference drawn from the hetero-
cosmic model is that the prime criterion of "perfection" in a
Correlative~y to their distinction between the existing world poem is the interdependence and consistency of its elements,
a~d. th~ poet1c world, Bodmer and Breitinger introduce the and the subordination of all the elements to an interna! end.
distmctiOn between "rational truth," which is a truth of cor- One other important point: it is clear that like Baumgar-
respondence to this world, and "poetic truth," which is a truth ten, the Swiss critics, who had adduced the concept of a poem
of mner coherence., in accordance with whatever mode of as its own world in order to justify the irwention of nonreal-
sufficient reason governs the compossible world that consti- istic characters and events, extended the analogue to the
tutes a poem . "The poet," Bodmer answers a critic who as overall organization of all well-contrived poems. As Breitin-
he puts it, seeks "poetry in ontosophy," "troubles himself ~ot ger explicitly says in Critische Dichtkunst:
at. all ..with .rational truth [das Wahre des Verstandes]," but only
w1th poetiC truth [das poetische Wahre]." What is poetic invention [Dichten] other than to form in the
imagination new concepts and ideas of which the originals are
182 Doing Things with Texts From Addison lo Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 183

t? be sought not in the actual world, but in sorne other pos- from his claim that the artist, emulating creative nature, "ere-
Sible world-structure? Eyery single well-invented poem is ates his own world" is specifically that this artistic otherworld
therefore to be regarded in no other way than as the history is to be apprehended with a" calm contemplation ... as a single
of an other possible world. In this respect the poet alone great whole . . . in which all relationship stops," because "the
deserves the name of poietes, that is, of a creator.3 7 genuine work of art . . . complete in itself, has the end and
intention [den Endz.weck und die Absicht] of its being solely in
And Bodmer in 1 741 extended the heterocosmic model from itself." The beautiful object thus requires that it "be contem-
poems to a work of prose fiction, Cervantes's Don Quixote: plated and perceived, just in the same way in which it is pro-
duced, purely for its own sake." 41
The author, as the father and creator [of his characters], has
determined and ordered them and all their destiny; not, how-
ever, without a distinct plan of inter-related intentions, which
conduct his work to its primary end. 38 3· ART-A S-S U C H

If we turn again to Karl Philipp Moritz's essay of 1788, In mid-nineteeni:h-century France, the contemplation and
"The Formative Imitation of the Beautiful," we find two heterocosmic models were often conjoined in the loose-
important innovations upon the views of these earlier theo- boundaried movement known by its catch phrase, "Art for
rists: Art's Sake." In this movement the original theological con-
(1) For Bodmer and Breitinger, as for Baumgarten, the text of these models re-emerged, in a displaced form, to con-
~xemplary heterocosmic art had been literature. That is, they stitute a religion of art and a morality of life for art's sake.
mtroduced the concept of the poem as its own world in order Flaubert wrote in 1857, "Life is a thing so hideous that the
to account for and justify deviations from the experienced only way to endure it is to escape it. And one escapes it by
world in the components and ordonnance ofworks ofliterary living in art." 42 And Flaubert, in employing the analogue
art, and especially in the persons, events, and organization between divine ahd artistic creation, also adopted the ancient
of extended narrative forms. Moritz, however, specifically theological notion that God is both transcendent and imma-
expands the heterocosmic analogue to apply to the arts of nent, both concealed and revealed in His created world, when
music, sculpture, and painting, as well as literature. 39 he said about the literary heterocosm:
(2) In Moritz, the conception of a work of art as a self-
An author in his book must be like God in the universe, pres-
sufficient and self-governing world is stripped of its residual ent everywhere and visible nowhere. Art being a second Nature,
references to the imitation of nature and to the ends of the creator of that Nature must behave similarly. In all its
effecting pleasure and moral utility; 40 as a result, the heter- atoros, in all its aspects, Jet there be sensed a hidden, infinite
ocosmic model falls into coincidence with the contemplation passivity. 43
model, in terms of which the work of art is apprehended
disinterestedly, entirely for its own sake. Moritz in fact adverted "Poetry," said Baudelaire, "is that in .which there is more
to the analogue of creation, we remember, precisely in order of reality, it is that which is not completely true except in an
to explain how a work gets produced which "does not need other world. 1' The creative imagination "has taught man the
to be useful." The "formative genius" himself, it turns out, moral sense of color, contour, of sound and perfume."
can create his beautiful work only at a time when, by "annul-
ling every trace of self-interest," his "restless activity gives place It decomposes the entire creation and ... creates a new world,
to quiet c'ontemplation." The consequence that Moritz draws it produces the sensation of the new. As it has created the
184 Doing Things with Texts
From Addison to Kant: Modem Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 185
world (one can indeed say this, I believe, even in a religious dent movement and structure.... Thus every significant work
sense), it is just that it should govern its world .... The imag- of art creates its "own world." Characters, situations, actions,
ination is the queen of the true, and the possible is one of the etc. in each have a. unique quality unlike that in any other
provinces of the true. 44
work of art and entirely distinct from anything in everyday
reality. The greater the artist ... the more pregnantly his fic-
In a poem, furthermore, any requirements of "teaching," tional "world" emerges through all the details of a work.
"truth," and "morality" are "heresies," for poetry "has no end
except itself ; it cannot have any other end." 45 Poetry, Mal- It turns out, however, that by endowing its "exemplary men
larmé likewise asserts, is "close to creating." But for Mal- and situations" with "the greatest possible richness of the
larmé, to create a poem is to unrealize and abolish the natural objective conditions of life," the great bourgeoi~ novel~st ~n
objects that are its materials; hence, "Equivalent to creation: fact "makes his 'own world' emerge as the reflecuon of hfe m
the notion of an object, escaping, which fails to appear." 46 its total motion, as process and totality"-a "reflection ," that
Baudelaire's concept of "la poésie pure" (independent of an is, of the alienation, contradictions, and progressive evolu-
externa! end, or of awareness of an audience, or of the pas- tion of bourgeois society. 49 In both Nabokov and Lukács the
sions of the poet) and Mallarmé's concept of "l'oeuvre pure" exemplary heterocosmic art remains, as ir had been origi-
(not needing a reader, and in which the poet "disappears," nally, literary narrative ; but Wassily Kandinsky indicates how
leaving the textual work "anonyme et parfait") 47 are both all-inclusive the scope of the analogue has become by apply-
patently a reincarnation of the self-sufficient Deity of a Pla- ing it not only to paintings, but to nonrepresentational paint-
tonized Christianity-existing in the purity and perfection of ings:
a totallack of reference to, or concern for, anything outside
itself-in the mode of being of a sacred work of art. Painting is a thundering collision of different worlds, intended
The claim that a work of art is a world created by the artist, to create a new world in, and from, the struggle with one
which at the time of its origin had been felt to verge on blas- another, a new world which is the work of art. ... The crea-
phemy, has in our time become a commonplace of critica! tion of works of art is the creation of the world.50
discourse. It is not surprising that Vladimir Nabokov, a fer-
vent advocate of the autonomy of art, opened his lectures on 1 shall end by turning back to the two twentieth-century
the novel at Cornell with the premise that
theorists with whom 1 introduced the topic of the poem-as-
world in order to stress this point: the heterocosmic model,
the work of art is invariably the creation of a new world, so despite its differences from the conte~plation model ~n i~s
that the first thing we should do is to study that new world as theological prototype, and in the . partiCular art t.o wh1c~ It
closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, was initially applied, eventuated m the same phi!osophiCal
having no obvious connections with the world we already
know. 48 idiom-the idiom of art-as-such-for specifying the defining
features and primary criteria for a work of art. Thus A. C.
Bradley, from his premise that a poem is "a world by itself,
It is something of a surprise, however, to find a critic of the independent, complete, autonomous," educes the philosoph-
opposite persuasion, the Marxist Georg Lukács, also assert- ical consequences that the experience of a poem "is an end
ing that in itself," with an "intrinsic value" that excludes reference to
"ulterior ends"; that the purely "poetic worth" of a poem "is
every work of art must present a circumscribed, self-con- to be judged entirely from within"; hence, that "it makes n?
tained and complete context with its own immediately self-evi- direct appeal to [the] feelings, desires, and purposes" of ord1-
186 Doing Things with Texts From Addison to Kant: Modern Aesthetics and the Exemplary Art 187

nary life, "but speaks only to contemplative imagination." 51 erocosmic models for art. Once adapted to aesthetics and
Bradley's title is "·Poetry for Poetry's Sake," and he explicitly criticism, what matters is not their provenience but their prof-
undertakes to rid the earlier French doctrine of the extrava- itability when put to work in clarifying the features both of a
gance of its claim that "Art is the whole or supreme end of work of art and of our experience of that work. Both these
human life." He nonetheless guards the self-bounded integ- models have amply demonstrated their profitability for the
rity of a poem by prohibitions against such "heresies" as "the applied criticism of literature and the other arts. Their focus
heresy of the separable substance" (that is, of a paraphrasa- on the aesthetic objects as such, especially in the last half-
ble content), as well as against reference to the "emotions and century, has greatly enlarged our repertory of terms and dis-
conditions" of the poet himself, which "are poetically irrele- tinctions for analyzing a work of art as constituted by distinc-
vant."52 tive elements, ordered into coherence by internal relations,
E. M. Forster similarly entitled one of his essays "Art for and made integral by subordination to an internal end. But
Art's Sake," and he described the world of a poem as subject to suggest the limits of the view of art-as-such-for, as in all
only "to its own laws" and to a standard of truth that is not theories of art, the sharpness of its focus imposes limitations
of external reference but of internal consistency: it "supports on its scope and adequacy-let me put this question . Why
itself, internally coheres." "A poem is absolute .... It causes should the claim-radically opposed to all traditional views
us to suspend our ordinary judgments." The sole analogue about the nature and value of art-that a work is to be con-
to the self-sufficing "internal" order and harmony of a work templated for its own sake as a self-sufficient entity, severed
of art, he says, is "the divine order, the mystic harmony, which from all relations to its human author, to its human audience,
according to all religions is available for those who can con- and to the world of human life and concerns, serve as the
template it." And in opposition to "the demand that litera- very ground for attributing to art its supreme human value?
ture should express personality," Forster contends that "during The appeal of this view, I suggest, is not primarily empir-
the poem nothing exists but the poem .... It becomes anon- ical, for it accords only with selective aspects of our full expe-
ymous," on the basis of the theological concept that "to for- rience of great works of art. Its primary appeal consists rather
get its Creator is one of the functions of a Creation." 53 In in its profound metaphysical and theological pathos. It is the
Bradley's essay of 1901, and Forster's essays of the 1920s, we same pathos that empowers the concept, which has endured
patently move from the theory of Art for Art's Sake to the ·from Plato through the Christian centuries, that perfection
premises and categories that were to recur in the New Criti- and uhimate value inhere solely in a metaphysical absolute
cism, in its view, as Cleanth Brooks put it, that, as opposed to or deity who is purely otherworldly, serenely integral, self-
propositional assertions about the world, the "coherence" of sufficient and self-bounded, and for those reasons, to be con-
a poem consists in "the unification of attitudes into a hier- templated and revered about everything in the fragmented,
archy subordinated to a total and governing attitude," which incoherent, and conflict-ridden world in which we find our-
in its unity constitutes "a simulacrum of reality," 54 and also selves. The attraction that many of us feel to the theory of
in its zealous defense of the boundaries of the autonomous art-as-such, if I am not mistaken, is the attraction that it shares
and self-contained poem by quasi-theological prohibitions (in with this concept, and with its frequent complement: that even
the lineage of Poe, Baudelaire, and Bradley) against the her- in his seemingly other-oriented act of creation, the inscruta-
esy of paraphrase, the intentional fallacy, and the affective ble deity brought into being a world that he then left to its
fallacy. own destiny, remaining himself-as James Joyce, echoing
Flaubert, put it in describing "the mystery of esthetic like that
By identifying their theological origins, I do not mean to of material creation"-remaining himself "invisible, refined
derogate the practical value of the contemplation and het- out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." 55
· Notes

Types and Orientations of Critica/ Theories


From The Princeton Handbook of Poetic Terms, ed. Alex Preminger
(Princeton, 1986). Reprinted by permission of the publisher,
Princeton University Press.
In The Mirror and the Lamp (1953), as a preliminary to differen-
tiating Romantic criticism from previous criticism, Abrams pro-
posed a way of classifying literary theories (as well as general theories
of art) into four types, or "orientations." Three of these stress the
relations of a work either to the externa) universe, or to the audi-
ence, or to the poet or artist; the fourth focuses on the work in
isolation . The following diagram , now widely known , lays out these
coorc;linates, and the four types of critica) orientation:
Universe
i
Work
.¿ \.
Artist Audience
In the present essay, Abrams reformulates this classification
(together with his associated analysis of the "constitutive met-
aphors" that characterize types of artistic theory), and applies
the result to a comprehensive overview of the history of crit-
icism, from Platb and Aristotle to current varieties of post-
structural theory.
Notes 395
394 Notes
16. E.g., Wittgenstein, Philosophicallnvestigations, secs. 19-27, and pp. 223e-
What's the Use of Theorizing about the Arts? 226e.
17. Wittgenstein, Philosophicallnvestigations, sec. 66.
From In Search of Literary Theory, ed. Morton W. Bloomfield (Ithaca, 18. Clive Bell, What ls Art? (London, 1928), pp. v, 7-8, 25, and passim.
19. Plato, Laws, vii, 81 7.
N.Y., 1972), pp. 2-54. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, 20. Recent aiu;l impressive examples of the expansion of the method and
Cornell University Press. This essay anticipated the explosion of distinc~ions of Aristotle's Poetics lo a variety of literary forms are the
interest in theory that energizes current literary· and humanistic · essays m R. S. Crane, ed., Critics and Criticism (Chicago, 1952).
21. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. John Shawcross , 2 vols. (Oxford,
studies. · 1907), vol. 2, p. 64; vol. 1, p. 81.
22. Weitz, Hamlet, p. 166.
23. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, vol. 2, p. 85; vol. 1, p. 14.
1. William Elton, ed., Aesthetics and Language (New York, 1954).
2. Morris Weitz, "The Philosophy of Criticism," Proceedings of the Third 24. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 12 .
25 . Ibid., p . 65; T. M. Raysor, ed., Coleridge's Shakespearean Criticism, 2 vols.
Jntemational Congress on Aesthetics (Venice, Sept. 3-5, 1956), p. 207.
3· Morris Weitz, Hamlet and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism (Chicago and (Cambridge, Mass., 1930), vol. 1, p. 224.
26. Weitz, Hamlet, pp. 174, 187, 233·
London, 1964), pp. ix-x, 213,217,285.
· 27 . Raysor, Coleridge's Shakespearean Criticism, vol. 1, p. 233; T. M. Raysor,
4· lbid., chap. 14· ed_., Colend~e's Miscellaneous Criticism (Cambridge, Mass., 1936), p. 89.
5· C. L. Stevenson, "Interpretation and Evaluation in Aesthetics," in
Philosophical Analysis, ed. Max Black (Ithaca, N.Y ., 1950), pp. 341-83.
28. Wmgenstem, Philosophicallnvestigations, sec. 23.
6. Weitz, "The Philosophy of Criticism," pp. 207-16; idem, Hamlet, chap. 29. Weitz, Hamlet, pp. 230, 238-39, 244·
30. Weitz: "The Philosophy of Criticism," pp. 207-9.
15· 31. Coler~dge.: The Table ~~lk and Omnia~a (London, 1917), p. 165.
7· See, e.g., Helen Knight, "The Use of 'Good' in Aestheticjudgments,"
in Elton, Aesthetics and Language; Paul Ziff, "Reasons in Art Criticism," 32. Kenmck, I?oes Trad1t1onal Aestheucs Rest on a Mistake?" p. 325, also
in Philosophy Looks al the Arts, ed. Joseph Margolis (New York, 1962); P·. 331,; _We1tz, Hamlet, p. 318; Stuart Hampshire, "Logic and Appreci-
Morris Weitz, "Reasons in Criticism," journal of Aesthetics and Art Criti- auon, m Elton, Aesthetics and Language, pp. 169, 165.
33· Matthew Arnold , in Essays on Criticism, Second Series (London, 1891 ),
cism 20 (1962): 429-37; Weitz, Hamlet, chap. 16.
8. Weitz, "Reasons in Crilicism," pp. 436-37 ; idem, Hamlet, pp. 276-84. pp. 20, 32-33·
9· Ludwig Wittgenstein , The Blue and Brown Books (New York, 1965), p. 34· Hampshire, "Logic and Appreciation," pp. 161-67.
17; idem , Philosophical lnvestigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford, 35· Kennick, "Does Traditi?n~l Aesthetics Rest on a Mistake?" pp. 331,
329; Paul Z1ff, "AppreCJatJon and Evaluation," in Margolis , Philosophy
1953), secs. 65-67. Looks al the Arts, p. 161.
10. William E. Kennick, "Does Traditional Aesthetics Rest on a Mistake?"
36. Weitz, "The Philosophy of Criticism," pp. 215-16; see also ídem, Ham-
Mind 67 (1958): 318-19.
1 1. Morris Weitz, "The Role of Theory in Aesthetícs," journal of Aesthetics let, pp. 276-82.
37· T. E. Hulme, Speculations, ed. Herbert Read (London, 1936), p. 135.
andArt Criticism 15 (1956): 27; idem, Hamlet, p. 286.
12. See, e.g., in addition to Weitz and Kennick : John Wisdom, "Things 38. For the emergence of the modern classification of "the fine arts" in the
eighteenth century, see Paul Oskar Kristeller, "The Modern System of
and Persons," in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (New York, 1969), pp.
222-26; W. B. Gallie, "The Function of Philosophical Aesthetics," in the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics," joumal of the H islory of
El ton, Aesthetics and Language; Paul Ziff, "The Task of Defining a Work Ideas 12 (1951): 496-527, and 13 (1952): 17-46.
39· See Alexander Baumgarten , Meditationes philosophicae ( 1735), secs. 51-
of Art," Philosophical Review 62 (1953): 57-78; Teddy Brunius, "The
Uses of Works of Art," journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 22 (1963): ?9· and Aesthetzca (1750), secs. 14, 441, 511-18, 585; Karl Philipp Mor-
ltZ , Ueber dze bzldende Nachahmung des SchOnen, in Deutsche Litteraturclenk-
123-33; Marshall Cohen, "Aesthetic Essence," in Philosophy in Ame1ica,
maledes r8. und 19.]ahrhunderts (1788), vol. 31, pp. 10-12, 16.
ed. Max Black (Ithaca, N.Y., 1965). 40. Shaftesbury, in Characteristics; ed. J. M. Robertson, 2 vols. (London,
13. Weitz, "The Role of Theory," pp . 31-33; idem, Hamlet, pp. 307-8. Cf.
Ziff, "The Task of Defining a Work of Art," pp . 67-71, and Brunius, 190?),v.o!. 2, pp. 54-56. See Jerome Stolnitz, "On the Origins of 'Aes-
theuc D1smterestedness,' "Joumal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20 ( 1961-
"The Uses ·of Works of Art," p. 125.
14. Weitz, "The Role of Theory," pp. 27-28; idem , Hamlet, p. 311. 62): 131-43·
41 . Kant, CritU¡ue of Aesthetic judgement, trans. J. C. Meredith (Oxford, 191 1),
15. Weitz, "The Role of Theory," pp. 34-35; idem, Hamlet, pp. 309, 314-
15 ; Kennick, "Does Traditional Aesthetics Rest on a Mistake?" pp. 323- PP· 48-5o, 69.
42. For a critique of this view, see Maurice Mandelbaum, "Family Resem-
25. See also Wisdom's brief but influential statement, Philosophy and
blances and Generalizations Concerning the Arts," American Philosoph-
Psychoanalysis, p. 225. On "persuasive definitions," see C. L. Stevenson ,
zcal Quarterly 2 (1965) : 1-10. ·
"Persuasive Definitions," in Facts and Values (New Haven and London,
43· E. D. Hirsch, Jr., "Value and Knowledge in the Humanities," in Mor-
1963), and "On 'What Is a Poem?'" Philosophical Review 66 (1957) .
Notes
Notes 397
ton W. Bloomfield, ed. , In Search of Literary Theory (lthaca, N.Y., 1972), 7. Alexander Baumgarten, Meditationes philosophicae ( 1735), secs. 51-69,
PP· 57-89. and Aesthetica (1750, 1758), secs. 14, 441 ,5 11-18,585. See also Karl
44 · Wittgenstein, Philosophicallnvestigations, secs. 224e, 226e. Philipp Moritz, Ueber die bildende Nachahmung des Schonen ( 1788).
45 · J . L. Austin, Philosophical Papers (Oxford, 1961), p. 1oo. 8. A. C. Bradley, Oxford L ectures on Poetry (London , 1909), pp. 4-6 , 17.
46 . Wittgenstein , Philosophical!nvestigations, sec. 654 .
9· Eliot, Selected Essays, p. 30, and The Sacred Wood (London, 1950), p. viii.
10. John Crowe Ransom, The World's Body (New York, 1938), p. 343·
11. Allen Tate, On the Limits of Poetry (New York, 1948), p. 48 .
12. Bradley, Oxford Lectures, p. 6; John Crowe Ransom, The N ew Criticism
A Note on Wittgenstein and Literary Criticism (Norfolk, Conn ., 1941), pp. 43, 281.
13. William K. Wimsatt, The Verbal/con (Lexington , Ky., 1954), p. 241.
From ELH, Ajoumal of English Literary History 41 (1974): 541-54. E. M. Forster wrote, in Anonymity (London, 1925), p. 14, that in reading
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Johns Hopkins a poem, "we have entered a universe that only answers to its own laws,
University Press. Based on a paper for a colloquium, "Wittgenstein supports itself, internally coheres, and has a new standard of truth.
lnformation is true if it is accurate. A poem is true if it hangs together."
and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism," April 1974, at the Uni-
See also Philip Leon , "Aesthetic Knowledge," in The Problem.s of Aesthet-
versity of Warwick, England. References are to two essays distrib- ics, ed. Elíseo Vivas and Murray Krieger (New York, 1953).
uted in advance to participants in the colloquium: "What's the Use 14. Tate, On the Limits of Poetry, p. 113 .
of Theorizing about the Arts?" (reprinted in the present volume); 15. Wimsatt, Verbal/con, p. 87.
16. Middleton Murry, "Beauty Is Truth," The Symposium 1 (1930) : 466-
andj. R. Bambrough, "Literature and Philosophy," in Wisdom: Twelve 501.
Essays, ed. J. R. Bambrough (Oxford, 1974). 17. l. A. Richards, Practica! Criticism (London, 1930), pp. 187, 278-79; Eliot,
Selected Essays, p. 256.
1. G. E. Moore, "Wittgenstein's Lectures in 1930-33," in Philosophical Papers 18. For another instance in which Keats uses truth as equivalent to existence,
(London, 1959) ; Cyril Barrett, ed., Wittgenstein: Lectures and Conversa- see The Letters of john K eats, ed. M. B. Forman (London , 1947), p. 67 . I
tions on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief (Berkeley, 1967). prefer attributing "That is all 1Ye know on earth ... " to the lyric speaker
2. Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books, ed. Rush Rhees (New York, rather than to the Urn, because the former reading is at least as prob-
1965), pp. 6-7, 43; ídem , Philosophical lnvestigations, trans. G. E. M. able in the context and makes a richer poem. But even if we take the
Anscombe (Oxford, 1953), sec. 1 1 1. whole of the last two lines to be asserted by the Urn , the point holds
that their significance is qualified by the nature imputed to the speaker.
19. Cleanth Brooks, The Well Wrought Um (New York, 1947), pp. 141 - 42,
151-52.
Belief and the Suspension of Disbelief 20. Forman, Letters of Keats, pp. 72, 227-28 .
21. E. de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire, eds., The Poetical Works of Wil-
From L iterature and Belief, ed. M. H . Abrams (New York, 1958). liam Wordsworth (Oxford, 1940-49), vol. 4• pp. 463-64 .
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Columbia U niversity Press. 2 2. T. S. El.iot, "Poetry and Propaga nda," in Literary Opinion in A merica, ed.
Morton Dauwen.Zabel (New York, 1951), p. 103.
This essay originated as a paper presented to the English Institute 23 . William Blake,jerusalem, !.10; Yeats, A Vision (New York, 1938), p. 8.
Conference, 1957, on "Literature and Belief." The other speakers 24 . Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. J. Shawcross, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1907),
on the panel, mentioned by Abrams in the text, were Douglas Bush, VOI.2,p p. 107, 111-13, 120-21.
25 . l. A. Richards, Coleridge on lmagination (London , 1934), pp. 135-37.
Walter J. Ong, and Cleanth Brooks. 26. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, vol. 2, p. 6.
1. T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays, 1917-193 2 (London , 1932), p. 138.
2. J . S. Mili , "Bentham," in Early Essays by john Stuart Mill, ed. J . W. M.
Gibbs (London, 1897), p. 208; Jeremy Bentham, The Rationale of Reward,
in. Works, ed . John ~owring (Edinburgh , 1843), vol. 2, pp. 253-54. Rationality and Imagination in Cu~tural History
3· G1bbs, Early Essays, pp. 202, 208 ; H. S. R. Elliot, ed., L etters of john
Stuart Mill (London, 1910), vol. 2, p. 358.
First published as "Rationality and Imagination in Cultural His-
4· l. A. Richards, Science and Poetry (London, 1926), pp. 56-61.
5· !bid., p. 82 . tory: A Reply to Wayne Booth," Critica[ Inquiry 2 (1976): 447-64,
6. Richard Hurd , Letters on Chivalry and Romance (London, 1911), pp. 137- then reprinted in Wayne C. Booth's Critica[ Underst.anding: The Power
39· and Limits of Pluralism (Chicago, 1979), pp. 176-94. All page ref-
400 Notes Notes 401
net as having asserted in The Sacred Theory of the Earth (Natural 7· Henry Peacham, The Complete Gentleman and Other Works, ed. Virgil B.
Supernaturalism, p. 100). .. . . Heltzel (lthaca, N.Y., 1962), p. 117.
7· Spencer H all, Southern Humamtzes R evzew 8 (1974) : 246; E. D. Hirsch, 8. "A Discourse on the Science of a Connoisseur," in Works of j onathan
The Wordsworth Circle 3 (1972): 19; and Morse Peckham, Studtes m Ri~hardson, 3 vols. (London, 1773, 1792), vol. 3· pp. 241-44 .
R omanticism 13 (1974) : 364-65. 9· Ib1d ., pp. 266, 246, 338, 336. "The time will come when it shall be as
8. J. Hillis Miller, "Tradition and Difference," Diacritics 2 ( 1972): 1 1-12 . dishonourable for a gentl.e man not to be a connoisseur, as now it is . . .
9 . J . R. Bambrough, "Literature and Philosophy," in Wisdom : Twelve Essays, not to·see the beauties ofa good author" (p. 337).
ed . J. R. Bambrough (Oxford, 1974). . 10. See Walter E. Houghton , Jr., "The English Virtuoso in the Seven-
10. In Mili on Bentham and Colendge, ed . F. R. Leav1s (London, 1950), PP· teenth Century," journal of the H istory of Ideas 3 (1942): 51-73, 190-
99-100. . . . . 219.
11. This partía! circularity of humamsuc demonstrauon (presummg bet~een 11 . Alexandre Beljame, M en of Letters and the English Public in the E ighteenth
author and reader common grounds of consent in ord~r ro_ ach1eve Century, trans. E. O . Lorimer (London, 1948); Leslie Stephen, English
consent) obtains also for the attempt by the poet to effect m h1s reader Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1904) ; Arnold
an understanding which in vol ves imaginative consent to what h1s poem Hauser, The Social H istory of Art, 2 vols. (London, 1954), "The New
expresses. So Wordsworth suggests, in a passage that also J:>ears on the Reading Public," vol. 2, pp. 534ff.; Ian Watt, The R ise of the Novel
question of his "optimism": "I am myself one of the happ1est of men ; (Berkeley, Cal., 1957). ~n the sixteenth century and later, the English
and no man who does not partake of that happiness ... can possiJ:>ly theater had been access1ble, for pay, toa full spectrum of social classes.
comprehend the best of my poems" (cited from Henry Crabb Robm- Insofar as it dealt with drama, however, poetic theory had concerned
sons's On Books and Their Writers, ed. Edith J. Morley, 3 vols. [London, itself with published dramatic texts ; it was not grounded on the view-
1938], vol. 1, p . 73 [8 May 1812]). point of a spectator during a stage presentation.
12. Cited in Percy M. Young, The Concert Tradition from the Middle Ages to
the T_wentieth C~ntury (London, 1965), p. 77· On the development of
pubhc concerts m Europe and England, see also Henry Raynor, A Social
Art-as-Such: The Sociology of Modern Aesthetics H tstory of Music from the Middle Ages to Beethoven (New York, 1972), and
Stanley Sadie, "Concert Life in Eighteenth Century England ," Royal
From Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 38 (1985) : Musical Association Proceedings, 9 Dec. 1958, pp. 17- 30.
8-33· Reprinted by permission of the publisher. On April 10, 1985, 13. Ludwig Schudt, ltalienreisen im 17. und r8. Jahrhundert (Vienna, 1959);
Abrams was honored with the Academy of Arts and Sciences Joseph Burke, "The Grand Tour and the Rule ofTaste," Studies in the
Etghteenth Century (1966) , pp. 231-50; Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Plun-
Humanistic Studies Award and delivered this lecture; an earlier de; of the Arts in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1970).
version had been delivered to a Conference on the Enlightenment 14. N1els von Holst, Creators, Collectors, and Connoisseurs (London and New
at Yale University in july 1975. Although the text reprinted here York, 1967) ; John Steegman, The Rule of Taste from George 1 to George
IV (London, 1936); Frank Herrmann, ed., The English as Collectors : A
is that of the lecture at the American Academy, the author has Documentary Chrestomathy (London, 1972).
added footnote references to the writings that it cites. 15. Von- Holst, Creators, Collectors, and Connoisseurs; Alma S. Wittlin , The
Museum: lts H istory and lts Tasks in Education (London , 1949) ; Elizabeth
1. T. E. Hulme, Speculations (London, 1936), p. 136. . B. G. Holt, The Triumph of Art for the Public (Washington , D.C., 1979);
2. Iris Murdoch, The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Bamshed the Art!Sts (Oxford, J~seph Alsop, The f!are Art Traditions (New York, 1982).
1977), PP· 76-77- . : 16. C1ted by Osbert S1twell and Margaret Barton , "Taste," in j ohnson's
3 . As james Hutton rightly stresses: " lt ~ust always be kept m mmd that t:ngland, ed. A. S.. Tuber~ille (Oxf~r~ , 1933), vol. 2, p. 38. Walpole
[Aristotle's] Poetics is not about poetry m sorne vague sen se of the word hfted the pretenuous m1spronunC1at1ons of painters' names from
but about the art of poetry; it is an 'art' or techne (how to compose Fieldi ng'sjosephAndrews (1742), book 3, chap. 6.
successful poems)." Introduction to the Poetics, trans. and ed. J ames 17, Thomas ~artyn , The English Connoisseur (Dublin, 1767), preface.
Hutton (New York, 1982), p. 9· . 18. Esther M01r, The Discovery of Britain: The English Tourists, r 540 to r84o
4 . Kant Critique of Ae.stheticjudgement, trans.James Cree? Mered1th (Oxfo~d , (Lon~.o~ , 1964); john Harris, "English Country House Guides, 1740-
1911 ),- p . 87 . I ha ve tried to translate more preCisely .t~an Mered1th 1840, m Concerning Architecture, ed. Jóhn Summerson (London ,
Kant's key phrases, and ha ve inserted in brackets the ongmal German. 1968).
5· Ibid ., pp. 42-44, 48-49, 90, 69. .. 19. Harris; in ~ummerson , Concerning Architecture, pp. 59-60.
6. On the emergent concept in the eighteenth century of "the fine arts 20. Most fully m "Kant and the Theology of Art," Notre Dame Englishjour-
as a distinctive class, see Paul Oskar Kristeller, "The Modern System of nal13 (1981) : 75-106; see also "From Addison to Kant: Modern Aes-
the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics," journal of the H!Story of thetics and the Exemplary Art," in this volume.
Ideas 12 (1951) : 496- 527, and 13 (1952) : 17-46. · 21. Plato, Symposium, 210-12 ; Philebus, 59-60,65,67.
402 Notes Notes 403
. 22. Plotinus, Enneads, trans . Stephen MacKenna, rev. by B. S. Page (Lon- 8. K. P. Moritz, Schriften zur Aesthetik und Poetik, ed. Hans Joachim Schrimpf
don , 1956), pp. 380, 400- 401,619 ,6 1-63,409,622-24. (Tübingen , 1962), p. 3· The emphases are Moritz's.
23. The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. F. J. Sheed (London and New 9· !bid., pp. 6-8.
York, 1944), X.xxxiv (pp. 196-97). The relevant terms and concepts 10. !bid., p . 5· The emphasis on "love" is Moritz's.
cited in my text, repeated in a number of Augustine's writings, are 11. Martha Woodmansee, "The Origin of the Doctrine of Literary Auton-
collected in Anders Nygren , Agape and Eros, trans. Philip S. Watson omy;'' paper delivered at the International Association for Philosophy
(London, 1953), pp. 503-12,532-48. and Literature, Orono, Maine, May 9, 1980. See the first chapter of
24 . Select Sennons of Dr. Whichcote (London, 1698), p. 213; see also Shaftes- Moritz's Anton Reiser.
bury's preface, and pp. 14 7, 151, 216, 409. 12. The Dialogues of Plato, trans. B. jowett, Symposium, 210-12; Philebus,
25. K. P. Moritz, "Versuch einer Vereinigung aller schonen Künste und 59-60,67.
Wissenschaften unter dem Begriff des in sich selbst Vollendeten," 13. Plotinus, Enneads, trans. Stephen MacKenna, rev. by B. S. Page (Lon-
Schriften zur Philosophie und Aesthetik, ed. Fritz Bamberger (Tübingen, don, 1956),pp.380,400-401 ,6 19-20,61-63,409,622-24.
1962), pp. 3-8. The emphases in my translation are Moritz's. 14. See K. Svoboda, L 'Esthétique de St. Augustin et ses sources (Brno, 1933),
26. Wilhelm I:Ieinrich Wackenroder, Herzensergiessungen eines kunstlieben- pp. 102ff. The relevant comments by Augustine on the distinction
den Klosterbruders, ed . Karl Detlev Jessen (Leipzig, 1904), pp. 1oo- 103. between love for use and love for enjoyment are conveniently collected
in Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros, trans. Philip S. Watson (London,
1953), pp. 503-12, 532-48, footnotes. See also Abrams, "Kant and the
Theology of Art."
From Addison to Kant: Modern A esthetics and the Jacques Maritain's theory of the fine arts is of interest because it
Exemplary Art_ reintegrates the contemplation of a work of art with the theological
concept of the loving contemplation of God which earlier theorists had
From Studies in Eighteenth-Century British Art and Aesthetics, ed. Ralph used as the model for developing a purely secular view of aesthetic
·experience. The work of art, says Maritain , "of its very nature a nd
Cohen (Berkeley, 1985). Reprinted by permission of the publisher, precisely as beautiful . . . stirs desire and produces love," in an ecstasy
University of California Press. For expanded discussions of sorne which the soul experiences in its fullness only "when it is absorbed .. .
of the matters treated here, see an essay by Abrams not included by the beauty of God." And on the express analogy of Scholastic views
about contempl~tion of the divine wisdom, he declares that works of
in this volume, "Kant and the Theology of Art," Notre Dame English
fine art are "disinterested, desired for themselves." A work is not made
journal13 (198 1): 75-106. "in order that one may use it as a means, but in arder that one may
enjoy itas an end," and the "mode of being" of works of art "is contem-
1. See Paul Oskar Kristeller, "The Modern System of the Arts ," joumal plative ... they aim at producing an intellectual delight, that is to say,
ofthe History of!deas 12 (195 1): 496-527; 13 (1952): 17-46. a kind of contemplation" (Art and Scholasticism and the Frontiers of Poetry,
2. Friedrich Schelling, System des transcendentalen Jdealismus, Samtliche Werke trans.Joseph W. Evans [New York, 1962], pp. 23-37) .
(Stuttgart und Augsburg, 1858), vol. 3· p. 349· 15. Kant_ Critique of Aesthetic judgement, trans. James Creed Meredith (Oxford,
3· T. E. Hulme, Speculations: Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art, 1911), pp. 43, 48-49. 69, 90; the emphases are Kant's. Where I have
ed. Herbert Read (London, 1924), p. 136. altered Meredith's tra_~slation, I have also inserted the German phrases.
4· J erome Stolnitz, Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art Criticism (Cambridge, 16. Moritz, Schriften zur Asthetik und Poetik, pp. 71, 73-74.
Mass., 1960), pp . 35· 209, 21 1. [For instances of the contemplation 17. Kant, Critique of Aesthetic judgement, p. 176.
model in recent treatments of art by Stuart Hampshire and other "ana- 18. In Phaedrus 250, for example, Plato says, in his account of the soul's
lytic philosophers," see, in this volu me, "What's the Use of Theorizing journey to the realm of forms: "But of beauty, l repeat again that we
about the Arts?" pp. 6o-66. (Ed.)] saw her there shining in company with the celestial forms ; and coming
5· A. C. Bradley, "Poetry for Poetry's Sake," Oxford Lectures on P oetry to earth we find her here too, shining in clearness through the clearest
(London, 1909). pp. 5-6. aperture of sense. For sight is the most piercing of our bodily senses.
6. E. M. Forster, "Anonymity: An Enquiry," T wo Cheers for Democracy (New . . . This is the privilege of beauty, that being the loveliest she is also
York, 1951), pp. 8¡-82 . the most palpable to sight. " .
7. See Jerome Stolnitz, "On the Significance of Lord Shaftesbury in Mod- 19. Clive Bell, Art (New York, 1958), pp. 54-55, 107.
ern Aesthetic Theory," Philosophical Quarterly 2 (1961): 97-113; and 20. On tht; sharp distinction between God's creation "out of nothing" and
"On the Origins of 'Aesthetic Disinterestedness,' " journal of Aesthetic the poet's creation from pre-existing matter, see E. N. Tigerstedt, "The
and Art Criticism 20 (1961-62) : 131-43. For the history ofthe concepts Poetas Creator: Origins of a Metaphor," Comparative Literature Studies
of "contemplation" and "disinterestedness," befare and after Shaftes- 5 (1968): 455-88. Giovanni Capriano, in his Delia vera poetica (1555),
bury, see M. H . Abrams, "Kant and the Theology of Art," Notre Dame see~s unique in his time by claiming that "the true poets must invent
Englishjoumal (1981) : 75-106. · the1r poetry out of nothing" [di nulla fingere la lor' poesía]; he does not,
Notes Notes
however, use the verb creare, which was a theological term reserved 26. Baumgarten's Reflections on Poetry, trans. Karl Aschenbrenner and Wil-
uniquely for a power of God. Capriano is cited by Bernard Weinberg, liam B. Holther (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1954), par. 115. In par.
A History of Literary Criticism in the ltalian Renaissance, 2 vols. (Chicago, 116, Baumgarten goes on to apply the term aesthetic to "the science of
1963), vol. 2, p. 733· perception" (which includes poetry in its scope), as distinguished from
Probably the earliest clear statement of the analogue between the the noetic science of things that are "known by the superior faculty as
poet's activity and God's creativity is by Cristoforo Landino who, in the the object of logic."
"Proemio" to his Commentary on Dante ( 1481 ), said that the poet's feign- 27 . John Crowe Ransom, The World's Body (New York, 1938), pp. x, 205 .
ing "is half-way between 'creating' [creare] which is proper only for God 28. Ibid., PP· 206, 15 6- 5 8, 13o-3 3 .
. . . and 'making' ((are], which applies tomen when they compose with 29. !bid., pp. 44-45·
matter and form in any art [i.e., craft]. .. . Although the feigning [fig- 30. Leibniz to Arnaud, May 1686, in Leibniz, Discourse on M etaphysics, trans.
mento) of the poet is not entirely out of nothing, it nevertheless departs George R. Montgomery (La Salle, Ill. , 1947), pp. 108-09.
from making and comes very near to creating." For similar passages 3 1. For Baumgarten's treatment in the Aesthetica of "heterocosmic fiction"
elsewhere in Landino, see Tigerstedt, pp. 458-59. as the creation of a "possible" new world , whose "heterocosmic truth"
21 . See Tigerstedt, "The Poetas Creator"; also M. H. Abrams, The Mirror and "heterocosmic probability" are a matter of interna! noncontradic-
and the Lamp (New York, 1953), pp. 272-75, and notes, pp. 380-81. tion and coherence, see, e.g., pars, 441,475, 511-38,598-99.
22 . Leonardo da Vinci in turn adapted to painting the parallel between Georg Friedrich Meier, in his Anfangsgründe aller schonen Wissenschaf-
"the painter's mind" and "the divine mind"-with passing but unde- ten ( 1754), which is in large partan exposition of Baumgarten, declares
veloped allusions to the painter as a "creator" and to aspects of his that the "probability" of "heterocosmic fictions " such as fables is
work as "a creation"-in order to raise his own disparaged art over all grounded "primarily on the fact that its inventor creates [schaft] a new
other arts, including poetry. See Martín Kemp, "From 'Mimesis' to world .... He draws the attention of his listener entirely to the coher-
'Fantasía' ... in the Visual Arts," Viator 8 (1970); 347-98. ence [Zusammenhang] that he has newly created. The listener so to speak
23 . Sir Philip Sidney, An Apologie for Poetry, in Elizabethan Critical Essays, ed . forgets the present world .. . and gets involved in an entirely new inter-
G. Gregory Smith, 2 vols. (London, 1904), vol. 1, pp. 155-58. A par- connection and order of things, and so must hold to be probable every-
allel distinction between theoretical and laudatory aims is apparent in thing which is possible and grounded in the new order. These fictions
J. C. Scaliger's inftuential Poetices (1561) : "The basis of all poetry is are the ones in which a fine mind [schiiner Geist] demonstrates his cre-
imitation," although imitation "is not the end of poetry, but is inter- ative powers, or 'esprit créateur' . .. " (part 1, par. 107).
mediate to the end" of giving "instruction in pleasurable form." It is 32 . Johann Jacob Breitinger, Critische Dichtkunst (1740), facsímile, ed .
specifically in the attempt to elevate poetry over oratory and history Wolfgang Bender, 2 vols. (Stuttgart, 1966), vol. 1, p. 273 .
that Scaliger makes the later claim that it excels "those other arts" in 33· Johann Jacob Bodmer, Critische Abhandlung von dem Wunderbaren in der
that while they "represent things just as they are .. . the poet depicts Poesie (1740), facsímile, ed. Wolfgang Bender (Stuttgart, 1966), pp. 165-
another sort of nature," and thus "transforms himself almost into a 66, 32.
second God ." For the poet, in making "images of things which are not" 34· Breitinger, Critische Dichtkunst, vol. 1, pp. 7, 54-57. It is noteworth y
as well as more beautiful images "of those things which are," exceeds that .in his "Formative Imitation of the Beautiful," written forty-five
the historian and seems "like another God, to produce the things years later, Moritz also modeled his view of poetic creation on the cre-
themselves [res ipsas . .. velut alter deus condere]" (F. M. Padelford, Select ative power that God has delegated to a formative principie that oper-
Translationsfromj. C. Scaliger's Poetics [New York, 1905], pp. 2, 7-8). 1 ares within the natural world .
have altered a few of Padelford's English phrases to bring them closer 35· Bodmer, Von dem Wunderbaren, pp. 47, 49· See also pp. 144-45.
to the Latín original. 36. Breitinger, Critische Dichtkunst, vol. 1, pp. 425-26. See also pp. 270-78,
24. Addison, Spectator 419. Addison had in mind the claims by empiricists 286-90. Breitinger explains that creative Nature, as Leibniz has shown ,
such as Thomas Hobbes that, since a poem is "an imitation of humane is constrained to bring into being the best of all possible worlds, and
life," the criterion of truth eliminates such elements as "impenetrable that sin ce the concept of what is best entails the greatest possible diver-
Armors, Inchanted Castles . . . ftying Horses." For, "the Resemblance sity of existents, our world necessarily contains many degrees of imper-
of truth is the utmost limit of Poeticall Liberty .. .. Beyond the actual fecti~n . Reli~ved of God's constraint, however, the poet is able to bring
works of nature a Poet may now go; but beyond the conceived possi- over mto bemg a world that is more perfect in its individual elements
bility of nature, never." Hobbes, "Answer to Davenant's Preface to than our best of possible worlds (vol. 1, pp. 273-74) .
Gondibert" (1650), in Critical Essays of the Seventeenth Century, ed . J. E. 37. !bid., vol. 1, pp. 59-60. Breitinger repeats this assertion on p. 27 1.
Spingarn, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1908), vol. 2, pp. 61-62. See Abrams, "Truth 38. Bodmer, Critische Betrachtungen über die poetischen Gemii.lde der Dichter
and the Poetic Marvelous," in The Mirror and the Lamp, pp. 265-68. (Zurich, 1741 ), p. 543·
25 . Spectator 419 and 42 1. In lauding the poetas one who invents "another 39· Moritz, Schriften zur A esthetik, pp. 73-75 .
nature," Sidney had airead y exemplified this power by reference to the 40. See, e.g., Breitinger's exposition of the poet's rendering of the nature
poet's ability to bring forth "formes such as never were in Nature, as that he imitates so asto enhance its moral qualities and.effects: Critische
the Heroes, Demigods, Cyclops, Furies, and such like;"" Dichtkunst, vol. 1 , pp. 282 - 90.
Notes Notes
41. Moritz, Schriften zur Aesthetik, pp. So, 8g, 85-86. The emphases are 53· Forster, Two Cheersfor Democracy, pp. 82,91-92, 85 . R. G. Collingwood
Moritz's. exemplifies the merging of the contemplative and heterocosmic models
42 . 18 May 1857, in Gustave Flaubert, Corresporulance (Paris, 1926 ff.) , vol. by a philosopher rather than a critic of art. "In art the mind has an
4· p . 182 . object which it contemplares." But the object contemplated "is an imag-
43 · 9 Dec. 1852, in The Letters ofGustave Flaubert, r8;o-r857, trans. Francis inary object," created by the act of contemplation. "To imagine an object
Steegmuller (Cambridge, Mass., 1980), p. 173. See also 18 March 1857, ... ís.to be wholly indifferent to its reality," and the coherence of the
p. 230: "The artist in his work must be like God in his creation-invis- imagined, hence simply contemplated, object "is a merely interna)
ible and all-powerful: he must be everywhere felt but never seen." coherence ... self-contained ." Then, in a latter-day instance ofthe aes-
The basic text for this concept of God's relation to His created world thetic application of a Leibnizian concept-this time, however, of Leib-
is Paul's Epistle to the Romans, 1.20, which was the subject of endless niz's concept of the monad:
comment and expansion by biblical commentators: "For the invisible
Every work of art as such, asan object of imagination, is a world
things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being
wholly self-contained, a complete universe which has nothing
understood by the things that are made, even His eterna) power and
outside it ... [and is] imaginatively contemplated .... Every work
Godhead . ... " In the 1790s, Friedrich Schlegel transferred this con-
of art is a monad, a windowless and self-contained u ni verse which
cept to the literary creator, as a ground for the mode of "Romantic
. .. indeed is nothing but a vision or perspective of the universe,
irony" : the literary artist, "visibly invisible," is both "objective" and
and of a universe which is just itself. . .. Whatever is in it must
"subjective" in his work; he establishes the illusion that his creation is a
ha ve arisen from the creative act which constitutes it.
self-sufficient world, yet displays his own characteristics in that work,
and is free to manifest his arbitrary power over that work. See Alfred Outlines of a Philosophy of Art (London, 1925), pp. 10-24, 76.
Edwin Lussky, Tieck 's Romantic Irony (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1932), chap. 2; 54· Cleanth Brooks, "The Heresy of Paraphrase," in The·Well Wrought Um
and Abrams, The Mirror arul the Lamp, pp. 237-41. (New York, 1947), pp. 189, 194. Also Austin Warren, Rage for Order
44· Oeuvres completes de Baudelaire, ed. Y. G. Le Dantec and Claude Pichois (Chicago, 1948), pp. v-vi : the poet's "final creation" is "a kind of world
(Bibliotheque de la Pléiade, 1963), pp. 637, 1037-38. The emphases or cosmos; a concretely languaged, synopticall y felt world, an ikon or
are Baudelaire's. image of the 'real world.' "
45· "Notes nouvelles sur Edgar Poe," in Oeuvres completes de Charles Baude- 55· James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artistas a Young Man, in The Portable J ames
laire, ed F. F. Gautier and Y. G. Le Dantec (Paris, 1933), vol. 10, pp. joyce, ed. Harry Levin (New York, 1947), pp. 481-82 .
29-30.
In Osear Wilde's "The Critic as Artist," Ernest proposes that "it is
the function of Literature to create, from the rough material of actual
existence, a new world that will be more marvelous, more enduring, Five Types of Lycidas
and more true than the world that common eyes look upon ." If made
by a great artist, "this new world ... will be a thing so complete and This essay is based on a lecture given in 1957 at the Columbia
perfect that there will be nothing left for the critic todo." To which Graduate Union and elsewhere. It first appeared in Milton's Lyci-
Gilbert responds by adroitly transferring the creative analogue from
das: The Tradition and the Poem, ed. C. A. Patrides, foreword by
the artist to the critic, and the concept of autonomy from the work of
art to the work of criticism: "Criticism is, in fact, both creative and M. H. Abrams (New York, 1961) and is reprinted from the revised
independent. .. . N ay, more, I would say that the highest Criticism . .. edition (Columbia, Mo., 1983) . Reprinted here by permission of
is in its way more creative than creation, as it ... is, in fact, its own the University of Missouri Press. The essay raises what has since
reason for existing, and, as the Greeks would put it, in itself, and to
itself, an end." The Artistas Critic: Critical Writings of Osear Wilde, ed. become a central issue in critica) theory: Does a poem have a decid-
Richard Ellmann (New York, 1968-69), pp. 363-65. able meaning?
46. Oeuvres completes de Stephane Mallarmé, ed. Henri Mondor and G. Jean-
Aubry (Bibliotheque de la Pléiade, 1961), pp. 400, 647. 1. Quotations without page references are from the following essays in
47· Ibid ., pp. g66-67, 372. Milton's Lycidas : The Tradition arul the Poem, rev. ed.: E. M. W. Tillyard,
48. Vladimir Nabokov; Lectures on Literature, ed. Fredson Bowers (New York "From Milton"; John Crowe Ransom, "A Poem Nearly Anonymous";
and London, 1980), p. 1. Richard P. Adams, "The Archetypal Pattern of Death and Rebirth in
49· Georg Lukács, Writer arul Critic and Other Essays, trans. Arthur D. Kahn Lycidas"; Cleanth Brooks andjohn Edward Hardy, "Essays in Analysis :
(New York, 1971), pp. 35-40. Lycidas"; and Northrop Frye, "Literature as Context: Milton's Lycidas."
50. Wassily Kandinsky, "Reminiscences," in Modern Artists on Art, ed. Rob- 2. See also Tillyard's analysis of Lycidas in Poetry Direct and Oblique, rev.
ert L. Herbert (Englewood Cliffs, N .J., 1964), p . 35· ed . (London, 1948), pp. 81-84.
51. A. C. Bradley, Oxford Lectures on Poetry (London, 1909); pp. 4-5, 7· 3· Cleanth Brooks and J. E. Hardy, eds., Poems of Mr. john Milton (New
52. Ibid :, pp. 5· 17. 29· York, 1951), p. 259·