9 abr 2008

What I mean is that everyone makes multiple aesthetic judgments every day. If you didn't, you would be a case for Oliver Sacks. You would have a neurology that is so unusual that Sacks would have to write a chapter on you. It is because aesthetics is intertwined with everything else that judgments are varied. (Wittgenstein famously asked whether you could have philosophy of what kind of coffee tastes the best.)

Sometimes it seems only the Englsh department forbids them (aesthetics). That does seem to be a paradox. On the one hand, there is an overt hostility to aesthetic questions in certain quarters. On another level, it is simply taken for granted that there are other questions to be asked aside from "what makes this poem beautiful?" and that the discipline can't go anywhere being confined to that question. In other words, appreciative admiration is assumed (somewhere in the background) but is not itself the goal.

I would prefer to see that every significant question in literary studies has an aesthetic dimension, just like every aspect of ordinary life itself, but I wouldn't want to say that the particular dimension should be at the forefront at every moment explicitly. Mere "appreciation" seems a little cloying, a little narrow, in prescribing an attitude of silent awe. On the other hand, when literary studies forgets the aesthetic, watch out! The discipline becomes unmoored from its reason for being, confused in its aims. Necessary distinctions fall by the wayside.

I also don't believe in any idealization of ordinary life aesthetics, any political claim that such aesthetics are more genuine or authentic than high art aesthetics, or any more worthy of respect. They just are. Another disclaimer: i'm not saying all judgments of this sort are equally valid, but in some sense they are all equally aesthetic, they all belong equally to the realm of judgment I am talking about, whether I happen to think them mistaken or not.

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