Aesthetic Reverberations in Literature and Education

by Feryal Cubukcu (Volume editor)
©2017 Edited Collection 164 Pages


Aestheticism is broader in scope than the philosophy of art. It is also broader than the philosophy of beauty, in that it applies to any of the responses we might expect works of art or entertainment to elicit, whether positive or negative. That is why the articles in this collective volume aim to highlight the various reverberations of aestheticism on literature and education over the centuries.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • What is art? (an anthropological and linguistic perspective on art) (Pierre Frath / Michèle Valentin)
  • An Aesthetic Approach to Teaching Short Stories. (Nazan Tutaş)
  • Arthurian Adaptations of the Otherworld (Carlos A. Sanz Mingo)
  • Transgressive Aesthetics and Dandyism in Oscar Wilde’s Plays (Ayça Ülker Erkan)
  • Aesthetics of Place in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Dilek İnan / Besti Yılmaz)
  • Aesthetics in Detective Fiction: A Case Study of Arthur Doyle Conan’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Catherine Wong)
  • The Psychoanalytic Aesthetics in Anne Carson’s The Albertine Workout (Arsev Arslanoğlu Yıldıran)
  • Racialized Beauty Aestheticism in Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (Meryem Ayan)
  • Perceptions of Aesthetics Through Metaphors (Vesile Yıldız Demirtaş)
  • Fostering Aesthetic Predispositions Through Poetry (Feryal Cubukcu)

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Aestheticism can be defined broadly as the elevation of taste and the pursuit of beauty as chief principles in art and in life. It has always held an important place in education, literature and philosophy. Aesthetics is seen as the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and appreciation of art, beauty and good taste. It has also been defined as the critical reflection on art, culture and nature. The word “aesthetics” derives from the Greek “aisthetikos”, meaning “of sense perception”. Along with Ethics, aesthetics is part of axiology (the study of values and value judgements).

In practise we distinguish between aesthetic judgements (the appreciation of any object, not necessarily an art object) and artistic judgements (the appreciation or criticism of a work of art). Thus aesthetics is broader in scope than the philosophy of art. It is also broader than the philosophy of beauty, in that it applies to any of the responses we might expect works of art or entertainment to elicit, whether positive or negative.

Aestheticians ask questions like “What is a work of art?”, “What makes a work of art successful?”, “Why do we find certain things beautiful?”, “How can things of very different categories be considered equally beautiful?”, “Is there a connection between art and morality?”, “Can art be a vehicle of truth?”, “Are aesthetic judgements objective statements or purely subjective expressions of personal attitudes?”, “Can aesthetic judgements be improved or trained?” In very general terms, it examines what makes something beautiful, sublime, disgusting, fun, cute, silly, entertaining, pretentious, discordant, harmonious, boring, humorous or tragic.

The Ancient Greek philosophers initially felt that aesthetically appealing objects were beautiful in and of themselves. Plato felt that beautiful objects incorporated proportion, harmony and unity among their parts. Aristotle found that the universal elements of beauty were order, symmetry and definiteness.

According to Islam, human works of art are inherently flawed compared to the work of Allah, and to attempt to depict in a realistic form any animal or person is insolence to Allah. This has had the effect of narrowing the field of Muslim artistic possibility to such forms as mosaics, calligraphy, architecture and geometric and floral patterns.

As long as the 5th Century B.C., Chinese philosophers were already arguing about aesthetics. Confucius (551–479 B.C.) emphasized the role of the arts and humanities (especially music and poetry) in broadening human nature. His near ← 7 | 8 → contemporary Mozi (470–391 B.C.), however, argued that music and fine arts were wasteful, benefiting the rich but not the common people.

Western Medieval art (at least until the revival of classical ideals during the Renaissance) was highly religious in focus, and was typically funded by the Church, powerful ecclesiastical individuals, or wealthy secular patrons. A religiously uplifting message was considered more important than figurative accuracy or inspired composition. The skills of the artisan were considered gifts from God for the sole purpose of disclosing God to mankind.

With the shift in Western philosophy from the late 17th Century onwards, German and British thinkers in particular emphasized beauty as the key component of art and of the aesthetic experience, and saw art as necessarily aiming at beauty. For Schiller (1759–1805), aesthetic appreciation of beauty is the most perfect reconciliation of the sensual and rational parts of human nature. Hegel held that art is the first stage in which the absolute spirit is immediately manifest to sense-perception, and is thus an objective rather than a subjective revelation of beauty. For Schopenhauer, aesthetic contemplation of beauty is the most free thing that the pure intellect can stay away from the dictates of will. British Intuitionists like the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713) claimed that beauty is just the sensory equivalent of moral goodness. More analytic theorists like Lord Kames, William Hogarth and Edmund Burke hoped to reduce beauty to some list of attributes, while others like James Mill and Herbert Spencer strove to link beauty to some scientific theory of psychology or biology.

In the context of the western literature there is considerable controversy about when and where aestheticism occurs; but a line can be traced from the art criticism of John Ruskin in the 1850s, through the artists and writers of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and the writings of Walter Pater, to the works of Oscar Wilde and the flowering of decadent poetry of the 1890s.

When we embark upon this journey of writing on aestheticism, we have felt that it is not easily bounded by only one field but in many fields such as art, culture, education and literature, we can find its traces. Hence, this volume tries to bridge the gap in these areas by bringing together scholarly articles on education, literature and philosophy. The first chapter by Dr. Frath and Dr. Valentin tackles “what is art” over centuries through many examples ending in the feature of “mystery”. Dr. Nazan Tutas in her second chapter focuses on the Aesthetic Teaching Approach which originates from Louise Rosenblatt’s transactional reader-response theory, which emphasises that reading is a transaction between reader and the text wherein the reader constructs a personal picture of meaning offered by the text. In the chronological application of aestheticism on literary texts, the third chapter ← 8 | 9 → by Dr. Sanz Mingo holds that Otherworld in the Arthurian texts is seen as a fluid, ambiguous place, which cut across spatial boundaries. Dr. Ulker Erkan brings the issue to the nineteenth century and to Oscar Wilde’s dandyism. Dr. Inan and Ms Yılmaz deal with how aestheticism is showcased in Franskenstein by asserting that the characters’ natural descriptions develop the characters’ aesthetic appreciation, education and spiritual healing. In the twentieth century we have aestheticism on the detective genre designed on Langacker’s narrative analysis by Dr. Wong, feminist poetry by Dr. Arslanoğlu Yıldıran and African American texts by Dr. Ayan. The last two chapters are devoted to the aesthetic reverberations on education by Dr. Cubukcu and Dr. Yildiz Demirtaş to maintain that aesthetic education integrated into the different courses and the curriculum provides students with motivations to explore different aspects of life and nature, yielding insight into the central essence of cultural elements or multi-cultural education, leading to a foundation for designing educational experiences that will help students to know, feel, see, comprehend as others know, feel, see and comprehend.


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Pierre Frath1 & Michèle Valentin2


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (June)
aestheticism philosophy
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 164 pp., 7 ill., 12 tabl.

Biographical notes

Feryal Cubukcu (Volume editor)

Feryal Cubukcu is a full professor at Dokuz Eylul University in Izmir (Turkey). Her main interests are psycholinguistics, literary theories, cultural studies, and film studies.


Title: Aesthetic Reverberations in Literature and Education
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166 pages