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Aesthetic Reverberations in Literature and Education

Edited By Feryal Cubukcu

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.

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What is art? (an anthropological and linguistic perspective on art) (Pierre Frath / Michèle Valentin)


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Pierre Frath1 & Michèle Valentin2

What is art? (an anthropological and linguistic perspective on art)

“Man is a metaphysical animal” Arthur Schopenhauer (2010, p. 8)

1. Introduction3

Aesthetic education is certainly indispensable to any curriculum, but what should it consist of? The answer to this question will necessarily depend on the answer to another far more fundamental one: What is art? Yet this age-old ontological question has a disturbing quality to it. In his 1988 novel Roger’s version, John Updike remarks that “there are so few things which, contemplated, do not like flimsy trapdoors open under the weight of our attention into the bottomless pit below” (1986, p. 74). The concept of art is certainly one of those bottomless pits capable of engulfing thought in confusion and obscurity as we try to fathom it in its complexity. We then tend to look for salvation by resorting to the well-established Platonic notions of Beauty, Truth and Good in relationship to Art. However, this only shifts the question further to another unfathomable level. What is Beauty? What is Truth? What is the Good? We manage to define Beauty, not all beauty is art (take for instance a landscape) and not all art is beautiful.

This chapter will (bravely) attempt to define art by linking it to our amazement at the sheer mystery of the existence of the universe and mankind in it. Aristotle thought that “It is astonishment...

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