Aestheticeducation and the demise
The philistine is intolerant.1
love naturally hates old age and keeps his distance from it 2
In 1913, Walter Benjamin was a central figure alongside his teacher, Gustav Wyneken,
in the ‘German Youth Movement’, agitating for substantial reforms in the German
educational system and, beyond that, in German society. He placed one of his first
serious publications, an essay entitled ‘Experience’, in Der Anfang, the magazine of the
movement, as a contribution to the debates. In this essay, he points
The interest in aesthetics in philosophy, literary and cultural studies is growing rapidly. This book contains exemplary essays by key practitioners in these fields which demonstrate the importance of this area of enquiry. New aestheticism remains a troubled term and in current parlance it already comes loaded with the baggage of the 'philistine controversy' which first emerged in an exchange that originally that took place in the New Left Review during the mid-1990s. A serious aesthetic education is necessary for resisting the advance of 'philistinism'. Contemporary aesthetic production may be decentred and belonging to the past, but that is not a reason to underestimate what great works do that nothing else can. Despite well-established feminist work in literary criticism, film theory and art history, feminist aesthetics 'is a relatively young discipline, dating from the early 1990s'. The book focuses on the critical interrogation of the historical status of mimesis in the context of a gendered and racial politics of modernity. Throughout the history of literary and art criticism the focus has fallen on the creation or reception of works and texts. The book also identifies a fragmentary Romantic residue in contemporary aesthetics. The Alexandrian aesthetic underlies the experience of the 'allegorical'. 'Cultural poetics' makes clear the expansion of 'poetics' into a domain that is no longer strictly associated with 'poetry'. The book also presents an account of a Kantian aesthetic criticism, discussing Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and Critique of Judgement.
respect & that it may be said of the birch as
of the school “Florebit’” (29 January 1892; Swinburne
2004b , 3.47). In contrast to Eton reformers
who would do away with corporal punishment, she and Swinburne imagined
the practice of birching – the very idea of it, as ‘may be
said of the birch’ – as the highest form of aestheticeducation. Thus she followed up in another private letter (written in
experience of sensible
perfection of the beautiful. Nevertheless, Baumgarten introduced rational ascesis into
modern aesthetics through the notion of the education of sensibility, a tendency
advanced by Schiller in his AestheticEducation.
The modern subordination of the aesthetic to the ascetic in terms of a stage in the
progression from sensibility to reason contrasts with the Alexandrian view of it as the
site of a complex processional movement combining progressive and recessive tendencies. For the latter, the movement between the sensible and the ideal is not an
, Fichte and Kant to Hegel and beyond
(see Beiser 2005; Bowie 2003; Hammermeister 2002).4 A key prerequisite of any position of ‘true’ liberty is a somewhat radical autonomy. While this has often been misunderstood as advocating a withdrawal from reality, it is much rather an insistence
on a structural, relational position which finds its most astute articulation in another
key notion of Schiller’s thought: play. He developed this quintessentially humanistic
concept at the centre of his 1795 Letters on the AestheticEducation of Man, where
he famously concluded: ‘one
Translation Zone , p. 119.
Pierre Joris, ‘A Note on Translating Unica Zürn's Anagrammatic Poems’, Sulfur 29 (1991), p. 87.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Translating into English’, in An AestheticEducation in the Era of Globalisation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), p. 253
by the idealist philosopher Friedrich Schiller. In On the AestheticEducation of Man , Schiller offered a deliberately complex and twofold account of aesthetics. In his formulation, the aesthetic is associated with the production of autonomous artworks and, at the same time, with life itself:
For, to declare it once and for all, Man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man, and he is only wholly a Man when he is playing . This proposition, which at the moment seems paradoxical, will assume great and deep significance when we have once
reads this schema in the ordering of the sections from §49.
Equally, Friedrich Schiller is both praised for having a style
influenced by Quintilian, and criticised because he is not like
Quintilian. See the Introduction to Schiller, On the
AestheticEducation of Man , trans. and intro. E. M.
Wilkinson and L. A. Willoughby (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967 ), p. cxxxvii
alternate image from her memory: ‘How the lights of this city used to
glow in the night when the little boat train taking her back to London
after Christmas came in and out of the countryside and winter dark’ (113).
This allegorised narrative culminates just before Elizabeth’s death as she
mistakenly thinks the blinds have been drawn, her vision now shut down
(221). Perhaps again not coincidentally, Elizabeth’s ability through the
novel to enter into selfhood through the perception of the image seems
to be linked to her earlier aestheticeducation in London, at
British romantic drama and the Gothic treacheries of Coleridge’s Remorse
recognized in the reviews. Remorse ’s reception-history
indicates that many critics lauded the play as an antidote to corrupt
dramatic practices, and as proof of an imminent theatrical revival in
Britain: in short, as a welcome example of the kind of writing which
would contribute to the moral, political, and aestheticeducation of thevolatile, newly literate masses. Critics for the
Morning Post and