Essays in Literary Criticism of George Santayana

By Irving Singer; George Santayana | Go to book overview

LITERARY FORM

THERE IS A BEAUTY OF FORM

THE MOST remarkable and characteristic problem of æsthetics is that of beauty of form. Where there is a sensuous delight, like that of colour, and the impression of the object is in its elements agreeable, we have to look no farther for an explanation of the charm we feel. Where there is expression, and an object indifferent to the senses is associated with other ideas which are interesting, the problem, although complex and varied, is in principle comparatively plain. But there is an intermediate effect which is more mysterious, and more specifically an effect of beauty. It is found where sensible elements, by themselves indifferent, are so united as to please in combination. There is something unexpected in this phenomenon, so much so that those who cannot conceive its explanation often reassure themselves by denying its existence. To reduce beauty of form, however, to beauty of elements would not be easy, because the creation and variation of effect, by changing the relation of the simplest lines, offers too easy an experiment in refutation. And it would, moreover, follow to the comfort of the vulgar that all marble houses are equally beautiful.

To attribute beauty of form to expression is more plausible. If I take the meaningless short lines in the figure and arrange them in the given ways, intended to represent the human face, there appear at once notably different æsthetic values. Two of the forms are differently grotesque and one approximately beautiful. Now these effects are due to the expression of the lines; not only because they make one think of fair or ugly faces, but because, it may be said, these faces would in reality be fair or ugly according to their expression, according to the vital and moral associations of the different types.

Nevertheless, beauty of form cannot be reduced to expression

-336-

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Essays in Literary Criticism of George Santayana
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • A Note About This Edition v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction: Santayana As A Literary Critic ix
  • Part I - Three Philosophical Poets 1
  • Part II - Critical Essays 75
  • The Homeric Hymns 77
  • Platonic Love In Some Italian Poets 94
  • Cervantes 112
  • Hamlet 120
  • The Absence of Religion In Shakespeare 137
  • The Poetry Of Barbarism 149
  • Hints of Egotism In Goethe 179
  • Shelley: or the Poetic Value Of Revolutionary Principles 186
  • Leopardi 208
  • Dickens 210
  • Emerson 224
  • Penitent Art 234
  • Proust On Essences 241
  • The Last Puritan 246
  • Preface 246
  • Tragic Philosophy 266
  • Part III - Critical Theory 279
  • The Elements And Function of Poetry 281
  • Speech And Signification 304
  • Poetry And Prose 317
  • Literary Form 336
  • Literary Psychology 394
  • Mythology 402
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