Reading with Feeling: The Aesthetics of Appreciation

Reading with Feeling: The Aesthetics of Appreciation

Reading with Feeling: The Aesthetics of Appreciation

Reading with Feeling: The Aesthetics of Appreciation

Synopsis

"Feelings and other affective responses to a work of fictional literature are an important part of appreciation, and the capacity to inspire such responses is part of what is valuable about literary works of art. Susan L. Feagin's philosophical exploration of appreciation, focusing specifically on its emotional or affective components, asks us to consider aesthetic appreciation as getting the value out of the work. Appreciation involves exercising abilities. Feagin develops a psychological model for understanding how one becomes emotionally engaged with something one knows is fictional. She stresses the importance of the role of imagination in producing affective responses. Imagination is harnessed by the writer's choice of phrase or depiction of detail. Feagin cites the work of Angela Carter, Molly Keane, Heinrich Boll, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and draws an extended example from Henry James." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Ontologically, what type of phenomenon is appreciation? There are many well known ontological categories: things or objects, events, properties, facts or states of affairs, processes, activities, tasks, achievements. Unfortunately, none of these adequately captures the nature of appreciation. The task of this chapter is to explain, ontologically, what kind of phenomenon appreciation is.

One fact that complicates the ontological picture is that appreciation involves at least three components: affective (the main object of my attention), theoretical, and reflective. The theoretical component consists in interpreting a work, and the reflective component consists in reflecting on the relevance and appropriateness of and warrant for one's affective responses. Both activities can and should alter how and whether one responds to a work and what aspects of it one responds to. Their presence ensures that one is not merely reacting to a work, but rather responding to it. Affective responses that are part of appreciating a work cannot be understood apart from these other components of appreciation.

Appreciation involves, as I indicated in the introduction, "getting the value out of" something. It thus involves interacting with an external object, a verbal text, and it entails doing something successfully. What one does successfully, however, is not to produce a product or end result; one performs an activity successfully. Part of the essence of this activity is that it is temporally extended, in that it involves responding to sequentially presented portions of text. To appreciate fiction is to exercise abilities: the concept of ability is the ontological . . .

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