Art for Art's Sake & Literary Life: How Politics and Markets Helped Shape the Ideology & Culture of Aestheticism, 1790-1990


Art for Art's Sake and Literary Life is a dynamic history of literary aestheticism from the eighteenth century to academic deconstruction in our own time. Gene H. Bell-Villada examines an enormous range of writings by critics, philosophers, and writers from Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Uniting all is his conviction that "there are concrete social, economic, political, and cultural reasons for the emergence, growth, diffusion, and triumph of l'art pour l'art over the past two centuries". Bell-Villada begins by considering how such thinkers as Shaftesbury, Kant, and Schiller described beauty as a phenomenon to be weighed not in isolation from other aspects of our existence but as part of our general development as human beings. He recounts how the original vision of Kant and Schiller was simplified and debased within new cultural, political, and economic contexts, leading to the "aesthetic separatism" promoted by lyric poets in France. Bell-Villada then examines how the ideology ofArt for Art's Sake took on new forms in Europe and the Americas, culminating in present-day versions associated with the academicization (and ever greater marginalization) of literature. Artfully combining an exceptional amount of learning with a sharp polemical focus, Art for Art's Sake and Literary Life will appeal to a wide range of scholars and general readers for whom literature, aesthetics, and the relations of culture and society are vitally important matters.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Lincoln, NE
Publication year:
  • 1996


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