Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life

Article excerpt

Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life. By Frank Burch Brown. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. xx + 312 pp. $39.95 (cloth).

Anyone familiar with discussions of "taste" and its disputability will find this book uncommonly interesting. Readers interested in relations between art and religion, and specifically in the persistent lovers' quarrel between Christian theology and works of human imagination, will find these pages provocative and stimulating. Along the way we encounter a wide range of figures in the history of aesthetic theory and religious reflection, with Blake, Kierkegaard, Kant, and especially St. Augustine, as dominant voices.

How shall we love both holiness and beauty, both God and art? This question is at the heart of Burch Brown's inquiry. Beginning with an insightful critical tour of theories of art and aesthetics with attention to Romanticism, the book is indebted to, but always moving beyond, various "purist" views. Succinct summaries abound: "As a special form of expression or as a special use of language, art offers something like a semblance of lived experience, or the world imagined freshly and uniquely by means of fictions and sensuously embodied ideas: organic wholes whose meanings are felt more than thought" (p. 83). This can be said of both strict and moderate purists. His summaries are often wittily expressed. Thus, any theory of art that leaves out the possibility for connection with life, moral and religious, is "too pure for its own good" (p. 86).

An impressive range of examples from nearly all the arts may be found here: opera, painting, architecture, fiction, and poetry, and above all, music. …

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