Modern art theory's dependence on psychology, the “science of the soul,” brought about one of the major trends in art criticism of the modern age. As we have seen, in earlier periods, when people tried to understand artistic creation and to judge works of art, they turned for enlightenment to the great cultural traditions and invoked the inherited models rather than concentrate on the description and analysis of what goes on in the artist's soul and mind. The orientation toward the psychological aspects of art also resulted in a certain shift in the subject matter of art theory. The increasing concern of twentieth-century criticism with the artist's personality, and with the spontaneity of the creative process, was one of the consequences of building art theory on psychological foundations.
A dominant representative of this trend was Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911). He was not primarily concerned with art theory, and the visual arts played only a marginal part in his rich intellectual world. Dilthey, one of the great humanistic scholars of the late nineteenth century, was remarkable for the scope of his profound learning even in his age, and for his analytical power. Best known for his studies of We ltanschauung (worldview), or Historisches Bewusstsein (historical consciousness), he was also concerned with literature and historical aesthetics. His contributions to “Poetics” had a formative effect on a great deal of art theory and criticism. In our comments we will concentrate on this aspect of his thoughts.
Erlebnis and Leben,“emotional experience” and “life,” were key concepts in Dilthey's general philosophy, especially in his aesthetics. It has been said, not without some justification, that in this doctrine he became the speaker of the irrational trend in later nineteenth-century thought,1 the movement in modern Europe that turned against the Enlightenment and its legacy. In a sophisticated way he also turned against Hegelian philosophy, although he was the biographer and interpreter of the young Hegel.2 Hegel, we recall, made Geist (Spirit or Reason) the ruler of the universe and the content of