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Reviewed Work(s): Collected Papers on Aesthetics by Cyril Barrett

Review by: Monroe C. Beardsley
Source: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Autumn, 1967), pp.
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/429267
Accessed: 14-09-2016 09:48 UTC

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concede. It is also free from doctrinal inhibi-

law of the land. Terpsichophobi
tions, true to facts and sympathetic to Apol-like involuntary humor; still, "a
linaire himself which attests her good taste. Her not yet come to all people; c
presumptions are all in favor of modern art. and the Church," The Lutheran
MAX RIESER 2 (May 1959).

Upsala College

COLE, ARTHUR C. The Puritan and Fair Terp-

sichore. Brooklyn, Dance Horizons, 1966, pp. BARRETT,
S. J., ed. S.
J., ed. Papers
34, $1.25. Aesthetics. Oxford, Blackwell, 1965, pp. xvi
Originally the presidential address at the annual + 198, 25s.
meeting of the Mississippi Valley Historical In 1954, William Elton edited Aesthetics and
Association in Lexington, Ky., 1942, published Language, a collection of ten essays offered as
in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, "models of analytical procedure in aesthetics"-
Vol. XXIX, No. 1, June 1942, the article is here illustrating the potentialities and, so to speak,
reprinted as a booklet by the Horizons Press pioneering achievements of linguistic philosophy
which specializes in paperbacks on the dance. in aesthetics. The mood was hopeful but some-
The author has collected a telling amount of what defensive, and, on the whole, the contents
material from manners and mores books, re- perhaps suggested that the enterprise of analyti-
ligious and teaching tracts, newspapers, private cal aesthetics was still in its first youth. Now,
correspondences and pronouncements of preach- taking up where Elton left off, Father Barrett
ers (e.g., Lyman and Henry Ward Beecher, In- has assembled another collection of ten essays
crease and Cotton Mather), poets (Samuel (all originally published in the years 1954-64)
Woodworth, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), as a further exemplification of what has been
national and university presidents, and many done by analytical aestheticians. The tone is
eloquent journalists of the late seventeenth, considerably more confident and optimistic, just
eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries thatas the essays themselves are mostly quite solid
show how ballroom dancing, having had an achievements, evidence of progress indeed. De-
early start in New England, became non grata spite one or two sour notes-e.g., "the suspicion
under Puritan and Revivalist influence. that aesthetics is not nonsense is often justified"
Among the reasons brought forth against it (W. E. Kennick)-the chorus is full, not of con-
were that, associated as it was with idle amuse- cordant harmony, but of apt and ingenious
ments like card playing, gambling, drinking, counterpoint. As a sample of recent work, these
smoking, the theater, and even shaving, it "tendsessays are well selected and well worth making
toward immorality" and makes for "dangerous available in this form.
associations." Increase Mather, taking verbal Reprinting an essay exposes it to double
flight from the mere term "mixt" dancing, re-jeopardy, but if it deserves to be reprinted,
ferred to it in safe clinico-theological Greek then it deserves to be reconsidered. Some of
as the "gynecandrical" dance. One cleric, brav- these essays have indeed already been reprinted
ing the scriptural text (Ecclesiastes), "there is a more than once. Since I have had previous op-
time to dance," explained that that time had not portunities to remark on a number of them, I
yet arrived. Protagonists argued that dancing is will restrain myself from succumbing to the
"an innocent sport of life," vastly superior to provocativeness which is so admirable a feature
riding, swimming, boxing, and bowling, and of the collection. But I should give some idea of
that far from "exposing health" as the adver- the main topics dealt with, and in the case of
saries claimed, it promotes health, especially one of the topics, make a few comments-with-
circulation. With a philosophical flair, the di- out wishing to suggest that other papers are less
vine James Fordyce defined dancing as "the deserving of a response.
harmony of motion rendered more palpable." Four main topics are considered:
A craving for refined social entertainment and (1) The generality of critical reasoning. W. E.
some old-world elegance eventually won out Kennick leads off the book with his vigorous
over the scruples of Puritanism. attack on the view that there can be general cri-
Cole limited his study to the officially Puritan teria for judging art-a view which is one of the
denominations, not mentioning, for instance, two "mistakes" referred to in his titular ques-
the Lutheran groups which assumed the same tion, "Does Traditional Aesthetics Rest on a
attitudes toward the dance where these were the Mistake?" Ruby Meager's essay on "The

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Reviews 145

Uniqueness of a Work of Art" argues that the"Emotions and Emotional Qualities," is con-
principles by which we individuate works of cerned with the attribution of qualities and ef-
art preclude the application to them of uni- fects to works of art; though he holds that
versalizable evaluations, though she proposes much talk about emotions in art is most sensi-
that we can nevertheless give reasons for our bly construed as description of "emotional
evaluations by a "paradigm-case method" which qualities" ("The music is somber"), he also
exhibits "ostensive general principles of evalua- argues that "highly particularized (and aes-
tion." In her essay on "Particular Works of thetically relevant) feelings" do occur in aes-
Art," Jeanne Wacker's concept of a work of thetic experience.
art, or more specifically a visual work of art, as Sibley's paper has, of course, opened up some
a particular sort of "look"-a type, rather than very promising and interesting lines of thought,
a token-created by the artist, is somewhat simi-which Sibley himself and others (notably Isabel
lar to Meager's. But she does not believe that Hungerland) have pursued. A number of the
this view makes it hopeless to seek for "inter-issues here are still subject to dispute: how aes-
esting philosophical generalizations." Morris thetic qualities are to be distinguished from
Weitz, in his "Reasons in Criticism," denies that others, whether attributions of them are in
there are necessary or sufficient conditions ofsome respects subjective or relative, what rela-
"dramatic greatness" in plays, but allows that tionship they have to aesthetic value. These
the critic can give reasons. His criterion of a issues are connected with others that have been
good critical reason is "unchallengeability": under serious discussion: for example, the
that the question why it is relevant "cannot be question (discussed by Virgil Aldrich and George
intelligibly asked." Dickie) whether there is a peculiar aesthetic
What is suggested by a rereading of these attitude or way of perceiving. I believe this
essays (and a recollection of the seminal Stuart whole area of inquiry is far from having been
Hampshire essay on "Logic and Criticism" which fully exploited, and will prove fertile.
is acknowledged by the first three essays above) (3) Cognitive aspects of literature. Margaret
is that the basic problem of the nature and Macdonald's essay "The Language of Fiction,"
justification of critical reasoning is still in need develops her view that "a work of fiction is a
of analysis and discussion. There is a strong creative performance," in which language is
hunch here (and in more recent essays) that used in a special way, not to be confused with
reasons for critical evaluations must somehow reporting or informing. Her proposal has re-
be radically different-in the role they play, in mained a basis for most subsequent work on
their lack of universalizability, in their unchal- the logic of fictional sentences. Arnold Isen-
lengeability, or in some other way-from rea- berg's essay, "The Problem of Belief," argues
sons for any other kind of normative statement. for "the possibility of dispensing with the con-
Perhaps this hunch is right, though it seems to cept of belief in the aesthetics of poetry." The
me that investigations made so far have failed to points he makes, and the examples he gives, still
establish its truth. The question is still to be constitute one of the best cases for the irrele-
filed under Unfinished Business. vance of truth-value to literary value. Both of
(2) The description of works of art. Frank these papers are, of course, widely known.
Sibley's paper, "Aesthetic Concepts," proposes (4) Intention and the interpretation of litera-
to distinguish a special class of aesthetic con- ture. It is interesting to observe how the progress
cepts, requiring "taste or sensitivity" to dis- of ordinary language philosophy and the in-
criminate. Though the corresponding terms creasing sophistication of work in the philoso-
("unified," "delicate") are not restricted to phy of mind have led to a reconsideration of the
works of art, they are of peculiar relevance to old questions about the intention of the author
the critic faced with the task of describing and its relevance to the correctness of literary
works of art, especially since they often have a interpretation and evaluation. Theodore Red-
direct bearing upon his evaluations. Sibley's path's essay, "The Meaning of a Poem," pro-
well-known argument is that such concepts "are poses to define the meaning of a poem as "a
not and cannot be condition- or rule-governed. class of similar experiences" which the words
Not to be so governed is one of their essential of the poem "ought to evoke." He attacks the
characteristics"-though he does not deny that earlier claims by Wimsatt and Beardsley, in
they have conditions of another sort, as when "The Intentional Fallacy," that what the au-
we say that the lack of balance in a painting thor meant is not accessible as a standard of in-
results from, is due to, or is produced by the terpretation, and he ends by holding that in
highlighting of the figures on the left (Sibley's some cases, but not in all, we should "attach
example). Ronald Hepburn, in his essay on importance in determining what is the meaning

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of aa poem,
by it."
by There
it." There
Edmund Wilson replies that Kipling was only
is no rule about this; it is a "matter for aes- trying to present the soldier's life as he found
thetic decision." it, and intended no moral approval of the
Dr. F. Cioffi begins his essay on "Intention British army's way with "niggers." "How is this
and Interpretation in Criticism" with a long issue to be decided?" asks Cioffi-"By an appeal
and interesting list of specific literary interpre- to the text? Isn't it rather our sense of Kipling
tation-questions and of intentionalistic state- which will determine the side we come down on?
ments that might plausibly be thought to be A sense built up not only from the other tales
relevant to answering such questions. Having but from his autobiography and other sources as
greeted the anti-intentionalist with this salvo, well?" But what is the issue to be decided?
he then proceeds to examine at length, and to Cioffi, as usual, simply conflates the two issue
reject emphatically, the "meta-criticaI dogma which we had been at such pains to disentangle.
to the effect that there exists an operation vari- Kingsmill was talking about Kipling's personal
ously known as analysing or explicating or ap- views; this issue is indeed a biographical one,
pealing to the text and that criticism should and it is hardly surprising that biographical
confine itself to this, in particular eschewing evidence is required to settle it. The critical
biographical inquiries." The tone is somewhat issue is how we are to interpret the lines in the
supercilious and condescending, but some inter- poem. Obviously we do not need to know any-
esting and important issues are raised-though thing about Kipling's personal views to discover
in my opinion some of the most striking ap- that the sentiment expressed in the lines is
peals to concrete examples are beside the point. brutal.
I am not sure I am justified in ending this A good deal of highly specific discussion
review on a disputatious note, but since Cioffi's would be needed to determine the ultimate
essay is as yet one of the least-discussed of those cogency of Cioffi's argument. But it is impor-
in the volume, and since it deals in a challeng- tant not to lose sight of his main thesis: that
ing way with some matters that have long been interpretations of literature are not hypotheses
of particular interest to me, perhaps I may be to be supported by evidence. "You don't show
allowed to raise a few questions, without under- that a response to a work of literature is inade-
taking the kind of broad-scale discussion that it quate or inappropriate in the way that you
richly deserves. show that the conclusion of an argument has
I would like to illustrate the mode of argu- been wrongly drawn." This is a striking thesis,
ment by selecting two examples from many. and it would be most interesting to know what
First, Wimsatt and I once argued that the ques- good reasons could be given for it.
tion whether Eliot is alluding to Marvell in MONROE C. BEARDSLEY

certain lines is irrelevant to the question whetherSwarthmore College

the speaker is alluding to Marvell. Cioffi says
that if our interpretation of the lines as allusive
is not based on the assumption that Eliot in-
tended the allusion, then he doubts that our ELTON, WILLIAM R. King Lear and the Gods.
appreciation of the lines, in so far as it depends San Marino, Calif., The Huntington Library,
on recognizing the allusion, would survive the 1966, pp. 369, $8.50.
discovery that Eliot did not have that intention. William Elton's King Lear and the Gods is an
In this way, "biographical remarks ... can serve essay in historical criticism. Proposing to recon-
the eliminative function of showing that cer- struct the intellectual and religious setting in
tain interpretations of a work are based on which Shakespeare must have worked and with
mistaken beliefs about the author's state of which his first audiences may have been familiar,
knowledge." Notice the shift of ground. IfElton follows the line of historical inquiry so
the in-
terpretation was based on the biographical ablyas-
described by Madeleine Doran in The En-
sumption about Eliot, then of course the deavors nega- of Art. His scope is narrower and he
tive biographical discovery will sink it; but if works with extraordinary precision and disci-
the original interpretation was not based on any pline, managing to accomplish a good deal
assumption about Eliot's intentions, then how more than he claims. From his stated purpose,
can any biographical discovery about Eliot take "to examine the relevance to King Lear of the
away its basis? popular modern theory of Christian optimism,"
A very characteristic example is a pair of one might almost infer that he is about to lock
lines from Kipling's "Loot." Hugh Kingsmill horns with Norman Vincent Peale. If his inten-
says they exemplify Kipling's brutality. To which tion were merely to question the relevance of

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