A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManLiterature

Theory of Aesthetics in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

5 Mins read

Stephen’s aesthetic idea is unraveled and developed while he and Lynch wander round campus, speaking and smoking.  The sources of the idea are predicted earlier, when Stephen tells the dean: “For my purpose I can work on at present by the light of one or two ideas of Aristotle and Aquinas.” Stephen reveals that he aims to make use of the 2 philosophers as a base for his personal thought.  Later, with Lynch, Stephen begins by claiming that pity and terror haven’t been outlined by Aristotle, for whom these feelings are integral elements of tragedy.  Stephen defines pity as the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the human sufferer” and terror as “the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the secret cause.  In different words, the observer feels pity when introduced with struggling which relates him to the sufferer, and he experiences terror when he pertains to the reason for struggling.  Moreover, Stephen points out that tragic feelings should be invoked by “whatsoever is constant and grave in human sufferings”. 

For Stephen, pity and terror are the essence of “proper art” because they’re what he phrases “static” feelings.  Static feelings are contrasted with what he phrases “kinetic” feelings: “The feelings excited by the improper art are kinetic, desire or loathing.”  Desire and loathing encourage movement towards or movement away from an object; once we need, we go towards, and once we detest, we move away.  Such feelings are caused by the “pornographical or didactic” arts that are improper because they encourage a physical, instinctual, self-aware, response.  Stephen is, after the kind of art wherein the physical and petty self is transcended for the sake of the considerate self.  Upon reaching stasis, the observer is lifted out of himself and stays suspended in a form of trance:

Read About: Stream of Consciousness in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

This spell is ultimately broken by the “rhythm of beauty… rhythm is the first formal esthetic relation of part to part in any esthetic whole or of an esthetic whole to its part or parts or of any part to the esthetic whole of which it is a part.” 

Lynch, nonetheless, is unhappy with this clarification, and calls for to know simply what beauty is.  Stephen returns as soon as once more to the notion that the aesthetic experience is static and cognitive, evaluating the apprehension of magnificence to the apprehension of reality: “…the true and the beautiful are akin.  Truth is beheld by the intellect which is appeased by the most satisfying relations of the intelligible: beauty is beheld by the imagination which is appeased by the most satisfying relations of the sensible.”  We understand that it’s inside these “satisfying relations” that beauty dwells. The various, whereby Stephen begins to outline beauty itself, consists of discovering “certain relations which satisfy and coincide with the stages themselves of all aesthetic apprehension.  These relations of the sensible, visible to you through one form and to me through another, must be therefore the necessary qualities of beauty.”  The apprehension of “relations of the sensible” is what the rhythm of beauty consists of.

Aquinas’ three conditions for magnificence, as translated by Stephen, are wholeness, harmony, and radiance, and these conditions correspond to the three steps of aesthetic apprehension.  To reveal, Stephen asks Lynch to have a look at a basket.  Stephen tells him that as a way to see the basket, one’s thoughts “first of all separates the basket from the rest of the visible universe which is not the basket… the aesthetic image is first brightly arrested as self-bounded and self-contained upon the vast background of space or time which is not it.”  In different words, in perceiving, the perceiver selects the aesthetic object and differentiate it from the remainder of the world as separate and complete in itself.  This stage of apprehension corresponds to Aquinas’ first requirement of wholeness.  Simple sufficient. Second, one’s mind perceives the aesthetic object “as balanced part against part within its limits; you feel the rhythm of its structure… You apprehend it as complex, multiple, divisible, separable… harmonious.” The perceiver analyses the separate components of the aesthetic object and concludes that they’re balanced, symmetrical, and congruent with each other.  This second stage of apprehension corresponds to Aquinas’ second requirement of harmony. Stephen has the perceiver begin at a synthesis whereby the aesthetic object is apprehended fully, then transfer to an evaluation of its constituent components. 

Read About: Analyzing Jorge Luis Borges

The last stage of apprehension will not be fairly as simple.  Stephen dismisses the notion that, by “radiance,” Aquinas may have meant a Platonic idealism whereby the aesthetic object is gorgeous because it’s a shadowy imitation of the transcendent reality: “Aquinas uses a term which… would lead you to believe that he had in mind symbolism or idealism, the supreme quality of beauty being a light from some other world, the idea of which the matter is but the shadow, the reality of which  it is but the symbol… But that is literary talk.”  For Stephen, the aesthetic experience is feasible solely right here, on Earth, and the aesthetic object needn’t rely upon a transcendent realm to be legitimately stunning.  Radiance is contained throughout the object, not beyond it, and is approached with the understanding that it “is that factor which it’s and no different thing.  The radiance… is the scholastic quidditas, the whatness of a thing.”  Quidditas, or quiddity, is the very essence, or nature, of a thing.  Consequently, the essence of an aesthetic object is that which supplies it its radiance.  The third and closing stage of aesthetic apprehension is the static, still, moment of revelation when the essence of an aesthetic object is beheld. We see its very heart, however this sight should be reached solely after perceiving its wholeness and the relations of its components: “When you have apprehended that basket as one thing and have then analysed it according to its form and apprehended it as a thing you make the only synthesis which is logically and aesthetically permissible”.

Finally, Stephen describes beauty as it’s understood “within the marketplace,” where the picture of the aesthetic object is “set between the mind or senses of the artist himself and the mind or senses of others.” Here, Stephen makes the delineation between any perceiver of beauty, and the artist.  The artist, who presumably exists “in the marketplace” because he’s a producer, should re-create the tripartite aesthetic experience for the viewers.  This re-creation can take three attainable kinds: the lyrical form, the shape wherein the artist presents his picture in immediate relation to himself; the epical type, the shape whereby he presents his picture in mediate relation to himself and to others; the dramatic type, the shape whereby he presents his picture in immediate relation to others.”  The lyrical type of art is solely an expression of individual, personal experience, or “the simplest verbal vesture of an instant of emotion.”  The epical type of art expands upon the lyrical; after important reflection upon himself as the center of an occasion, the artist distances himself from the occasion such that its “emotional gravity is equidistant from the artist himself and from others” and the viewers, too, could also be emotionally affected by it.  The dramatic type of art is achieved when the vitality of the artist grants every fictional character a life of their very own till “the personality of the artist… finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalizes itself… The mystery of aesthetic like that of material creation is accomplished.” In different words, the artist assumes a godlike function, who finally turns into and stays indifferent from his creation. 

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