The art of common sense: Victorian aestheticism and the rhetorical traditionShow full item record
|The art of common sense: Victorian aestheticism and the rhetorical tradition
|Agnew, Lois Peters
|Doctor of Philosophy
|The Victorian aesthetic movement generated a public discussion of art that offered a sense of shared values in the midst of social instability. The leaders of the aesthetic movement identified art as a concrete embodiment of the cultural ideal. Their critical writings about the importance of artistic production and appreciation demonstrate a wide range of opinions about how society can benefit from the visual and literary arts. Although Victorian aestheticism is essentially diverse, its advocates are generally united in their conviction that humans inherently possess the ability to appreciate art and that society benefits as individuals develop their critical judgment. The aesthetic movement's powerful arguments regarding the merit of art and criticism has led to the assumption that the principles of aestheticism are grounded in the study of literature as we know it today. This perspective on the aesthetic movement has limited our understanding of its philosophical underpinnings and has underestimated the power of the rhetorical tradition in shaping the evolving consciousness of Victorian society. Situating the aesthetic movement within the British rhetorical tradition simultaneously expands our insight into the aesthetic movement and sheds light on a missing chapter in the history of rhetoric. Although the disparate strains of aestheticism defy categorical statements about the essential purpose of the aesthetic movement in Britain, it coalesces around a series of powerful statements about the relationship among individual expression, artistic production and criticism, and society. These statements, issued for public deliberation in the speeches and writings of prominent figures such as Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, William Morris, E. S. Dallas, Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, Vernon Lee, and Oscar Wilde, reflect a unifying strain in the aesthetic movement¿an interrogation of the relationship between ethics and expression that is continuous with the rhetorical tradition. Examining the aesthetic movement within a broader historical and philosophical context illuminates its rhetorical foundation and demonstrates the strong relationship that existed among British rhetoric, literature, and the fine arts throughout the nineteenth century.
|Enos, Richard Leo
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- Doctoral Dissertations