Thursday, April 30, 2009


Apparently one of my high-frequency cluster of lexemes is something that goes like this: 'beauty/aesthetics is never inconsequential.'
As it is the case more often than not, we tend to repeat that which we consider the most and spend much time masticating. Philosophically, the study of aesthetics is as fecund as it could be. But philosophy is not the only discipline where aesthetics enters with a splash. It is also a permanent inhabitant of literature, religion and so forth.

I just recorded two new episodes for both of my podcast series, Gendering the Media and De Amore and in both episodes I mention the concept of beauty from a philosophical as well as literary perspective. Obviously, our understanding of and attitudes towards beauty and aesthetics have shifted dramatically from the times of the Greeks, Romans, St. Augustine, Early Christianity and so on.

In earlier times, aesthetic beauty was code for inner goodness. The more beautiful a person, the better the soul/nature of that person. In this regard, the form was, in many ways, that which clarified the weight/importance of content.

Might I recommend this article from the Times which appears on today's issue?

A paragraph says:

"Are models perhaps the last silent film stars? A preview of “The Model as Muse” suggests they are. A model’s face on a magazine cover may sell fewer issues than that of the latest hot actress, but they are ultimately a lot more compelling to look at and this is because we hardly ever have to hear about their private lives or be burdened with their thoughts.

It cannot be accidental that Kate Moss, the most persuasive contemporary example of a model as an artistic catalyst, has assiduously guarded what she says throughout her career. Ms. Moss is no dummy. She knows that the basic requirement of her particular job is silence. A model is a muse to the precise extent that a model is mute."

Yes, a shift has definitely occurred but one thing is certain: aesthetics is so consequential.

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Becca said...

I don't know about you, but I am quite amused by the Kate Moss - Kriemhild/Brunhild juxtaposition.
Kate Moss-like beauty wouldn't have quite sufficed in earlier Germanic times. :)
Interesting article.

Sra said...

I sort of wish our aesthetic proclivities today were more in line with Greek/Renaissance times, where curvaceous and rotund Venus was the epitome of beauty. (You know, instead of all those stick girls who don't eat and have the body of a 12-yr old boy to show for it.) Then we mere mortals might fit in a little better and have a better image of ourselves besides.

James said...

Corpulence as a marker of beauty wasn't really a point of discussion in the very beginning. Obviously, the more one had, the more one ate. And the more one ate, the more corpulent one was. Displaying one's wealth was, of course, a sign of beauty.

Unknown said...

Modern depictions of beauty do bother me. Especially, as it said in the article re: Kate Moss, she knows that the way to monetize on her beauty is to keep silent.
Say what?!
Is that what women's movement taught us?

Anonymous said...

Things have def. shifted in modernity. Beautiful people are good people?

As a friend of mine puts it, beautiful people don't have to try hard to be nice. They're beautiful, so they can just be.

B.R. said...

As I discuss on my videocasts which will be up and running today both on iTunes and here on HetPer, notions of beauty and aesthetics have shifted from the past no only with regards to what we regard as beautiful but also what the text of the beautiful entails. There used to be a self-reflection re: form and content, i.e., beautiful people were also 'good' people. That shift has already taken place. In modernity, most people don't necessarily associate the 'good' with the beautiful. At times, they do, but not necesarily when leafing through a magazine. When we look at Anna Wintour's Vogue and look at the models, we don't always say, 'Aw, that Kate, or that Giselle is so good.'
Teh good/beautiful divorce, at least, philosophically started to happen with the work of Alexander Baumgarten. It then took full effect with Emmanuel Kant's work in the Critique of the Beauritul.
I reference these in today's videocast which will be up and running later today.
-Right, the rotund Venus depictions are not 'now' or 'in.' The Twiggy, almost asexual depictions of femininity are interestingly popular. Andy Warhol's art definitely contributed to the elevation of that standard, I think.
Might I refer to my videocast on De gustibum non est disputandum here...?
Thanks for the helpful insights.