On Aesthetic and Historical Determination

Rodolphe Gasché

in The Stelliferous Fold

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234349
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241279 | DOI:
On Aesthetic and Historical Determination

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A conference entitled Post-Structuralism and the Question of History in 1983, initiated by the Department of English at Southampton University in association with The Oxford Literary Review, was the occasion for writing On Aesthetic and Historical Determination. By focusing on the central category of determination (determinatio, Bestimmung), which has informed discourses of both aesthetics and history since their simultaneous emergence in the eighteenth century, this chapter makes the point that the prevalent opposition between historical and aesthetic literary criticism is basically a false problem. Indeed, because of the twofold meaning of the core concept of determination—definition and destination—the difference between the realm of aesthetics and that of history is only one between the objects of these disciplines, that is, artfully wrought objects: respectively, singular objects of nature that are beautiful or historical occurrences and facts. By contrast, the conceptual grid to account for both is essentially the same.

Keywords: post-structuralism; The Oxford Literary Review; aesthetic literary criticism; determination; aesthetics

Chapter.  8853 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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