The Aesthetic Experience of the Literary Artwork: A Matter of Form and Content?
Ever since the introduction of aesthetics in philosophy, the literary arts have posed a challenge to common notions of aesthetic experience. In this paper, I will focus on the problems that arise when a formalist approach to aesthetics is confronted with literature. My main target is Peter Kivy's ‘essay in literary aesthetics’ Once-Told Tales, in which Kivy defends formalism and concludes from this approach that literature is a non-aesthetic art form. Contrary to Kivy, I will claim that we have good reasons to consider literature an aesthetic art form and, therefore, that the literary arts naturally pose a challenge to formalism. By showing the inextricable intertwining of form and content in literary artworks, I will demonstrate that the identification of so-called aesthetic properties with purely formal properties of a literary artwork is problematic.
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