Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What is aestheticism?

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In our continuing Literature Terminology Series, we address aestheticism.

Aestheticism was an approach to life based on the philosophy of 'art for art's sake'. It emphasised the importance of art above everything else and the pleasure to be found in beautiful things. 

Aestheticism was born out of the essay, ‘The Poetic Principle’, by Edgar Allen Poe. He believed writing poems simply for the poem’s sake was not lacking in nobility or dignity. Later, Théophile Gautier, a French author, picked up Poe’s idea, and coined the slogan, ‘Art for Art’s sake’(the English translation of l'art pour l'art), in defiance of those who advocated that true art had a moral purpose. 

It was a lifestyle among poets, and literary giants like Oscar Wilde who revered in its free spirit in morally repressive and scandalous Victorian England.

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