The Dehumanization of Art: And Other Essays on Art, Culture, and Literature

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Princeton University Press, 1968 - 204 pagine
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No work of Spanish philosopher and essayist Josť Ortega y Gasset has been more frequently cited, admired, or criticized than his defense of modernism, "The Dehumanization of Art." In the essay, originally published in Spanish in 1925, Ortega grappled philosophically with the newness of nonrepresentational art and sought to make it more understandable to a public confused by it. Many embraced the essay as a manifesto extolling the virtues of vanguard artists and promoting their efforts to abandon the realism and the romanticism of the nineteenth century.


The "dehumanization" of the title, which was meant descriptively rather than pejoratively, referred most literally to the absence of human forms in nonrepresentational art, but also to its insistent unpopularity, its indifference to the past, and its iconoclasm. Ortega championed what he saw as a new cultural politics with the goal of a total transformation of society.


Ortega was an immensely gifted writer in the best belletristic tradition. His work has been compared to an iceberg because it hides the critical mass of its erudition beneath the surface, and because it is deceptive, appearing to be more spontaneous and informal than it really is.


Princeton published the first English translation of the essay paired with another entitled "Notes on the Novel." Three essays were later added to make an expanded edition, published in 1968, under the title The Dehumanization of Art and Other Essays on Art, Culture and Literature .

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Informazioni sull'autore (1968)

Essayist and philosopher, a thinker influential in and out of the Spanish world, Jose Ortega y Gasset was professor of metaphysics at the University of Madrid from 1910 until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The Revolt of the Masses, his most famous work, owes much to post-Kantian schools of thought. Ortega's predominant thesis is the need of an intellectual aristocracy governing in a spirit of enlightened liberalism. Although Franco, after his victory in the civil war, offered to make Ortega Spain's "official philosopher" and to publish a deluxe edition of his works, with certain parts deleted, the philosopher refused. Instead, he chose the life of a voluntary exile in Argentina, and in 1941 he was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru. He returned to Spain in 1945 and died in Madrid. Ortega's reformulation of the Cartesian cogito displays the fulcrum of his thought. While Rene Descartes declared "Cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am), Ortega maintained "Cogito quia vivo" (I think because I live). He subordinated reason to life, to vitality. Reason becomes the tool of people existing biologically in a given time and place, rather than an overarching sovereign. Ortega's philosophy consequently discloses affinities in its metaphysics to both American pragmatism and European existentialism in spite of its elitism in social philosophy.

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