Immagini della pagina




THESE relations between intuitive or æsthetic knowledge and the other fundamental or derivative forms of knowledge having been definitely established, we are now in a position to reveal the errors of a series of theories which

have been, or are, presented as theories of Æsthetic. Criticism of

From the confusion between the demands of art in probability and general and the particular demands of history has resulted of naturalism.

the theory (which has lost ground to-day, but was once dominant) of the probable as the object of art. As is generally the case with erroneous propositions, the meaning of those who employed and employ the concept of probability has no doubt often been much more reasonable than their definition of the word. By probability used really to be meant the artistic coherence of the representation, that is to say, its completeness and effectiveness, its actual presence. If "probable" be translated “coherent," a very just meaning will often be found in the discussions, examples, and judgements of the critics who employ this word. An improbable personage, an improbable ending to a comedy, are really badly-drawn personages, badly-arranged endings, happenings without artistic motive. It has been said with reason that even fairies and sprites must have probability, that is to say, be really sprites and fairies, coherent artistic intuitions. Sometimes the word “ possible” has been used instead of “probable.” As we have already remarked in passing, this word possible is

synonymous with the imaginable or intuitible. Everything truly, that is to say coherently, imagined, is possible. But also, by a good many critics and theorists, the probable was taken to mean the historically credible, or that historical truth which is not demonstrable but conjecturable, not true but probable. This was the character which these theorists sought to impose upon art. Who does not remember how great a part was played in literary history by criticism based on probability, for example, censure of Jerusalem Delivered, based upon the history of the Crusades, or of the Homeric poems, upon the probable customs of emperors and kings ? Sometimes too the æsthetic reproduction of historical reality has been imposed upon art. This is another of the erroneous forms taken by the theory of the imitation of nature. Verism and naturalism also have afforded the spectacle of a confusion of the æsthetic fact with the processes of the natural sciences, by aiming at some sort of experimental drama or romance.

Confusions between the methods of art and those Criticism of of the philosophic sciences have been far more frequent. ideas in art, Thus it has often been held to be the task of art to expound and of the

typical. concepts, to unite an intelligible with a sensible, to represent ideas or universals ; putting art in the place of science, that is, confusing the artistic function in general with the particular case in which it becomes æsthetico-logical.

The theory of art as supporting theses, of art considered as an individual representation exemplifying scientific laws, can be proved false in like manner. The example, as example, stands for the thing exemplified, and is thus an exposition of the universal, that is to say, a form of science, more or less popular or vulgarizing.

The same may be said of the æsthetic theory of the typical, when by type is understood, as it frequently is, the abstraction or the concept, and it is affirmed that art should make the species shine in the individual. If individual be here understood by typical, we have here too a merely verbal variation. To typify would signify, in this case, to characterize ; that is, to determine and


to represent the individual. Don Quixote is a type ; but of what is he a type, save of all Don Quixotes ? A type, so to speak, of himself. Certainly he is not a type of abstract concepts, such as the loss of the sense of reality, or of the love of glory. An infinite number of personages can be thought of under these concepts, who are not Don Quixotes. In other words, we find our own impressions fully determined and realized in the expression of a poet (for example in a poetical personage). We call that expression typical, which we might call simply æsthetic. Thus poetical or artistic universals have sometimes been spoken of, only to show that the artistic product is

altogether spiritual and ideal. Criticism of Continuing to correct these errors, or to clear up misthe symbol and understandings, we shall also remark that the symbol has

sometimes been given as the essence of art. Now, if the
symbol be conceived as inseparable from the artistic
intuition, it is a synonym for the intuition itself, which
always has an ideal character. There is no double
bottom to art, but one only. in art all is symbolical,
because all is ideal. But if the symbol be conceived as
separable—if the symbol can be on one side, and on the
other the thing symbolized, we fall back again into the
intellectualist error: the so-called symbol is the ex
position of an abstract concept, an allegory; it is science,
or art aping-science. But we must also be just toward
the allegorical. Sometimes it is altogether harmless.
Given the Gerusalemme liberata, the allegory was imagined
afterwards; given the Adone of Marino, the poet of the
lascivious afterwards insinuated that it was written to
show how “immoderate indulgence ends in pain

; given a statue of a beautiful woman, the sculptor can attach a label to the statue saying that it represents Clemency or Goodness. This allegory that arrives attached to a finished work post festum does not change the work of art. What then is it? It is an expression externally added to another expression. A little page of prose is added to the Gerusalemme, expressing another thought of the poet ; a verse or a strophe is added to the Adone,

expressing what the poet would like to make a part of his public believe ; to the statue nothing but the single word : Clemency or Goodness.

But the greatest triumph of the intellectualist error Criticism of lies in the theory of artistic and literary kinds, which the theory of still has vogue in literary treatises and disturbs the critics literary kinds. and the historians of art. Let us observe its genesis.

The human mind can pass from the æsthetic to the logical, just because the former is a first step in respect to the latter. It can destroy expression, that is, the thought of the individual, by thinking of the universal. It can gather up expressive facts into logical relations. We have already shown that this operation becomes in its turn concrete in an expression, but this does not mean that the first expressions have not been destroyed. They have yielded their place to the new æsthetico-logical expressions. When we are on the second step, we have left the first.

One who enters a picture-gallery, or who reads a series of poems, having looked and read, may go further : he may seek out the nature and the relations of the things there expressed. Thus those pictures and compositions, each of which is an individual inexpressible in logical terms, are gradually resolved into universals and abstractions, such as costumes, landscapes, portraits, domestic life, battles, animals, flowers, fruit, seascapes, lakes, deserts ; tragic, comic, pathetic, cruel, lyrical, epic, dramatic, chivalrous, idyllic facts, and the like. They are often also resolved into merely quantitative categories, such as miniature, picture, statuette, group, madrigal, ballad, sonnet, sonnetsequence, poetry, poem, story, romance, and the like.

When we think the concept domestic life, or chivalry, or idyll, or cruelty, or one of the quantitative concepts mentioned above, the individual expressive fact from which we started has been abandoned. From æsthetes that we were, we have changed into logicians; from contemplators of expression, into reasoners. Certainly no objection can be made to such a process. In what other way could science arise, which, if it have æsthetic expressions

presupposed in it, must yet go beyond them in order to fulfil its function ? The Togical or scientific-form, as suteh, excludes the æsthetic form. He who begins to think scientifically has already ceased to contemplate æsthetically ; although his thought assumes of necessity in its turn an æsthetic form, as has already been said, and as it would be superfluous to repeat.

Error begins when we try to deduce the expression from the concept, and to find in what takes its place the laws of the thing whose place is taken; when the difference between the second and the first step has not been observed, and when, in consequence, we declare that we are standing on the first step, when we are really standing on the second. This error is known as the theory of artistic and literary kinds.

“What is the æsthetic form of domestic life, of chivalry, of the idyll, of cruelty, and so forth ? How should these contents be represented ? Such is the absurd problem implied in the theory of artistic and literary classes, when it has been shorn of excrescences and reduced to a simple formula. It is in this that consists all search after laws or rules of classes. Domestic life, chivalry, idyll, cruelty and the like, are not impressions, but concepts. They are not contents, but logical-æsthetic forms. You cannot express the form, for it is already itself expression. For what are the words cruelty, idyll, chivalry, domestic life, and so on, but the expression of those concepts ?

Even the most refined of such distinctions, which possess the most philosophic appearance, do not resist criticism ; as when works of art are divided into subjective and objective kinds, into lyric and epic, into works of feeling and decorative works. In æsthetic analysis it is impossible to separate subjective from objective, lyric

from epic, the image of feeling from that of things. Errors derived

From the theory of artistic and literary kinds derive from this theory those erroneous modes of judgement and of criticism, in judgements on art.

thanks to which, instead of asking before a work of art if it be expressive and what it expresses, whether it speak

« IndietroContinua »