Cover image for In defense of humanism : value in the arts and letters
In defense of humanism : value in the arts and letters
Etlin, Richard A.
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Publication Information:
New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Physical Description:
xx, 283 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
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Material Type
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NX650.H8 E84 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This book offers a response to the critique of traditional humanism, and particularly its cultural dimension, that has been at the heart of intellectual discourse of the past decade. In simple, clear language, Richard Etlin articulates the nature of aesthetic experience through analysis of works in a wide variety of media, including painting, sculpture, architecture, drawing, literature and dance. Establishing categories for determining value in the arts and letters, Etlin also explores the operations of the creative process in a discussion of artistic genius, reaffirming the transcendent moral and enduring qualities in great works of art. Etlin offers, moreover, a critique of the fundamental premises of the post-structuralist thinkers, including Jacques Derrida, Stanley Fish, Hayden White, Pierre Bourdieu, and Edward W. Said, whose work is placed within the context of modern intellectual history.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This book is marked by a refreshing clarity of style and a remarkably wide range of reference. Etlin (architecture, Univ. of Maryland) argues for the importance of determining the value of artistic works, for only truly great works of art can provide a source of moral inspiration. Unfortunately, Etlin seems to be preaching to the converted. He moves so quickly through the thinkers he critiques that only those readers who already agree with him will be convinced. Indeed, a dizzying array of critical movements are blended into the kind of stew one usually sees only in journalistic accounts of cultural criticism. One is left wishing that Etlin had simply argued for humanism--which, in fact, probably still defines the basic assumptions of the average consumer of culture--instead of wildly bashing critics for whom he obviously has little sympathy. Graduate; faculty. S. Barnett Central Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Part I Defining value
1 Aesthetic value
2 Creativity and Genius
Part II Defending value
3 Pascal's reason
4 Nietzsche's error
Postscript: the parameters of culture