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Aestheticism and Deconstruction

Pater, Derrida, and de Man

Jonathan Loesberg

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Englische Sprachwissenschaft / Literaturwissenschaft


Considered an exemplar of "Art-for-Art's Sake" in Victorian art and literature, Walter Pater (1839-1894) was co-opted as a standard bearer for the cult of hedonism by Oscar Wilde, and this version of aestheticism has since been used to attack deconstruction. Here Jonathan Loesberg boldly uses Pater's important work on society and culture, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873), to argue that the habitual dismissal of deconstruction as "aestheticist" fails to recognize the genuine philosophic point and political engagement within aestheticism. Reading Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man in light of Pater's Renaissance, Loesberg begins by accepting the charge that deconstruction is "aestheticist." He goes on to show, however, that aestheticism and modern deconstruction both produce philosophical knowledge and political effect through persistent self-questioning or "self-resistance" and in the internal critique and destabilization of hegemonic truths. Throughout Loesberg reinterprets Pater and reexamines the contributions of deconstruction in relation to the apparent theoretical shift away from deconstruction and toward new historicism.

Originally published in 1991.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Aesthetics, Romanticism, Agnosticism, Aesthetic interpretation, Historicism, Intentionality, Self-censorship, Pride, Raymond Geuss, The Concept of Mind, Quietism (philosophy), Categorical imperative, Walter Pater, Deconstruction, Afterword, New Criticism, Special pleading, Philosophy, Foundationalism, Allegory, Reactionary, Literary theory, Relativism, Paul de Man, Utilitarianism, Edmund Husserl, Polemic, Paradox, Obscurantism, Critique, Racism, Philosopher, Criticism, Ideology, Empiricism, Subjectivism, Idealization, Speech and Phenomena, Writing, Plato, Allan Bloom, Consciousness, Philosophy of history, Superiority (short story), Aestheticism, Cogito and the History of Madness, Idealism, Alterity, Critical philosophy, Feminist literary criticism, Literary modernism, Aesthetic Theory, Skepticism, The Resistance to Theory, Theory of art, Jacques Derrida, Irony, Nihilism, Antipathy, Hegelianism, Art criticism, Moral relativism, Nazi propaganda, Reality principle, Anecdote, Literature, Art for art's sake, Thought, Theory, Literary criticism