What Do Bananas Have To Do with Aesthetics?

Fountain pen on a book


Proteus Ashmole


“Where there is not too much air is the pretty sound.”

                                         –Gertrude Stein


[Part One: How Art Differs from art.]

We must differentiate between Art and art, which is a distinction of taste.  A traditional criterion of Art is universal appeal, as discussed by various philosophers, including Schiller.[1]  But anything universal is perpetually held in tension with exclusivity, for Art would not be Art unless it made people uncomfortable.  For example, few appreciate experimental fiction, which frequently makes readers uncomfortable through both subject matter and its disregard for convention. Yet some experimental fiction is deemed Art due to the variable of taste, which is extremely subjective. Consider Miss Stein’s The Making of Americans; it ushered in Modernist Literature,  though one critic denounced the novel as “The first stunningly original disaster of modernism.”[2]

[Part Two: What about Taste?]

So how does one address the subjective matter of taste?  One trusts the educated.  The caveat is, one need not agree with them, but let them lead the way.  And one need never go to college, or even finish high school, to be considered educated.  Educated is here defined as having experience, be it particular or general.  A streetwise illiterate is educated in the labyrinthine ways of back alleys and hustles, no?  Would you trust them to help you survive the urban environment, or a sociologist?

[On Critics.]

Critics are not to be lumped in with the educated, even though they may be so in the formal sense.  Why?  Critics fall into two categories: sensationalist naysayers and sell-outs; both deceive.  The former pan anything for effect (think Jock Sturges’s or Robert Mappelthorpe’s photography); the latter generate hype (for the box-office flop Waterworld).

{More later, Friends.}

[1]     For more, see his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man and his concept of Plasticity.

[2]     The New Yorker

Author: dropoutprofessor

A professor of English and Social Sciences that enjoys writing. Hope you enjoy my posts. All published work on this blog is my own. Pictures are used under license from Depositphotos.com or Shutterstock.com, unless otherwise noted.

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