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Art for Art’s Sake and Literary Life is a dynamic history of literary aestheticism from the eighteenth century to academic deconstruction in our own time. Gene H. Bell-Villada examines an enormous range of writings by critics, philosophers, and writers from Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Uniting all is his conviction that “there are concrete social, economic, political, and cultural reasons for the emergence, growth, diffusion, and triumph of l’art pour l’art over the past two centuries.”
Bell-Villada begins by considering how such thinkers as Shaftesbury, Kant, and Schiller described beauty as a phenomenon to be weighed not in isolation from other aspects of our existence but as part of our general development as human beings. He recounts how the original vision of Kant and Schiller was simplified and debased within new cultural, political, and economic contexts,…[more]