The "American Renaissance” and the Politics of Aesthetics

Dr. Lou Caton
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Contrary to their legacy, Matthiessen and Hicks, but especially Matthiessen, endorse a more or less balanced appreciation for aesthetics and politics in their early texts. Because the immediacy of aesthetic disinterest clashes with the mediation of political interest, these critics embraced the opposition. Although this recognition is old news, my concern will be in discovering how this ancient clash takes on a renewed pertinence given the goals of an inclusive multicultural canon. Primarily maintaining that Matthiessen's critical theories vitally blend ideology and aesthetics, I claim that a reevaluation of reputation will also disclose an idealism at the core of their canons. I will then broaden this insight into a discussion of American idealism and canon philosophy in general. To that end I will bring in Coleridge, a critic from whom Matthiessen largely modeled his own beliefs and whose works suggest useful fundamental "polar" principles beneath canonical evaluations. Matthiessen applauds Coleridge's dialectical theories because they ground his belief in both aesthetic and ideological interpretations, approaches that define America's diverse literary canon as a hybrid: a Romantic, political enterprise. Thus, by specifically weighing the interaction of aesthetics, politics, and history in the context of Hicks and Matthiessen's literary reputations, I will propose a Romantic conflict-model of canonicity that, in terms of today's politically sensitive investigations, justifies the canon's healthy diversity and links it to the heritage of “The American Renaissance.”

Keywords: multiculturalsim, aesthetics, literature, American literary canon, philosophy of art
Stream: Arts Education, Analysing Artforms, Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr. Lou Caton

College teacher, English, Westfield State College

Lou Caton is Assistant Professor of English at Westfield State College in America where he teaches aesthetics, composition, and literature. The author of many articles and reviews in journals such as _North Dakota Quarterly_, _English Language Notes_, _MELUS_, and _Post Identity_. Caton is the co-editor of_Aesthetics in a Multicultural Age, (Oxford, 2002). He is currently concentrating on a book-length manuscript that interprets nineteenth-century Romantic theory in relation to aesthetics and multicultural literature. He has participated in numerous conferences and given dozens of papers in American as well as overseas.

Ref: A06P0116