Introduction to Aesthetic Unity

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Aesthetic Unity


Ever since Aristotle wrote his Poetics, aesthetic theory has concerned itself with various unities. In drama there are the Aristotelian unities of time and place, in literature the question of unity of form and content always looms on the horizon, whereas in the more recently developed field of translation studies the unityof meaning between translation and original is an ever-thorny issue. At the same time, since the appearance of modern subjectivity we have witnessed attempts to tear apart such unities – whether in the name of a sublime perception (as in Romantic aesthetics), challenging the patriarchal tradition (in many feminist approaches) or through the deconstruction of a Eurocentric canon from a post-colonial or post-modern perspective.

The papers in this section offer two very different challenges to the unity of a text. Juan Cruz turns to one of the most monolithic – and at the same time, least unified – texts of the Western tradition: the Bible. Cruz demonstrates that the contradictions in the use of metaphors in the Book of Micah are symptomatic of an ideological rift at the very heart of the book’s message about Israel. In Jimmy Packham’s paper a comparable conflict between unity and disunity are presented within the work of one single author: Edgar Allan Poe. While Poe advocates a ‘unity of impression’ in literary composition, Packham shows how the author’s scientific belief that ‘true unity negates physical matter’ counterbalances his search for aesthetic unity and leaves an irresolvable contradiction at the core of his texts. Together, these papers reveal how specific elements of a text can disrupt and destroy the greater unity that those texts aspire to.

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