The Fate of the Arts   /   Summer 2004   /    Articles

The Fate of the Arts

Terry Eagleton

In my book The Ideology of the AestheticI argue that in the age of Enlightenment, when the very notion of the aesthetic was first invented, the work of art served three social purposes. First, it represented a unity of the sensuous and the rational in an age when these were being increasingly driven apart by various social forces, not least by the commodity form. “Aesthetic” originally did not mean “artistic” but alluded to the realm of sensation, perception, the very stuff of the body. In the work of art, this potentially anarchic, unruly sensory stuff is imbued from the inside with a certain law-like order.

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