Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas

(Translated by Hugh Bredin.)

Harvard University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-674-00676-3; Paperback $19.95.

Eco’s first book, this treatise on the medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas was originally published in 1956 as Il problema estetico in San Tommaso and revised in 1970 for a second edition titled Il problema estetico in Thommaso d’Aquino, which also contained some material from Sviluppo dell’estetico medievale. It was translated into English in 1988 for Harvard UP.

Here is the introductory note from the back cover of the book:

The well-known Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco discloses in this book to English-speaking readers the unsuspected richness, breadth, complexity, and originality of the aesthetic theories advanced by the influential medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas. Inheriting his basic ideas and conceptions of art and beauty from the classical world, Aquinas transformed or modified these ideas in the light of Christian theology and the developments in metaphysics and optics during the thirteenth century. Setting the stage with an account of the vivid aesthetic and artistic sensibility that flourished in medieval times, Eco examines Aquinas’s conception of transcendental beauty, his theory of aesthetic perception or visio, and his account of the three conditions of beauty – integrity, proportion, and clarity – that, centuries later, emerged again in the writings of the young James Joyce. He examines the concrete applications of these theories in Aquinas’s reflections on God, mankind, poetry, and scripture. He discusses Aquinas’s views on art and compares his poetics with Dante’s. In a new chapter added to the second Italian edition, Eco examines how Aquinas’s aesthetics came to be absorbed and superseded in late medieval times and draws instructive parallels between Thomistic methodology and contemporary structuralism. As the only book-length treatment of Aquinas’s aesthetics available in English, this volume should interest philosophers, medievalists, historians, critics, and anyone involved in poetics, aesthetics, or the history of ideas.

The chapters of the book are as follows:

Translator’s Note

I. Aesthetics in Medieval Culture
II. Beauty as a Transcendental
III. The Function of Nature of the Aesthetic Visio
IV. The Formal Criteria of Beauty
V. Concrete Problems and Applications
VI. The Theory of Art
VII. Judgment of the Aesthetic Visio
VIII. Conclusion


You may read more about this work at the Harvard University Press Web site.


Stan said...

Thanks for the info. I'd love to grab a copy of this.