Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era by Russ Castronovo

By Russ Castronovo

The photographer and reformer Jacob Riis as soon as wrote, “I have noticeable an armful of daisies continue the peace of a block greater than a policeman and his club.” Riis used to be now not on my own in his trust that attractiveness may well tame city chaos, yet are aesthetic reports continually a social solid? may aesthetics additionally encourage violent crime, working-class unrest, and racial homicide? to reply to those questions, Russ Castronovo turns to people who debated claims that artwork might democratize culture—civic reformers, anarchists, novelists, civil rights activists, and school professors—to show that good looks presents unforeseen events for radical, even innovative, political thinking.

Beautiful Democracy explores the intersection of good looks and violence through interpreting college lectures and path fabrics on aesthetics from a century in the past besides riots, acts of family terrorism, magic lantern exhibitions, and different public spectacles. Philosophical aesthetics, realist novels, city images, and black periodicals, Castronovo argues, encouraged and instigated all kinds of collective social endeavors, from the revolutionary nature of tenement reform to the horrors of lynching. Discussing Jane Addams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Charlie Chaplin, William Dean Howells, and Riis as aesthetic theorists within the corporation of Kant and Schiller, Beautiful Democracy eventually means that the space isolating educational considering and renowned knowledge approximately social transformation is narrower than we quite often suppose.

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Additional resources for Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era

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Chapter one in the limelight, beauty seemed to falter in establishing a common standard. In a world where “pleasure reaches us in the plural,” how can the experience of beauty yield unity and consensus? 17 Amid the easy and quick availability of art—or at worst, commodified entertainment such as magic lantern shows, peep shows, cheap stage productions, dime novels, and shoddy lithographs of the old masters—how can emotions and instincts be channeled into predictable responses and disciplined reactions?

16 Efforts to train citizens from all walks of life in aesthetic appreciation attracted publishing houses whose multivolume projects on beauty and art comprised hundred of pages and included detailed plates and engravings that make a stapled syllabus titled Aesthetics look positively rinky-dink. Yet even in these massive and expensive efforts, the popular tone of aesthetic education remained in full force. When Scribner’s published The Philosophy of the Beautiful (1891), a textbook “designed to aid the University Extension Movement throughout Great Britain and America,” the cultivation of disinterested judgment among the masses took center stage.

Located in the inwardness of subjects, this lesson stemmed not just from moral philosophy but from notions of science, as the title of Bascom’s Aesthetics; or, the Science of Beauty shows. The untutored longing of the capmaker’s daughter for beauty is ushered by the academy into the domain of institutional aesthetics. Except that capmakers’ daughters did not often have the opportunity to attend Wellesley or Williams. Still, if aesthetics were a matter of instinct, college classrooms were not absolutely necessary to awaken ethical feelings among the populace.

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