The Literary Life

Home » Taste » WHAT ELEMENTS OF LITERARY TASTE ARE UNIVERSAL?

WHAT ELEMENTS OF LITERARY TASTE ARE UNIVERSAL?

Previous Posts

September 2015
S M T W T F S
« Aug   Oct »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,616 other followers

fdb9abbe9746a8e4f8dfc4f031f88018

Let’s continue the ideas from the previous posts as we compare our 21st-century ideas of literary taste with those of the Enlightenment philosopher David Hume that represent fairly well ideas common until the latter part of the 20th century.

For Hume, as we have seen, the principles of taste are universal, and, nearly, if not entirely the same in all humanity; yet few are qualified to give judgment on any work of art, or establish their own sentiment as the standard of beauty.

Hume bases his claim for “eternal and immutable” taste upon his Enlightenment views of the universality of ideas, and he claims the standards of taste share common sources with the sciences: “Their foundation is the same with that of all the practical sciences, experience; nor are they any thing but general observations, concerning what has been universally found to please in all countries and all ages.”

For most of you today these are extraordinary claims at odds with our cultural assumptions and general democratic principles of human equality.

But Hume piles it on in Of the Standard of Taste. Of poetry specifically, he says “though poetry can never submit to exact truth, it must be confined by rules of art, discovered to the author either by genius or observation.”

Of course, even for Hume, there are exceptions to this basic standard. Obviously some poets in English literature prior to the 18th century had not always followed the rules. (Ahem, what about that most un-Enlightenment-like William Shakespeare?) Yeah, but so what, Hume concedes: “If some negligent or irregular writers have pleased,” he obviously sneers, “they have not pleased by their transgressions of rule and order, but in spite of these transgressions.” Ah, David, oh boy.

So there are exceptions to the universal elements of taste. It’s just that for all these poets who don’t follow the rules of order, “They have possessed other beauties, which are conformable to just criticism; and the force of these beauties has been able to overpower censure.”

But regardless of the exceptions, “the general rules of art are founded only upon experience and on the observation of the common sentiments of human nature.” And less we start saying that these ideas leave open to everyone having any opinion about their personal taste, Hume qualifies: “we must not imagine that, on every occasion, the feelings of men will be conformable to these rules.” But, and here’s the point to end this discussion and take up next time, BUT “few are qualified to give judgment on any work of art.” Only the few, the select, and the proud can decide what proper literary taste is.

Let’s take this idea up next time.

But do you agree or not? Write your comments in the comment box. And let’s see your comments no matter when you read this blog. None of the ideas I am approaching are time sensitive.

Let’s start a conversation. Re-blog. Re-tweet. Follow The Literary Life. The more readers who are posting comments the better.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog Stats

  • 4,029 hits
Follow The Literary Life on WordPress.com

Goodreads

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,616 other followers

Pen and Pension

Immerse yourself in Georgian and Regency England

asidenotes

Renaissance drama: then, now & sometimes in between

Book Geeks Anonymous

I cannot live without books. - Thomas Jefferson

The Scene

Radical Poetics at the Zig Zag Edges

The Hoarding

On 19th-Century Literary Scholarship

cancer killing recipe

Just another WordPress.com site

MUDD iN YOUR FACE

from boredom to creativity

Proof Perfectly

Editing - Copywriting - Advice

deconstructingdoctor.com

a peek behind the curtain

The Long Victorian - c.1789 - 1914

The literary world of the Long Nineteenth Century, c.1789 - 1914

Under the Light of Western Skies

Intellectual Comfort from the American West

The Literary Counsellor

Mainly a book blog, with a bit of life thrown in for good measure.

A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

Rosemary's Blog

A window into my world

Lizzy's Literary Life

Celebrating the pleasures of a 21st century bookworm

%d bloggers like this: