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American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions$
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Cindy Weinstein and Christopher Looby

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156172

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156172.001.0001

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Sexuality’s Aesthetic Dimension

Sexuality’s Aesthetic Dimension

Kant and the Autobiography of an Androgyne

(p.156) [7] Sexuality’s Aesthetic Dimension
American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions

Christopher Looby

Columbia University Press

This chapter analyzes a set of literary texts from the early twentieth century that meditate on a historical transformation that disarticulated erotics from aesthetics. Medical, legal, psychological, and scientific discourses redefined “various kinds of allied pleasures” as “sexual pathology.” For writers as diverse as Charles Warren Stoddard and H.D., aesthetics permit a kind of recuperation (both textual and sexual) of uncategorized desire and possibility that “returns us to unmediated sensory pleasure of an elusive kind.” The chapter argues that at the definitional heart of “aesthetics” is the notion of sense perception, and once that notion of sense perception is restored to our understanding of aesthetics, it makes perfect sense to ask the provocative question that motivates the present reading: “what if sexuality is essentially an aesthetic phenomenon”?

Keywords:   erotics, aesthetics, sexuality, sense perception, pleasure, sexual pathology

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