Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2010


Nick Zangwill has done more than any person recently to resuscitate aesthetic formalism. I say "resuscitate" because formalism has not been in favor for several decades. Zangwill writes that "Aesthetic Formalism has fallen on hard times. At best it receives unsympathetic discussion and swift rejection. At worse it is the object of abuse and derision." The reasons many today believe aesthetic formalism is not viable have been the subject of discussion since the pendulum swing away from New Criticism, via the work of William Wimsatt, Cleanth Brooks, Clement Greenberg, André Levinson, and Heinrich Wolfflin. Most of these reasons have been discussed thoroughly, and those that I will review here that have been discussed I will spend little time reconsidering. I believe, though, that there are a few more reasons why formalism has fallen on hard times, reasons that have not been much discussed, or at least not directly. They are the subject of this article.

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