Aesthetics:

(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“It’s in our lives—or nowhere—that beauty is immortal.” Wallace Stevens

“Fiction is the most joyous, beautiful, sophisticated, wonderful thing in the world.” Arundhati Roy

“No thing is beautiful. But all things await the sensitive and imaginative mind that may be aroused to pleasurable emotion at the sight of them. This is beauty.” Robert Henri

“Art is the consummation of philosophy.” Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling

“Beauty is a value, whatever its object may be, but it is only an essential value if it exalts the soul and so enables it to accept or to be in a fit emotional state to accept more important values. But what the dickens is the soul?” W. Somerset Maugham

“In nature, in morality, in history we are still living in the propylaeum of philosophical wisdom; in art we enter into the sanctuary itself.” Ernst Cassirer

“When, indeed, men speak of Beauty, they mean, precisely, not a quality, as is supposed, but an effect—they refer, in short, just to that intense and pure elevation of soul—not of intellect, or of the heart . . . which is experienced in consequence of contemplating the beautiful.” Poe

“Much of life becomes background, but it is the province of art to throw buckets of light into the shadows and make life new again.” Diane Ackerman

Beauty is an apparently meaningless word which we continue to use because we understand it. Beauty is something that doesn’t’ exist except in the instant it jars the soul and thus at once comes into being and attracts. Beauty is something that happens in life, but confusedly and unpredictably, and something that happens, infallibly, in true art. It is something that ‘gets across’—that is, makes profound but finally inexpressible sense, as Tillich says, ‘on the level of deep experience,’ whatever that means.” John Gardner

“Our arrival at understanding is accompanied by that particular feeling of release, of ‘freedom from the limits of Time and Space,’ as Pound said, which we call the sense of the beautiful. Beauty then is the truth of feeling.” John Gardner

“Out of the fullness of the tradition of his art, and out of his deep pleasure in struggling at art himself, he [the artist] has chosen, irrevocably, art over life. Art possesses him, establishing his norms, which are not the world’s norms; hence he is saner than the world, and daemonically mad.” John Gardner

“To read or write well, we must steer between two extreme views of aesthetic interest: the overemphasis of things immediately pleasurable (exciting plot, vivid characterization, fascinating atmosphere) and exclusive concern with that which is secondary but at times more lastingly pleasurable, the fusing artistic vision.” John Gardner

“Art requires a delicate adjustment of the outer and inner worlds in such a way that, without changing their nature, they can be seen through each other.” Flannery O’Connor

“What he loves the artist calls beautiful; what he hates he has no word for.” John Gardner

“All this is to say that the artist can approach the beautiful in a thousand ways—by trying to imitate it straight, by painting its monstrous opposite, or in any of the ways in between. As priest he tells what God loves and hates; as poet he drops the divine metaphor and stands himself as lawgiver.” John Gardner

“The healthy alternative to the false voice, of course, is the true one; and remembering how silly a false voice sounds, we remind ourselves of the aesthetic—to say nothing of the human—value of the true.” John Gardner

“I think our best and our most human and our most evolved tool is language, and therefore it is the art that communicates through language that must be the most important. Poetry is obviously the highest and most concentrated form of that art. This is not talking about the pleasure to be derived. There’s obviously equal pleasure to be got from all arts. It’s simply that in terms of human society and human culture, this is the one art that we must protect most carefully.” John Fowles

“When we, as writers, are reading what we admire of other creative work, we often find we react, subtly and strongly, with a blend of aesthetic and human pleasure, to something from a particular line or page. Only then (and then only, perhaps, because we are writers) do we look back, marvelling, trying to analyse how this was brought about. And how often that line, sentence or page proves striking only by its utter simplicity—how much art has gone toward that simplicity we are not to know.” Elizabeth Bowen

“Does what I write seem beautiful to me? That is all that I can know and count on, and it is enough. But if it seems beautiful to you, too, I am grateful.” William Vollmann

“Our novels are partly silence: we seek what tells. By our own means we seek to keep for the novel the veracity, the authority of the work of art.” Elizabeth Bowen

“The four main qualities of Lincoln’s literary art—precision, vernacular ease, rhythmical virtuosity, and elegance.” Jacques Barzun

“Art is a passion of the mind.” Salman Rushdie

“A work of art means that one part gets strength from another part.” Virginia Woolf

“Art is being rid of all preaching: things in themselves: the sentence in itself beautiful: multitudinous seas; daffodils that come before the swallow dares.” Virginia Woolf

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