chapter  2
Aesthetic pleasures
Pages 22

Philosophies that developed ideas about fine art and a distinctive realm ofaesthetic value in the early modern period became foundational texts for contemporary aesthetic theory, and this chapter examines a few of the most influential. We shall see that insofar as they imported gender distinctions into the concepts of beauty, sublimity, pleasure, and the aesthetic itself, these theories helped to intensify the idea that both artists and the best critical judges of art are ideally male. Later, in Chapter 3, we shall also see that all of these factors had considerable significance for the practice of women artists, for within the relatively abstract discourses of philosophical aesthetics there are networks of concepts that describe and prescribe the boundaries of how women should act, how they should think and feel, and the qualities they ought to cultivate in art and in life. In other words, there is an oscillation between the abstract dimension of discourse and its implicit, and sometimes immediately practical, ramifications. Let us begin with some general background regarding the philosophical climate in which the central modern concepts in aesthetics were articulated.