chapter  4
24 Pages

Shakespeare, modernity and the aesthetic: Art, truth and judgement in The Winter’s Tale John J. Joughin

Any discussion of the literary or artistic merit of Shakespeare’s plays is almost bound to arouse suspicion. For most radical critics, aesthetics still tends to be discarded as part of the ‘problem’ rather than part of the ‘solution’, all too reminiscent of a brand of outdated idealism which privileged notions of refined sensibility and the immutability of ‘literary value’. As a consequence, contemporary political and historicist criticism has tended to regard a ‘commitment to the literary’ as ‘one of the major limitations’ of traditionalist approaches to the playwright’s work (Hawkes 1996b: 11). Yet more recently, the emergence in a British context of a critical formation, sometimes pejoratively labelled ‘new aestheticist’ in its orientation, has foregrounded the need to give some further consideration to the transformative potential of the aesthetic.