Here is how the modern Encyclopedia of Aesthetics describes the unsightly old age of the notion that once called into being aesthetics itself:
After Kant, idealist aesthetics had other ways of explaining what is aesthetic. The unifi cation of taste with judgment is pulled apart again. . . . The determination of what is a true work no longer depends on taste, which is reduced to the role of refi ned sensibility. In the mid-twentieth century taste briefl y reappears as a matter of concern just because it is understood not to be rule-governed and plays no theoretical role. (Townsend 1998, 359; emphasis added)
Likewise in the domain of literary studies (where it once reigned as well), by the middle of the twentieth century the stock in taste had bottomed out. Northrop Frye’s infl uential Anatomy of Criticism is implacable:
This sort of thing cannot be part of any systematic study. . . . The history of taste is no more a part of the structure of criticism than the Huxley-Wilberforce debate is a part of the structure of biological science. (1966, 18; emphasis added)
However, in recent decades taste has experienced a critical rebirth, initiated by the works of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu’s approach to taste is based upon a decisive methodological rupture with “high” aesthetics. In Distinction Bourdieu leaves aside the discourse of taste, and focuses on taste as object.