By Wendy Steiner
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In Venus in Exile well known cultural critic Wendy Steiner explores the 20th century's stricken dating with good looks. Disdained by way of avant-garde artists, feminists, and activists, good looks and its significant symbols of art—the woman topic and ornament—became modernist taboos. To today it truly is demanding to champion good looks in artwork with out sounding aesthetically or politically retrograde.
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Additional info for Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art
Indeed, in the perennial symbolism surrounding beauty, the perceiver (the self ) is active and “hence” male, and the artwork or woman (the Other) is passive (to-be-seen) and “therefore” female. However, dominant as the perceiver may appear in the act of judgment, the aesthetic object turns out to be no shrinking violet. In the course of aesthetic experience, the perceiver may be overwhelmed by this “mere object,” overcome with emotion, altered to the very roots of his being. “You are my creator,” says Dr.
The audience of sublime art suffers a similar alienation. In the various scenes where the monster stares at sleeping people or at pictures, he becomes the perceiver of an Other. He happens upon Frankenstein’s little brother William, for instance, who is wearing a miniature of his beautiful mother — the same woman whose worm-eaten corpse appears in Frankenstein’s dream. “I saw something glittering on his breast,” the monster narrates. “I took it; it was a portrait of a most lovely woman. In spite of my malignity, it softened and attracted me.
Frankenstein, as we have seen, presents this heroic freedom in an opposite light, as cruel and destructive of social relations. It is detrimental to what humans value as human: gratification, love, comfort. Kant had differentiated the pleasure associated with beauty and that associated with charm or the agreeable. “The agreeable is what GRATIFIES a man,”21 Kant wrote, and what is gratified is desire, need, interest. There is nothing universal about gratification, and when the adage, “chacun à son goût,” is invoked, it is not taste but gratification that is at issue.