The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas

The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas

by Umberto Eco
     
 

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The well-known Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco discloses for the first time to English-speaking readers the unsuspected richness, breadth, complexity, and originality of the aesthetic theories advanced by the influential medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas, heretofore known principally as a scholastic theologian. Inheriting his basic ideas and conceptions

Overview

The well-known Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco discloses for the first time to English-speaking readers the unsuspected richness, breadth, complexity, and originality of the aesthetic theories advanced by the influential medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas, heretofore known principally as a scholastic theologian. Inheriting his basic ideas and conceptions of art and beauty from the classical world, Aquinas transformed or modified these ideas in the light of Christian theology and of developments in metaphysics and optics during the thirteenth century.

Setting the stage with an account of the vivid aesthetic and artistic sensibility that flourished in medieval times, Eco examines Aquinas's conception of transcendental beauty, his theory of aesthetic perception or visio, and his account of the three conditions of beauty--integrity, proportion, and clarity--that, centuries later, emerged again in the writings of the young James Joyce. He examines the concrete application of these theories in Aquinas's reflections on God, mankind, music, poetry, and scripture. He discusses Aquinas's views on art and compares his poetics with Dante's. In a final chapter added to the second Italian edition, Eco examines how Aquinas's aesthetics came to be absorbed and superseded in late medieval times and draws instructive parallels between Thomistic methodology and contemporary structuralism. As the only book-length treatment of Aquinas's aesthetics available in English, this volume should interest philosophers, medievalists, historians, critics, and anyone involved in poetics, aesthetics, or the history of ideas.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
St. Thomas Aquinas is best known as one of the foremost theologians of the Catholic Church. Until recently, however, little attention was paid to his aesthetics, despite its connections with his theology and ethics. In this translation of a revised edition of a work first published in 1956, Italian semiotician Eco examines Aquinas's aesthetics in light not only of his other writings but of other medieval theories of beauty. Eco shows how Aquinas's three conditions of beautyintegrity, proportion, and clarityappear in his reflections on such subjects as music, the Scriptures, and God. Though intended for, and best read by, scholars familiar with medieval philosophy and aesthetics, this intriguing work will also interest those who love the beauty of the spiritual. Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ., Lennoxville, Quebec

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674006768
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
10/15/1988
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
300
Product dimensions:
0.67(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco is Professor Emeritus at the University of Bologna and is the author of many books, including Foucault’s Pendulum.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Bologna, Italy
Date of Birth:
January 5, 1932
Date of Death:
February 19, 2016
Place of Birth:
Alessandria, Italy
Education:
Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

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