With its demand that works of art be judged according to the their morally didactic content, Tolstoy’s reviled aesthetics has seemed to exclude from the canon far too many works widely accepted as masterpieces, including Shakespeare and Beethoven.
This book, first published in 1985, argues that these are not mere oversights on the part of Tolstoy: he knew full well the consequences of his line of reasoning. The author contends that, even if we disagree with and eventually reject much of what Tolstoy concludes, his account of the nature and purpose of art is nevertheless worth consideration.
Diffey’s argument by no means accepts all of ‘What is Art?’, but by suggesting that the work is best interpreted as a counterpoint to the amoral aestheticism prevalent in Russia at the time, he does much to restore it to a status deserving attention, particularly in today’s climate of extreme relativism.
Preface. 1. Introduction 2. Art as the Expression of Feeling 3. Works of Art: Evaluation and Classification 4. Counterfeit Art 5. Art, Science and Morality 6. Tolstoy’s Polemic: A Postscript
Routledge Library Editions: Tolstoy and Dostoevsky presents a rich selection of renowned and lesser-known treatments of the Russian masters – considered by some the greatest novelists of all time – from the 1920s to the ‘90s.
The set includes works of accessible biography, lucid literary criticism and insightful scholarship, ranging over a wide range of themes: Tolstoy’s aesthetic philosophy, Dostoevsky’s curiously under-studied social and political views, Feminism, Nietzsche, and much else.