Art, Oppression, and the Autonomy of Aesthetics

In Alex Neill & Aaron Ridley (eds.), Arguing About Art, Second Edition. Routledge (2002)

Authors
Curtis Brown
University of North Florida
Abstract
Mary Devereaux has suggested, in an overview of feminist aesthetics[1], that feminist aesthetics constitutes a revolutionary approach to the field: "aesthetics cannot simply 'add on' feminist theories as it might add new works by [ Nelson ] Goodman, Arthur Danto or George Dickie. To take feminism seriously involves rethinking our basic concepts and recasting the history of the discipline." In particular, feminist theory involves a rejection of "deeply entrenched assumptions about the universal value of art and aesthetic experience." Overthrowing these assumptions "constitutes what art historian, Linda Nochlin, describes as a Kuhnian paradigm shift."[2] Near the end of her essay, Devereaux returns to this theme: "If feminism constitutes a new paradigm, then we may wish to ponder how far the old model of aesthetics and the new are commensurable. Is traditional aesthetics contingently or necessarily associated with patriarchy? Can the 'gender-neutral' aesthetics of the traditional model be reformed or must it be rejected?"
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