In this creative and engaging reading, Richard Kuhns explores the ways in which _Decameron's_sexual themes lead into philosophical inquiry, moral argument, and aesthetic and literary criticism. As he reveals the stories' many philosophical insights and literary pleasures, Kuhns also examines _Decameron_in the context of the nature of storytelling, its relationship to other classic works of literature, and the culture of trecento Italy. Stories and storytelling are to be interpreted in terms of a wider cultural context that includes masks, metamorphosis, mythic (...) themes, and character analysis, all of which Boccaccio explores with wit and subtlety. As a storyteller, Boccaccio represents himself as literary pimp, conceiving the relationship between storyteller and audience in sexual terms within a tradition that goes back as far as Socrates' conversations with the young Athenians. As a whole, Boccaccio's great collection of stories creates a trenchant criticism of the ideas that dominated his social and cultural world. Addressed as it is to women who were denied opportunities for education, the author's stories create a university of wise and culturally observant texts. He teaches that comic, religious, sexual, and artistic themes can be seen to function as metaphors for hidden and often dangerous unorthodox thoughts. Kuhns suggests that _Decameron_is one of the first self-conscious creations of what we today call "a total work of art." Throughout the stories, Boccaccio creates a detailed picture of the Florentine trecento cultural world. Giotto, Buffalmacco, and other great painters of Boccaccio's time appear in the stories. Their works and the paintings that surround the characters as they prepare to leave the plague-ridden city, with their representations of Dante, Aquinas, and other thinkers, are essential to understanding the ways the stories work with other works of art and illuminate and enlarge interpretations of Boccaccio's book. (shrink)
Like every other venerable speculation, philosophy has its myths and its great myth-makers. One of the greatest—maker of myths for all contemporary thought—was Kant. Should some future Lévi-Strauss classify this tradition, he will find that philosophical myths, like tribal lore of primitive peoples, suffer thematic variation and evolution, for myths relate our true business in this world, and therefore are essential for all thought about ourselves.
Wittgenstein’s laconic observation about self and history elicits thought about the interventions of history into our private consciousness. Although “the world” may end with the end of my consciousness, I could hardly claim that my consciousness exhausts the world, or that there are no presences, realities, objects, and events that do not come into my consciousness from elsewhere, creating for me a distinct ever-present awareness of mine and other, inner and outer, recollection and recognition. A plaintive refrain, similar to that (...) in Wittgenstein’s reflection, appears in much modern criticism that sets itself the task to understand and interpret works of art. Among such efforts there are theories whose main assumption is that a particular art, such as poetry, may indeed put forward a claim to the truth of an assertion, but it is not necessary to poetry as poetry that it asserts anything at all, and therefore it is irrelevant to poetry as poetry to be tested by reference to the world, to history, through the canons of verification and the principles of plausibility relevant to empirical inquiry. We might rewrite Wittgenstein’s aphorism this way: “What has poetry to do with the world? The poem is the first and only thing.”. (shrink)
This anthology is remarkable not only for the selections themselves, among which the Schelling and the Heidegger essays were translated especially for this volume, but also for the editors' general introduction and the introductory essays for each selection, which make this volume an invaluable aid to the study of the powerful, recurrent ideas concerning art, beauty, critical method, and the nature of representation. Because this collection makes clear the ways in which the philosophy of art relates to and is part (...) of general philosophical positions, it will be an essential sourcebook to students of philosophy, art history, and literary criticism. (shrink)