Dust off your Duns Scotus before attempting this analysis of the development of European aesthetic theories from the sixth...

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ART AND BEAUTY IN THE MIDDLE AGES

Dust off your Duns Scotus before attempting this analysis of the development of European aesthetic theories from the sixth to the 15th centuries. Readers not thoroughly versed in the intricacies of scholastic philosophy are more likely to be frustrated than enlightened by Eco's brief but convoluted thesis. Those, however, who finally thread their way through the thickets of theology, epistemology, cosmology, ontology and metaphysics will be rewarded with some original insights into an era that was previously regarded by many as devoid of aesthetic ideals and criteria. Eco, whose Gothic ""gothic,"" The Name of the Rose, was an offbeat best seller a few years ago, is not interested here in topping the charts; he is a scholar speaking to other scholars. He makes almost no concessions to the general reader, assuming a vast background that should include an easy understanding of philosophical terms and of esoteric theological and cosmological concepts, as well as at least a passing familiarity with obscure medieval aestheticians. Written 20 years ago and now translated for the first time, the work explores the interrelationships between religion and science, and among music, poetry and the visual arts and how these disciplines evolved during the so-called ""Dark Ages"" from Pythagorean classicism through Carolingian humanism and scholastic theocentrism to the Mannerist celebration of ""genius"" and ""imagination."" Eco is able to cover these complexities in a mere 122 pages by utilizing a highly elliptical, somewhat ratified (at least in Hugh Bredin's translation) prose style that is almost certain to leave the average reader gasping for breath (while reaching for a concordance to the Summa Theologica). Heavy going, but for a limited audience, worth the effort.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1986

ISBN: 0300093047

Page Count: -

Publisher: Yale Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986