FORM AND SUBSTANCES IN THE ARTS by Etienne Gilson

FORM AND SUBSTANCES IN THE ARTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is the concluding volume of Professor Gilson's trilogy on aesthetics, the other two being Painting and Reality and The Arts of the Beautiful. Like all of Gilson's work, Form and Substance in the Arts suffers from a peculiarly incense-heavy rhetoric, an expository stance redolent with French scholasticism and philosophic nit-picking, lamentably blurring a good deal of the book's ambitious outline and individual subtleties. Gilson has a great gift for generalizations, brilliantly supported by his often all too formidable and disquietingly compressed erudition, but one finds that these virtues are not at their best when dealing with particular modes of art. For all the detailed commentary and analytic rigor apparent in his chapters on the differences and confluences of painting or architecture, poetry or the drama, there is an odd and, it must be said, rather tiresome drift to the argument per se, so much so that at times one has the uneasy feeling of deja vu, as if what one just read on one page was being dressed up with new twists on another. Essentially, as the title implies, Gilson's concern is to demonstrate the priority of form over content, to single out the style of any composition without which no expression (substance) is possible, to proclaim, in short, the autonomy of art and the delight therein: ""... the professors scarcely admit that we read a poem for the pleasure that we may find in it. From ancient times to our day poems have been delivered up as victims to philology, history, philosophy, and even science."" On this classic, touchy point, Gilson strings innumerable Maritaintinged variations, Socratic interludes, and a truly bravura display of esoteric and exoteric references.

Publisher: Scribners