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Ugliness

UGLINESS

Ugliness, a quality, in life or in art, related by negation to beauty. Its exact nature has been a classical and much controverted subject in the history of aesthetics since Aristotle's Poetics. It is variously defined as the positive negation of beauty, that is, a radical failure in something trying to be, or expected to be, beautiful; a perversion of beauty; the perversion of the characteristic function of anything or anyone. The implication is that there is prototype of beauty or some expectation in mind, in terms of which the falling off produces shock. Much of the "ironic" nature of modern poetry, e.g., T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, seems to depend on such a technique. A more radical probing of ugliness tends to consider it as the very material through which art and life move to accomplish their final triumphs. Special notice should also be given to the theory maintaining that the artist can produce beauty when by his craftsmanship he makes us recognize, with the enjoyment of recognition, the ugly in life. Thus theories about the comic can be closely related to theories about ugliness, and what deals with the ugly need not itself be ugly.

See Also: transcendentals.

Bibliography: e. auerbach, Mimesis, tr. w.r. trask (Princeton, N.J. 1953). k. rosenkranz, Aesthetik des Hasslichen (Konigsberg 1853).

[w. f. lynch]

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