Scarry argues that our responses to beauty are perceptual events of profound significance for the individual and for society. Presenting us with a rare and exceptional opportunity to witness fairness, beauty assists us in our attention to justice. The beautiful object renders fairness, an abstract concept, concrete by making it directly available to our sensory perceptions. With its direct appeal to the senses, beauty stops us, transfixes us, fills us with a "surfeit of aliveness." In so doing, it takes the individual away from the center of his or her self-preoccupation and thus prompts a distribution of attention outward toward others and, ultimately, she contends, toward ethical fairness.
Scarry, author of the landmark The Body in Pain and one of our bravest and most creative thinkers, offers us here philosophical critique written with clarity and conviction as well as a passionate plea that we change the way we think about beauty.
With this revised and expanded edition, Hickey is back to fan the flames. More manifesto than polite discussion, more call to action than criticism, The Invisible Dragon aims squarely at the hyper-institutionalism that, in Hickey’s view, denies the real pleasures that draw us to art in the first place. Deploying the artworks of Warhol, Raphael, Caravaggio, and Mapplethorpe and the writings of Ruskin, Shakespeare, Deleuze, and Foucault, Hickey takes on museum culture, arid academicism, sclerotic politics, and more—all in the service of making readers rethink the nature of art. A new introduction provides a context for earlier essays—what Hickey calls his "intellectual temper tantrums." A new essay, "American Beauty," concludes the volume with a historical argument that is a rousing paean to the inherently democratic nature of attention to beauty.
Written with a verve that is all too rare in serious criticism, this expanded and refurbished edition of The Invisible Dragon will be sure to captivate a new generation of readers, provoking the passionate reactions that are the hallmark of great criticism.
We often attribute to our imaginative life powers that go beyond ordinary perception or sensation. In Dreaming by the Book, the noted scholar Elaine Scarry explores the apparently miraculous but in fact understandable processes by which poets and writers confer those powers on us: how they teach us the work of imaginative creation.
Writers from Homer to Heaney, Scarry argues, instruct us in the art of mental composition even as their poems progress: just as painters understand paint, composers musical sounds, and sculptors stone or metal, verbal artists understand and deploy the only material in which their creations will get made - the backlit tissue of the human imagination. In her brilliant synthesis of cognitive psychology, literary criticism, and philosophy, she explores the five principal formal practices by which writers bring things to life for their readers; she calls them radiant ignition, rarity, dyadic addition and subtraction, stretching, and floral supposition. The transforming power of these mental practices can be seen in their appearance in great literature, of course, but also in applying them to - and watching how they revise - our own daydreams.
Dreaming by the Book is not only an utterly original work of literary analysis but a sequence of on-the-spot mental experiments.