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George SantayanaLiterary Philosopher$
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Irving Singer

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780300080377

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300080377.001.0001

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Greatness in Art

Greatness in Art

(p.151) 7 Greatness in Art
George Santayana

Irving Singer

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses Santayana's concern about the nature of artistic excellence. The standards he employs are never explicitly stated but may easily be reconstructed from his opinions about the aesthetic effects of different works of art. The four levels of poetry that Santayana describes in Interpretations of Poetry and Religion are especially germane. His literary criticism was, to a considerable degree, written with this classification in mind. He analyzes the subject matter and techniques of the poets with whom he deals, classifies their work in terms of the four levels, and evaluates accordingly. As he develops the doctrine of essence, however, his critical theory changes, and his criterion of excellence becomes significantly different from what it was before.

Keywords:   artistic excellence, aesthetic effects, works of art, levels of poetry, literary criticism, criterion of excellence

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