The Esthetics of the Middle Ages (review) [Book Review]

Journal of the History of Philosophy 8 (4):470-475 (1970)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:470 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY of fundamental notions (e.g.,"creator" and "demiurge") are omnipresent. Sometimes even a confusion happens of Anaxagoras with Democritus when the "atom" is ascribed to Anaxagoras (p. 48). And the author does not seem to feel the fatal inadequacy of merely second-hand knowledge. While he in longura et latum argues with Aristotelian presentations and misrepresentations of Anaxagorean tenets, there is good reason for the suspicion that he might never have read even one authentic sentence written by Anaxagoras himself. For those interested in general cultural history, this book, the religious diatribe of a modem Zoroastrian believer, is very worthwhile reading. For the historian of philosophy, itis of rather modest value. P-~LIX M. CLEVE New School for Social Research New York City The Esthetics of the Middle Ages. By Edgar De Bruyne. Trans. Eileen B. Hennessy. (New York: Frederick Uugar, 1969. Pp. viii+232. $6.50) This book has a very complex character. It is the English translation of a French work, L'Esth~tique du moyen dge,I which, in turn, is a one-volume abridged version by Edgar De Bruyne of his own original three-volume work, I~tudes d'Esth~tique M~di~vale.2 Thus, one may evaluate this book either as a translation or, presupposing the faithfulness and correctness of the translation itself,as a relatively short work by E. De Bruyne, or else in its relation to or as compared with the original three-volume work. I will confine myself here to the lattertwo considerations.3 First, considering this book in comparison with the three-volume original work, one of the principal writings of De Bruyne and one of the most significant contemporary contributions to the history of medieval aesthetics, we can find both quantitative and qualitative differences between the original work and its abridged version. The quantitative difference is considerable. While the abridged work, at least in its English translation, is less than a quarter of a thousand pages in length, the original work includes altogether 1,224 pages 4 and is thus more than five times longer than thc translated abridged version of it. The qualitative or methodological difference is at least equally great. In the original work, each of the three volumes deals primarily with the various medieval authors of aesthetic works and doctrines in a chronological order.5 In contrast, the contents of the translated abridged version follow a topical arrangement with chronology playing only a subordinate role, if any at all, within Louvain. L'InstitutSupdrieur de Philosophic, 1947. Brugge: De Tempel, 1946. s I have had no access to the abridged French original. 9 Vol. I, xiv+370; II, x-{-420; III,x-F400. 9 VoL I: Boethius to Erigena; II. "L'l~poque Romane," from the Carolingian period to the schools of Chartres and St. Victor; and Ill:the thirteenthcentury, from St. Bernard to Duns Scotus. BOOK REVIEWS 471 each topic. The six chapters are entitled, "'The Sources," "The Fundamental Principles," "Various Esthetic Systems," "The Esthetic Experience," "Art," and "The Fine Arts." To this may be added a third difference that is the result of the first two differences. There is virtually neither any direct quotation from any author on any topic, nor a~y direct reference to texts in the works of medieval authors mentioned or discussed. While the quantitative difference in itself is understandable, since only a scholar specializing in this field would read over 1,200 pages on medieval aesthetics, and while the qualitative difference is perfectly justified in terms of an intelligent summary, the absence especially of direct references to discussed texts is, as will be shown below, deeply regxettable. So much for the relative consideration of this translated abridged work. Let us next consider the abridged work in itself in the form of a positive and a negative evaluation. Second, despite the relative brevity of the work, one finds this book extremely valuable both in terms of the quantity and the quality of the data it contains. As to quantity, De Bruyne manages to compress an enormous amount of information about medieval aesthetic thought into this book. The significance of this, to confine ourselves at this point only...



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