Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea by David KonstanBeauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea by David Konstan

Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea

byDavid Konstan

Paperback | August 22, 2017

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Those who study the nature of beauty are at once plagued by a singular issue: what does it mean to say something is beautiful? On the one hand, beauty is associated with erotic attraction; on the other, it is the primary category in aesthetics, and it is widely supposed that the properresponse to a work of art is one of disinterested contemplation. At its core, then, beauty is a contested concept, and both sides feel comfortable appealing to the authority of Plato, and via him, to the ancient Greeks generally. So, who is right - if either? Beauty offers an elegant investigation of ancient Greek notions of beauty and, in the process, sheds light on modern aesthetics and how we ought to appreciate the artistic achievements of the classical world itself. The book begins by reexamining the commonly held notion that the ancient Greekspossessed no term that can be unambiguously defined as "beauty" or "beautiful." Author David Konstan discusses a number of Greek approximations before positioning the heretofore unexamined term kallos as the key to bridging the gap between beauty and desire, and tracing its evolution as applied tophysical beauty, art, literature, and more. Throughout, the discussion is enlivened with thought-provoking stories taken from Homer, Plato, Xenophon, Plutarch, and others. The book then examines corresponding terms in ancient Latin literature to highlight the survival of Greek ideas in the LatinWest. The final chapter will compare the ancient Greek conception of beauty with modern notions of beauty and aesthetics. In particular, the book will focus on the reception of classical Greek art in the Renaissance and how Vasari and his contemporaries borrowed from Plato the sense that the beautyin art was transcendental, but left out the erotic dimension of viewing. A study of the ancient Greek idea of beauty shows that, even if Greece was the inspiration for modern aesthetic ideals, the Greek view of the relationship between beauty and desire was surprisingly consistent - and differentfrom our own. Through this magisterial narrative, it is possible to identify how the Greeks thought of beauty, and what it was that attracted them. Their perceptions still have something important to tell us about art, love, desire - and beauty.
David Konstan is Professor of Classics at New York University and Emeritus Professor of Classics at Brown University. He is the co-editor of the Emotions of the Past series and author or co-editor of 18 books. His previous books include Before Forgiveness, The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks, and Friendship in the Classical World.
Title:Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek IdeaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.68 inPublished:August 22, 2017Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190663448

ISBN - 13:9780190663445

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Editorial Reviews

"A breathtakingly wide view of beauty as the ancient Greeks conceived it, from Homer to the Septuagint, and from Plato to Derrida and Bourdieu--this is the work of a scholar with an immense command of classical literature and its legacy in our own time. This book should be required reading foranyone working in aesthetics, ancient or modern. Readers will never again be able to imagine beauty shorn completely of its historical ties to passion and desire." --Paul Woodruff, University of Texas at Austin