Panaesthetics On the Unity and Diversity of the Arts Daniel Albright

The Anthony Hecht Lectures in the Humanities Series
Publication date:
25 Mar 2014
Yale University Press
336 pages: 210 x 140 x 24mm
58 b-w illus.
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While comparative literature is a well-recognized field of study, the notion of comparative arts remains unfamiliar to many. In this fascinating book, Daniel Albright addresses the fundamental question of comparative arts: Are there many different arts, or is there one art which takes different forms? He considers various artistic media, especially literature, music, and painting, to discover which aspects of each medium are unique and which can be “translated” from one to another. Can a poem turn into a symphony, or a symphony into a painting?
Albright explores how different media interact, as in a drama, when speech, stage decor, and music are co-present, or in a musical composition that employs the collage method of the visual arts. Tracing arguments and questions about the relations among the arts from Aristotle’s Poetics to the present day, he illuminates the understudied discipline of comparative arts and urges new attention to its riches.

Daniel Albright is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University, and he teaches in the Comparative Literature, English, and Music departments. He is the author of sixteen previous books. He lives in Cambridge, MA.

“This marvelous book—an instant classic—excites, inspires, provokes, and (when provocation does not suit) gently coaxes the reader into accepting its claims. Albright has obviously mulled over the relationships among the literary, visual, and musical arts for many years, yet the result of his meditation is surprisingly fresh.”—Simon Morrison, Princeton University

“With astonishing range, quicksilver riffs, and aphorisms to die for, Daniel Albright creates nothing less than a pagan poetics for the modern age.  Panaesthetics is Pan’s aesthetic, an endlessly musical sensibility sublimely at home in a world where Art is everything and everything is Art.”— Scott Burnham, author of Mozart's Grace

“In this dazzlingly wide-ranging book, Daniel Albright explores the specificities of literature, painting, and music. But far from seeing the arts as locked into their differences, he mounts a brilliant, intricate argument for their mutual translatability and ultimate unity.”— Jahan Ramazani, author of Poetry and Its Others: News, Prayer, Song, and the Dialogue of Genres

“In exploring whether there are many different arts, or if there is one that variously takes different forms, Daniel Albright brilliantly shows how the coming-together and splitting-asunder of artistic media is one of the great stories in the intellectual history of the West.”—Pamela Rosenberg, American Academy in Berlin

“Challenging and pleasurable . . . Albright’s affecting prose produces synaesthetic sensations in the reader . . . Albright posits a unique and complex theory . . . forging a new and unique form of art criticism in the process.”—Anna Gallagher-Ross, C Magazine