By Janet Wolff
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Extra resources for Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art
10). He points out, obviously rightly, that any work continues to have an effect only if future generations still respond to it or rediscover it. Any particular aesthetic judgement or effect, he maintains, is a function of the 'horizon of expectations' of the audience for a work. New works will have greater or lesser aesthetic distance from the horizon of expectations of their readers, in some cases (the example he cites is Madame Bovary) producing such great aesthetic distance that only a few readers know how to understand the work.
164). For us the question remains of the particular character of the (bourgeois) aesthetic distinction. As another type of reception aesthetic (that is, an approach which perceives aesthetic judgement solely in terms of who is doing the judging), Bourdieu's critique manifests the same weakness as all those theories, and indeed as any sociological reductionist account. It fails to answer the question, by refusing to consider it, of the peculiar nature of aesthetic experience. The third type of response to the sociological critique of art and aesthetics is one which asserts the social and ideological construction of art, but then argues that art, or 'good' art, transcends its conditions of production.
The way in which a literary work satisfies, surpasses, disappoints, or disproves the expectations of its first readers in the historical moment of its appearance obviously gives a criterion for the determination of its aesthetic value. The distance between the horizon of expectations and the work, between the familiarity of previous aesthetic experiences and the 'horizon change' demanded by the response to new works, determines the artistic nature of a literary work along the lines of the aesthetics of reception: the smaller this distance, which means that no demands are made upon the receiving consciousness to make a change on the horizon of unknown Sociology versus Aesthetics 35 experience, the closer the work comes to the realm of 'culinary' or light reading.
Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art by Janet Wolff