In this book Arnold Berleant develops a bold alternative to the eighteenth-century aesthetic of disinterestedness. Centering on the notion of participatory engagement in the appreciation of art, he explores its appearance in art and in aesthetic perception, especially during the past century. Aesthetic engagement becomes a key, both on historical and theoretical grounds, to making intelligible our experiences with both contemporary and classical arts. In place of the traditional aesthetic that enjoins the appreciator to adopt a contemplative attitude, distancing the art object in order to ensure its removal from practical uses, Art and Engagement examines the ways in which art entices us into intimate participation in its workings.
Beginning with the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the idea of engagement, Berleant focuses on how engagement works as a force in different arts. Successive chapters pursue its influence in landscape painting, architecture and environmental design, literature, music, dance, and film.
Art and Engagement argues forcefully for the originality and power of aesthetic perception. Demolishing the conceptual barriers erected by the Western world’s limiting tradition, the book discloses the condition of engagement that has always been present when our aesthetic encounters have been most effective and suggests a new direction for aesthetic inquiry.