One of the best-known continental theorists writing today, Grard Genette here explores our aesthetic relation to works of art. Through an analysis of the views of thinkers ranging from David Hume and Immanuel Kant to Monroe C. Beardsley, Arthur Danto, and Nelson Goodman, Genette seeks to identify the place of the aesthetic in a theory of artistic appreciation. His discussion is rich in detailed examples drawn from all of the arts. The Aesthetic Relation is a companion volume to The Work of Art: Immanence and Transcendence, published by Cornell in 1997. Taken together, the two books offer a comprehensive theory of art which addresses the work of art as at once object and action.
Genette maintains that our aesthetic relation to all types of objects presupposes that special attention is paid to their outward aspect (rather than to their usefulness) when appraising them. Such appraisals, while wholly subjective and temporary, are expressed as objective and universal judgments about the items in question. Further, he asserts that our aesthetic relation to works of art in particular is based on an awareness of an aesthetic intention that defines an object as a work of art, as well as on an awareness of a work's position in its historical and generic field.