From the Back Cover
Over the past two decades, the most influential cultural and literary theorists appear to have agreed that the category of the aesthetic, as founded in the thought of Kant and Hegel, is up for deconstruction. Marxists, cultural materialists, poststructuralists and deconstructive psychoanalysts have converged in a "mission of cultural eugenics". These theorists have, however, failed to address the democratic and radical potential of aesthetic discourse. Matters concerning the politics of beauty and the functions of affect and the emotions in contemporary culture have been left to the reactionaries, often with disastrous consequences, as evidenced in the narrow instrumentalism of current educational policies.
In stark opposition to this anti-aesthetic project, Isobel Armstrong evolves a new poetics, forging an alternative aesthetic discourse by remaking its theoretical base, ousting Narcissus in favor of Echo. She discusses a wide range of theorists and philosophers, including Adorno, Bourdieu, Dewey, Eagleton, Freud, Hegel, Kant, Kristeva, Rose, Vygotsky, and Winnicott, and uses specific literary and other artistic examples, from Blake and Wordsworth to Antony Gormley and Clint Eastwood, to illustrate her arguments.