В. Б. Жадан


The article is devoted to the analysis of Eco’s theoretical works which deal with the problems of classical and postclassical aesthetics. The main attention is paid to the analysis of the main aesthetic categories: «beautiful» and «ugly» in European culture. Creativity of Eco has for many years been the object of scientific research. Eco is known as a writer, scientist and publicist. His creative heritage includes a large number of texts different in content and genre from scientific works to essays and novels. Many Eco’s works are interdisciplinary in nature, they are «confronted» by philosophy, aesthetics, semiotics, history and philology. Eco’s creativity is devoted to the conference, research and popular articles. Eco revealed the aesthetic aspects of art and everyday life, talked about the evolution of representations of beauty and disgrace as well as about aesthetic taste in scientific and popular works as well as in interviews and journalistic essays. Despite a large number of Eco’ studies creativity, his work on aesthetics is little studied. The purpose of the article is to analyze the aesthetic views of Eco.

The Doctor’s thesis of Eco was devoted to the aesthetic views of Thomas Aquinas. It became important in aesthetic medieval studies. Eco analyzed how the aesthetic problems developed over the millennium from the 5th to the 15th century. He refuted the idea of the Middle Ages sterility, the absence of aesthetic theories in this era. Studying medieval aesthetics allowed Eco to reveal the features of European culture and to show the origins of modern aesthetic consciousness.

Eco concluded that medieval aesthetics, through a constant appeal to the same themes, identified by ancient thinkers, through commenting on Christian authorities, created its own theory, which became a link between the ancient era and the Renaissance. Study of the aesthetic consciousness of the middle ages required the researcher painstaking work in collecting and analyzing the judgments scattered through theological treatises and revealing their main theme. Appeal to written and pictorial sources allowed the author to show the paradoxicality of medieval aesthetic consciousness:

In subsequent works, Eco refers to the aesthetic problems of other eras including modern times. In the collection «The History of Beauty», Eco examined in detail the evolution of the category «beautiful» from the era of antiquity to modern times. In the next collection «The History of the ugliness», he turned to the category «ugly», which in aesthetics is usually paid little attention considering it only as the opposite to the category «beautiful». In the context of the aesthetics, ugly Eco considered the martyrdom of the saints and death, the devil and monsters, moral evil and cruelty, he shows the close connection of the ugly with the comic and obscene, and the embodiment of it in the art of the Middle Ages, explains what images of monsters for a medieval man were so attractive. The aesthetics of the ugly created in the Middle Ages gets a continuation from the Renaissance, Mannerism and Baroque. Based on the judgments of contemporaries, Eco explains the formation of the ugly theory in the aesthetics of romanticism and the triumph of the ugly in avant-garde art, the attraction of ugliness, illness, suffering for the modern artist. Eco explains how the aesthetic category «ugly» from the form of denunciation of evil in classical aesthetics becomes a means of provocation in modern aesthetic theory and artistic practice. Eco concluded that in the aesthetic consciousness of modern man, the beautiful and ugly ceased to be antagonists. The ugly that art presents to us throughout the history of man is also ugly in the moral sense, and it inspires us not only with disgust but with compassion, indignation and protest.

Eco comes through the theory of an open work from the aesthetics of the Middle Ages to the aesthetic problems of modern times. Eco identified a whole range of problems that will become relevant for the aesthetics of postmodernism; the book «Open work» includes traditional ones formed for aesthetics. Eco explores new artistic forms that emerged in the culture of the twentieth century as well as their perception. He comes to the idea of the work openness for interpretation. Interpretation is the process and result of the extraction of meanings as well as the comprehension of this result and ultimately the construction of one’s own concept based on the extracted meanings. In addition to the problems discussed, Eco develops issues of importance to modern aesthetics such as innovation and repetition, intertextuality, the concepts of «kitsch» and «camp».

Thus, the Eco-aesthetic problem is a key one for him in spite of the multifaceted creativity. All the themes that Eco considered, in one way or another, fall into the problem field of aesthetics. Eco also addressed to questions of classical aesthetics, to which he referred the ancient and medieval aesthetic thought, the aesthetics of modernism, the beginning of which Eco believed in Mannerism, and the aesthetics of postmodernism. Aesthetic problems in Eco were developed not only in theoretical works but also in artistic prose, and in journalism.


aesthetic consciousness; beautiful; ugly; culture


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