‘Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages’ is already a classic title in Eco’s oeuvre, it invites us question the notion of that which we call beautiful.
Art and beauty in medieval aestheticism (a reflection by Umberto Eco) /
Beauty and ugliness are real, but above all else they’re ideas. While physical reality has a number of objective realities, such as mass and speed (even if these can vary depending on the observer’s point of view), as we make our way through these properties, this become more and more subjective, cultural, social, defined by their context, linked to the different circumstances that add to the different facts and planes where it is hard to affirm, categorically, that something is definitely so.
Umberto Eco is probable one of the most eloquent exponents of this type of cultural analysis. From his legendary Apocalittici e integrati (1964), the Italian semiotic and narrator has proven an unlikely ability to dissect the mechanisms which make an idea be accepted or rejected, the social forces behind these processes, the invention of its legitimacy and other aspects of this dynamic that transforms something that was previously considered ephemeral or volatile; a supposition, belief or fantasy, into something real.
In Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages, Eco creates a collection of the “aesthetic theories elaborated by the Latin culture of the middle ages from the sixth to the fifteen century”, an unfolding of erudition animated by the intention of showing the contrasting and differing ideas surrounding beauty (some theological, some philosophic, artistic etc.), a game where the reflections of the diversity give rise to reflection: does beauty have to be identified by the practical or the sublime? With the aesthetic or with the good? Can these dilemmas have a single answer?
The book, originally published in the Eighties, continues to be a point of reference for the investigations surrounding the aesthetic experience, especially on how this might seem to be extremely personal, non-transferable, and also coveted by external circumstances that have directly or indirectly taught us how to react in a specific manner.Tagged: Umberto Eco, books, beauty, Middle Age