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Exemplarity and MediocrityThe Art of the Average from Bourgeois Tragedy to Realism$
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Paul Fleming

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780804758901

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804758901.001.0001

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The Average Artist (Goethe and Schiller on Dilettantism)

The Average Artist (Goethe and Schiller on Dilettantism)

(p.76) Chapter 3 The Average Artist (Goethe and Schiller on Dilettantism)
Exemplarity and Mediocrity
Stanford University Press

This chapter examines the aesthetics of the genius by focusing on the literary and theoretical writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. In these writings, both Goethe and Schiller continually reflect on questions of genius and mediocrity—particularly in Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther and Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship along with their fragmentary, collective project on the dilettante. However, they also acknowledge that the modern art system requires not only an aesthetics of genius but also an aesthetics of dilettantism. By locating the origin of dilettantism in the universal mixture of art and bourgeois existence, Goethe and Schiller recognize that modern art gives rise to social, economic, and psychological forces which impinge upon and influence art like never before. Whereas the genius is the figure of exception, an absolute rarity, dilettantes embody the world of the non-exceptional or average artist.

Keywords:   aesthetics, genius, Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, average artist, mediocrity, dilettantes, dilettantism, art, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship

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