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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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Average Life (Grillparzer, Stifter, and the Art of Prosaic Reality)

Average Life (Grillparzer, Stifter, and the Art of Prosaic Reality)

(p.120) Chapter 4 Average Life (Grillparzer, Stifter, and the Art of Prosaic Reality)
Exemplarity and Mediocrity
Stanford University Press

This chapter focuses on realist attempts to redefine greatness by inverting aesthetics' traditional hierarchies, juxtaposing Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's thesis on the “end of art” with Heinrich Heine's declaration of the “end of the Goethean artistic period.” It also explores how realism gives up the demand for genius and instead embraces an age of epigones, of those who come too late. The chapter argues that, rather than a genial exception, the realist artist is an observer and quasi-scientific investigator of the ordinary, the everyday, and the small. It also considers Franz Grillparzer's aesthetic-hermeneutic project, in which he posits an invisible, unbroken thread from the lives of the non-famous to the great mythological figures and claims that the famous can only be understood on the basis of the ordinary. Appealing to a statistical sense of the normal distribution, Adalbert Stifter views the momentous as smaller than the small and proposes “the gentle law,” the law of regularity that lies at the base of both the common and exceptional.

Keywords:   aesthetics, Hegel, end of art, Franz Grillparzer, Heinrich Heine, realism, epigones, Adalbert Stifter, gentle law, regularity

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