What is the aesthetic theory of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?

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Stephen Dadalus, the main character of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as well as a fictional alter-ego of James Joyce himself, defines beauty fully as the comprehensive relationship between the artist and their art. Dadalus believes that art should invoke only aesthetic emotions.

Dadalus also asserts that the aesthetic mood is, by its nature, static rather than dynamic. It is a moment suspended in time that completely captivates the audience and raises the consciousness to not concern itself with things as petty as base emotions. Dadalus also argues that anything that induces reaction cannot be art, because it inspires an animal part of us that is base and doesn't pertain to the intellect.

Dadalus discusses the wholeness and harmony of a work of art when discussing his aesthetic theory. This refers to an art's completeness and separation from anything else, as well as its components' relation to each other and itself as a whole. This leads to radiance, which is the essence of a thing, its essential beauty, that can be understood by first knowing its wholeness and harmony.

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I believe I answered this question a few days ago, but here goes:

According to a critical work entitled The Future of Modernism, Joyce articulated the aesthetic theories of Stephen Dedalus in his personal notebooks. The main principles are as follows:

  • any theory of beauty must include the conventionally ugly
  • art is neither immoral nor amoral but transcends conventional morality
  • the work of art is a "selfcontained wholeness." I believe this means that art does not perform a social function, but is rather "art for art's sake."


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