LI ZEHOU QUESTIONS FOR ENGLISH 492 THEORY, CSU FULLERTON
LI ZEHOU, FROM FOUR ESSAYS ON ART: TOWARD A GLOBAL VIEW
Assigned: Zehou, Li. From Four Essays on Art: Toward a Global View (1748-60 in Leitch, Vincent B. and William E. Cain, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-93292-8.)
From Four Essays on Art: Toward a Global View
1. On 1748-50 of Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View, Li Zehou concedes that "there is still no common agreement about what art is and which works constitute art" (1748 lower middle). How does he begin to reframe and address the issue? In responding, try to incorporate key Zehou concepts such as "sedimentation," "form," and "aesthetic psychological construction" as you understand them.
2. On 1751-52 of Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View, Li Zehou continues his engagement with the definition of artworks. First, how does he discuss the relationship between the material dimension of art and the subjective experience of the perceiver? Second, trace Zehou's logic in making the assertion towards the end of these pages that "there is no use in seeking an eternal and unchangeable definition of art" (1752 top). What leads him towards this conclusion?
3. On 1754-56 of Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View, Li Zehou early on asks "Which came first, art or the sense of beauty?" (1754 middle) How does he answer this question, and what reasoning does he offer for it? Furthermore, what is apparently meant by "primitive sedimentation," and why is it important to Zehou's understanding of the development of aesthetic experience?
4. On 1756-58 of Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View, Li Zehou discusses the significance of the Chinese term qi (pronounced approximately as "chee") within the aesthetic theory he has developed. What, then, is meant by qi in this context? Furthermore, how does this quality relate to Zehou's discussion of artistic genius and the purpose of art (1758, "The Genius of Artists Lies in the Use of Form"). Does any of what Zehou writes on 1756-58 regarding qi remind you of the Kantian framework for discussing aesthetic judgments and "beauty"? If so, explain.
5. On 1759-60 of Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View, Li Zehou tells us that "the formal stratification of artworks extends itself . . . in two directions" (1759 top). What two directions does he go on to ascribe to this extension? In the course of this explication, how does Zehou suggest that we may account for the changes we find in aesthetic production and taste over time and across different countries and regions? In spite of all the emphasis on change, is he nonetheless suggesting that there is something more or less permanent about humanity's production and experience of art? If so, explain.
6. General question: In Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View, Li Zehou develops a strikingly original theory of aesthetic experience while also paying a visit to earlier theorists such as Immanuel Kant. Not for a presentation, but for a journal entry: what about your own experiences with works of literary or other kinds of art? As an individual, what influences do you believe have most strongly shaped your own responses to "aesthetic objects"? Some possible avenues to explore: would you say you're closer to a formalist-style response to art, to an expressive emphasis, or to a cultural materialist response that sees art as inherently political and reflective of social reality? Is art primarily a private, individual matter with you, or is your experience with it more social or collective-oriented?