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I pretty much funneled all of my art criticism into my lectures on aesthetics. Luckily, my diligent students took detailed notes. Here's a relatively accessible introduction translated by Bernard Bosanquet and a volume of my lectures translated by T.M. Knox. If you've got a copy of the Phenomenology of Spirit handy, though, you can sneak a peek at how my ideas on ethics influence my interpretation of Antigone and Oedipus the King.
Antigone going toe-to-toe with Creon is a classic example (heehee) of what made Greek tragedy truly great: the ethical conflicts inherent in issues of family and state.
How could I not write about this Epic Poem to End All Epic Poems? This is the tale of a man who chases love and beauty by traveling through hell, into purgatory, and up into heaven. It is the ultimate look at the transformative and transcendent ability of the will, when faced with incredible limitations. Plus, the text also glories in the power of poetry… which is awesome, because I think poetry is the "most perfect art."
I heart Goethe oh so much. But when it comes to Hammy, we've got to part ways. Unlike Goethe, I do not—no way, no how—see Hamlet as weak or ineffectual. Nope, he's beautiful. Well, his soul is, at least. Hamlet's gentle, noble soul is a wondrous thing. And that's why he has to kill everyone.
Epic poetry is sweet because it often exemplifies what I'm getting at with my epochs. Like what I did there? See, I'm a poet, and I know it. Anywho, in an epic like The Iliad, characters are caught between their actions and their circumstances. They have some volition, but their world is limited by major events like, oh, the Trojan War.
Characters in epic poems can affect their circumstances, but the bigger picture determines what choices are available to them. History, epochs, and geist—epic poems have got it all.
Now, I know Freud takes his interpretation all the way to the bank. But before he even stepped on the scene, I had my own take on this play. It's your good ol' consciousness vs. unconscious Battle Royale: Oedipus is "unconscious" or unaware that he—spoiler alert— killed his own pops. But his "consciousness," or conscience, in this case, demands that he find out who killed Laius. In yo' face, Freud.
Forget Romeo. Juliet is the star of this bit of dramatic poetry. She exhibits transcendent or Romantic beauty because of her sensitivity. When she first meets Romeo, she comes to life like an innocent child. She's "a torch lit by a spark".
Juliet is an example of perfect love because, like a flower in bloom, she exposes herself to unknown dangers. Forget Fabio's—er, Romeo's—timeless allure. This tale is truly about Juliet's generous heart. Swoon.