Deconstructive and New Historicist Notion upon Kantian Formalism

In the context of romantic formalism McGann puts different opinions than the most of the critics do. He demonstrates the complexities brought by Kantian formalism for the ideas of aesthetic and political unity. Recently, there have been renewed interests in Kantian aesthetics, especially in the work of Weiskel S. Knapp, F. Ferguson and Eagleton (Ideology of the Aesthetics).

They have perused the relationship between 'literary works and social and political structures. They are therefore trying to determine how much romantic formalism involves itself in politics directly or indirectly. "Kant's aesthetics fundamentally reconfigures the terms of the relationship between the individual and the collective". Moreover, Kant's aesthetic is concerned with the relationship between the object of perception and the perceiver. For Kant, the first response of an individual perceiver is important for making aesthetic experience, not rely on an object which is already determined meaningful in itself. According to Kant, the existence of the object becomes irrelevant in isolation with the perceiver. So, the aesthetic judgment of an object makes a human intention of that object and this happens every time when a perceiver "attends to a new object of attention". There is a relationship between the pleasure obtained from an object and the instruction gained from it. In the case of aesthetic experience a problem arises in this relationship. But the problem is resolved when Kant emphasizes the disinterestedness or indifference in aesthetic judgment. There is no purpose of "communication or content is an object". He further divides his aesthetic judgment into two parts, the analytic of Beautiful and the analytic of Sublime. He confines sublime only to the nature, not to the social or artificial world. It is due to the nature of 'human being findings enjoyment in objects that were never produced "designedly" [by humans] and for their pleasure.

Objects of perception, according to Kant, are important because they are the new place (point) for the "argument about individuals and collective wholes because they are always one, always self-unified [the same e.g. rose, a lake, a book anything] until multiple human agencies introduce a multiplicity into them. [In this respect] if objects cannot unite individual humans; because humans introduce a multiplicity into those objects by seeing them as portions of varying units, Kant's concept of transcendentalism can do this. So transcendentalism doesn't concern itself with the detachment from social and political, but rather it is concerned with the social and political tendencies of earthly things.

Moreover, Kantian aesthetics have aroused some difficulties in discussion of Romantic criticism, particularly in the relationship between individuals and objects and individuals and groups. According to a critic Steven Knapp, the aesthetic object defined by some new critics like W.K. Wimsatt is a "concrete universal". He strongly argue that such an aesthetic object is concrete universal because it contains all and all meanings or interpretations associated with it. It's a unified whole of "multiple sets of correspondences and coherences" unified by the irony and ambiguity present in it. For Knapp (aesthetic objects) texts are "continually expanding, through an understanding of reception that incorporated it into the text itself and a very expansive version of context were thus always being made identical (similar) to text.”[So] A poem (aesthetic object) is not just what a reader thought it to be, “but it is all readers thought it to be"; the explanation which is closer to "affective fallacy". The explanation is similar to the Kant's basic account of natural objects. According to Kant; an aesthetic pleasure is gained without having any motive or knowing for what purpose the objects are created or exist. The both grounds are somehow similar on which aesthetic formalism of Kant and New criticism have stood i.e. avoiding the outer references and giving emphasis on the internal unity of form. In this sense, we see a direct continuation of Romantic Aesthetics up to the New Criticism but however there is a direct contradiction in this lineage, because the New Criticism emphasized the lyric (a personal poem expressing the emotions attitudes or feeling of a poet towards something). Particularly, it emphasizes the "notion of voice" i.e. the voice of a poet or the intention of a poet. New criticism had perceived two important elements of Kant's argument about aesthetic experience.

  • "We cannot explain aesthetic pleasure in an object that carries no intentions in it,
  • "In other hand, pleasure in [a form or] formalism is absolutely dependent on the object's not turning out to be an intentional object.

In this context, remember the popular and contradictory term of Kant, "purposefulness without purpose".