This book is the follow up to the previous volume, "On Beauty". Apparently beauty and ugliness are concepts that imply each other, and by ugliness we usually mean the opposite of beauty, so all we need do is define the first to understand the nature of the second. But the various manifestations of ugliness over the centuries are richer and more ...
This book is the follow up to the previous volume, "On Beauty". Apparently beauty and ugliness are concepts that imply each other, and by ugliness we usually mean the opposite of beauty, so all we need do is define the first to understand the nature of the second. But the various manifestations of ugliness over the centuries are richer and more unpredictable than is commonly thought. The anthological quotations and the extraordinary illustrations in this book lead us on a surprising journey among the nightmares, terrors, and loves of almost three thousand years, where acts of rejection go hand in hand with touching gestures of compassion, and the rejection of deformity is accompanied by decadent ecstasies over the most seductive violations of all classical canons.Among demons, madmen, horrible enemies, and disquieting presences, among horrid abysses and deformities that verge on the sublime, among freaks and the living dead, we discover a vast and often unsuspected iconographic vein. So much so that, on gradually encountering in these pages the ugliness of nature, spiritual ugliness, asymmetry, disharmony, disfigurement, and the succession of things sordid, weak, vile, banal, random, arbitrary, coarse, repugnant, clumsy, horrendous, vacuous, nauseating, criminal, spectral, witchlike, satanic, repellent, disgusting, unpleasant, grotesque, abominable, odious, crude, foul, dirty, obscene, frightening, abject, monstrous, hair-raising, ugly, terrible, terrifying, revolting, repulsive, loathsome, fetid, ignoble, awkward, ghastly and indecent, the first foreign publisher to see this book exclaimed: 'How beautiful ugliness is!'
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Mr. Eco has written a fascinating, often hilarious survey of "ugliness" in western art history. The book is also full of wonderful reproductions, so it's an unusual coffee-table browser as well as an informative read.
Oct 22, 2008
Umberto Eco once again shows his mastery of language and art. This companion piece to the History of Beauty once again uses art to illustrate the changing faces of ugliness to illustrate society and thought during the history humanity from antiquity to modern times. It is a book that compliments beauty and will supply a visual and verbal panorama of man's-woman's thought and expression of him-herself.
Publishers Weekly, 2007-10-22 Italian literary and cultural critic Eco opens this visually dazzling and intellectually provocative companion volume to his History of Beauty (2004) by arguing that ugliness has been defined through the ages only as the opposite of beauty. Eco attempts to go further in this analysis of ugliness-part history, part cultural criticism-which echoes premises from his previous survey: a correspondence between the public's tastes and artists' sensibilities must be assumed, and cultural and historical contexts determine how both beauty and ugliness are portrayed and received. Each chapter juxtaposes images with brief excerpts from texts through the centuries, and Eco's choices are superb: a discussion of "industrial ugliness" includes excerpts from Baudelaire, DeLillo and the Eiffel Tower's originally negative reception; the delightful chapter on kitsch includes Hermann Broch and Eco's own hilarious description of California's Madonna Inn. Eco's thoughts on ugliness in contemporary culture are the most interesting: in an age of goth and cyborg aesthetics, the boundaries between beauty and ugliness are perhaps permanently blurred. This unusual and eclectic study will appeal to cultural and art historians as well as to the general reader with an interest in a rarely examined topic. 300 color illus. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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