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On Beauty: A History of a Western Idea Paperback – 30 Sep 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press; 01 edition (30 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857050206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857050205
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.9 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

'Over more than 400 pages Eco displays his polymathic qualities, ranging over diverse subjects to produce a comprehensive definition of beauty. Utilising examples of literature, sculpture, painting, photography and film among other areas, Eco asks what beauty is and why it matters so much. The volume is lavishly produced... with exquisite images' Fatchna Kelly and Julian Fleming, Sunday Business Post. (Sunday Business Post)

Book Description

Dazzlingly erudite, sumptuously illustrated and entirely unique, Beauty is a remarkable new work from one of the world's most renowned writers and thinkers. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful achievement. I discovered Eco through his fiction which is very engaging and erudite. However his "day job" so to speak is as a Professor at the world renowned University of Bologna.
This book is an academic work focusing on the question "What is Beauty?". It spans thousands of years from the ancient egyptians to modern day Icons such as the Beetles and David Beckham. It is not only visual beauty but the description of beauty through literature. I really cannot do justice to the brilliance of this work but the prose is superb, insight incredible and knowledge unmatched. If you are at all interested in arts of any kind then i suggest you should buy this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is erudite, eclectic with strong individuality emanating from the powerful intellect and personality of the author.

The structure is consistent within and between chapters and comprises three distinct but interwoven elements:a succint text by the author, colour pictures lavishly illustrating the points made by the author in the text and excerpts from the sources used by the author belonging to both eponymous and anonymous authors. These excerpts were invariably, meticulously and eclectically selected and fascinating in their own right due to their engaging writing style varying from the naive during the Dark Ages to the progressively sophisticated from the Renaissance onwards and in that they provide the character of the aesthetics and the ideal of beauty of the particular era they refer to, as well as the cultural and social context in which the works of art were created.

The book covers the entire spectrum of artistic creation from the classical Greek antiquity to the end of the twentieth century and beyond.

In the ensuing I shall present a sample of the writing of the author relating to classical Greece and a sample of chapters comprising the book.

Regarding classical Greece we are not merely presented with the familiar serene harmony, understood as order and measure, expressed in a Beauty that Nietzsche called Apollonian but also with the less familiar and disquieting, Dionysiac Beauty, which was not expressed in apparent forms, but over and above appearances. This was the joyous and dangerous Beauty, antithetical to reason and often depicted as possession and madness:it is the nocturnal side of the mild Attic sky, populated by initiation mysteries and obscure sacrificial rites, like the Eleusinian rites.
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Format: Paperback
This is really a gorgeously produced book, which manages to pack in so many lovely images alongside Eco's text. He selects snippets from selected writers from antiquity onwards to illustrate his points and it's a fascinating overview of aesthetics. It's lovely to see a paperback art book that really lives up to the standards of a big glossy hardback while still being portable!
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By RR Waller TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The hardcover edition of this book is a pleasure in itself; at four hundred and thirty pages, it is relatively short for an Eco but produced on high-quality, glossy paper with at least an illustration on each page, often more and often full page, the interesting text is well illustrated to make his points clearer.

As a semiotics professor, this comes through in his analysis; he is always a pleasing read and this book is no exception.

It is not a history of art; nor is it a history of aesthetics. He has combined the two in semiologist's mind and written a fascinating book charting through art and architecture, the changing aspects of beauty through the ages and those aspects which have remained unchanged. Collecting material and organising it effectively as he has done must have been a daunting but thoroughly enjoyable endeavour. Join him in his enjoyment and read this lavishly illustrated, wonderful book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At the start of the final chapter of this supremely beautiful, weighty (1.4kgs), and thrillingly provocative book, Eco asks us to "imagine an art historian of the future or an explorer arriving from outer space who both ask themselves the same question: what is the idea of Beauty that dominated the twentieth century? At bottom we have done nothing else, in this cavalcade through the history of Beauty, but pose ourselves similar questions about other times." In essence, this is what the book is about.

"This is a history of Beauty and not a history of art (or of literature or music). ... So why is this history of Beauty [always spelt throughout this book with a capital B] documented almost solely through works of art?" Well, Eco argues this is because artists, poets, and novelists were the only people to leave examples for which valid (though tendentious) claims can be made about Beauty. This is plainly open to argument and is contradicted by his use of written sources by such `artists' as Immanuel Kant and Eric Hobsbawm, people whose names are listed under the index of authors and not the index of artists that appear at the end of the book. (Incidentally, to give some indication of the range of authors, the index runs from Addison to Zola; the index of artists from Abbott to Zoffany.)

Still, Eco is on firmer ground by delimiting his contemplation to the concept of Beauty as it appears solely in western culture (the book is subtitled "History of a Western Idea"), for primitivism leaves no texts. As for Chinese or other literate cultures, "it is always difficult to establish up to what point certain concepts can be identified with our own". A relativistic cop-out?
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