Irving Babbitt. The New Laokoon: An Essay on the Confusion of the Arts.
Boston: Houghton, 1910.
|BABBITT OPENS this two-part
treatise with a re- evaluation of the confusion in the eighteenth-century
arts identified by Lessing. Rather than mark the distinction, however,
between spatial and temporal forms, Babbitt marks the distinction between
classic and pseudo-classic interpretations of mimesis in Aristotle. The
pseudo-classic insists upon the imitation of artistic models, while the
true Aristotelian insists upon the imitation and improvement of nature.
Babbitt then identifies a similar confusion
in the Modern period, between Classic and Romantic; he further divides
the Romantic into Platonist and pseudo-Platonist. He argues that Romanticism
fails because it confuses spontaneity with creativity, and classicism with
In the end, Babbitt calls for a greater self-restraint
on the part of the artist, emphasizing a straightforward understanding
of genres, rather than the intellectual and emotional muddle which is Romanticism.
Despite its implicit claim to continue the discussion
that Lessing began, this book makes little or no contribution to the critical
discussion of the relationship between spatial and temporal arts. (David
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Created 24 December 1997