Aesthetic Experience and a Belletristic Definition of Literature

  • Paisley Livingston


A belletristic conception of literature is, quite generally, one in which literature is defined in terms of some notion of fine art. There are rival belletristic conceptions, as well as rivals to all such conceptions. My primary goal in this paper is to consider how a belletristic definition may best be delineated. My assumption is not that the word ‘literature’, its cognates, and related terms in other languages designate either a natural kind or a Platonic Idea or essence; instead, the term has a variety of appropriate uses in diverse contexts and has been associated with significantly different classifications – as is ably documented by Anders Pettersson and Lars-Olof Åhlberg in their contributions to this volume.1 My attempt to set forth a cogent, belletristic conception is motivated by the idea that although artistic values and achievements do not exhaust the multiple facets of things aptly called ‘literature’, they do provide one important way of distinguishing between some different types and qualities of discourse. I begin by setting forth a way of distinguishing between aesthetic and other sorts of experiences. With that distinction in mind, I turn to the question of how a belletristic concept of literature, based on that notion, may be elucidated and motivated.


Natural Kind Phenomenal Quality Literary Work Aesthetic Experience Aesthetic Quality 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Paisley Livingston

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