Orwell on aesthetics

by Sonny Bunch on July 17, 2012

“I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his ‘message,’ and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a ‘message,’ whether he admits it or not. … As a rule, an aesthetic preference is either something inexplicable or it is so corrupted by non-aesthetic motives as to make one wonder whether the whole of literary criticism is not a huge network of humbug.”

That’s from an essay on Charles Dickens by George Orwell. Tip of the hat to Katherine Miller for passing it along to me. I hear Ms. Miller is working on a blog post about Orwell, Dickens, and The Dark Knight Rises. That’s the rumor. (No pressure or anything now, Katherine.)

Anyway, I wanted to highlight that quote because I think it’s interesting and true, though less true for film. You can admire a film’s aesthetics while also ignoring non-aesthetic motives; Riefenstahl, for example, has endured despite, not because of, her non-aesthetic motives.

On an entirely* unrelated note: I saw The Dark Knight Rises today. I’ll have a review on Friday. To whet your appetite: My four star review of The Dark Knight back in 2008. Further thoughts on the film’s politics here.

*Note: Possibly not “entirely.”

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