Project Goals and Objectives

Project Goals and Objectives

The principal question of our research concerns the characteristic features that differentiate British aesthetics in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries from other European—primarily, of course, German—aesthetic tradition. In order to map and to discover the richness of the phenomena of “the aesthetic”, we will find new keywords that could provide new points of departure. We will demonstrate that there are rich theoretical potentials in the texts written from the middle of the seventeenth to the end of the eighteenth century in various genres and in various fields, and that these potentials have, in many cases, remained largely unexploited.

In the Hungarian scholarship on aesthetics, owing to its traditional German orientation, British authors and their works have been much less discussed or are hardly known. Even in recent international (mostly Anglo-American) scholarship, the same period is discussed rather one-sidedly and, frequently, according to later concepts on the basis of a stock of “canonized” texts.

We will discover the different contexts of the unfolding discourse around “the aesthetic” by focusing on the complex relationship between religion, politics, rhetoric, criticism, and aesthetics. Since seventeenth-and eighteenth-century British aesthetics is inseparable from the above-mentioned contexts, mapping the richness of this phenomena entails a better understanding of culture and attitudes toward life in general in the given period—which proves to be much more intriguing, more complex and more thought-provoking if we return to the original texts (theology, devotional books, moral philosophy, epistemology, political philosophy, criticism, laughter theory, physiology, medicine, etc.) and, especially, if we broaden the circle of these texts and their various contexts.

Special emphasis shall be put on the enormous influence British criticism had upon eighteenth-century university aesthetics in Hungary, most notably on the aesthetic thought of György Alajos Szerdahely (1740-1808), the first Hungarian professor of aesthetics. Since Szerdahely’s work has recently been made available, this seems a propitious moment to clarify those British contexts which played a crucial role in the early formation of Hungarian aesthetics.

Our plan is to

  • organise conferences for the international and, of course, the Hungarian academic community and public (we will put much effort into the publicity and marketing of our events so that they would attract a wider audience);
  • publish
    • a volume containing translations of fundamental seventeenth- and eighteenth-century aesthetic texts into Hungarian (which are still hardly known in Hungary) that, hopefully, will serve as an introductory university textbook on the subject;
    • another volume containing studies, written in Hungarian, that contextualise the source texts and thus, provide possible interpretations;
    • a volume that will contain a collection of studies, written in English, and will inform the international academic community about the achievements of our research work.

Research achievements will continuously be made available at this site.

There is an increased interest in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British aesthetics in recent international scholarship, and our research aims to participate in the re-evaluation of this intriguing period.

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