The Aesthetic Experience of the Literary Artwork: A Matter of Form and Content?


  • Leen Verheyen University of Antwerp



aesthetic experience, literature, formalism, Kivy


Ever since the introduction of aesthetics in philosophy, the literary arts have posed a challenge to common notions of aesthetic experience. In this paper, I will focus on the problems that arise when a formalist approach to aesthetics is confronted with literature. My main target is Peter Kivy's ‘essay in literary aesthetics’ Once-Told Tales, in which Kivy defends formalism and concludes from this approach that literature is a non-aesthetic art form. Contrary to Kivy, I will claim that we have good reasons to consider literature an aesthetic art form and, therefore, that the literary arts naturally pose a challenge to formalism. By showing the inextricable intertwining of form and content in literary artworks, I will demonstrate that the identification of so-called aesthetic properties with purely formal properties of a literary artwork is problematic.

Author Biography

Leen Verheyen, University of Antwerp

Leen Verheyen is a PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Antwerp. Her research interests involve mainly aesthetics, philosophy of literature and hermeneutics. Her current research focuses on the relation between literature and truth.