One of the dividing lines Kant drew between the “beautiful” and the “agreeable” was the border between the absence and the presence of desire for an object apprehended aesthetically. Several modern (and modernist) approaches to aesthetic response seem to question such convictions. Starting with Swann’s falling in love with a sonata in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the chapter proceeds to a discussion of the way mousikê is represented as eliciting a thoroughly mystifying type of desire in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Further discussion of Plato’s Philebus brings up crucial aspects of the type of aesthetic pleasure that is associated with desire and puts into new perspective an important concept surfacing in various Greek texts: the coexistence of pleasure and pain in the process of apprehending the beautiful.
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