Social Ecology and Aesthetic Criticism

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Owen, Connor
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While ecocriticism has become a respected field in literary theory and in the broader landscape of aesthetic philosophy, it could benefit from an enhanced ethical-political framework which social ecology – an underrated critical theory developed by Murray Bookchin – could provide. This essay attempts to tease out the potentials for such a framework, integrating the insights of social ecology, ecocriticism, Critical Realism, and John Dewey's aesthetic concepts into a layered idea-set used for the study of all kinds of aesthetic objects, from popular art to the gallery arts. Its key principles are the emergence of aesthetic objects (including formal artworks) out of congealed human experience, the relation between organism and environment in assessing meaning, the breakdown of implicit or overt hierarchies within a work, and the idea of the artist and art-critic as a "gardener". Author keywords: Social ecology; Aesthetics; Ecocriticism; Aesthetic philosophy; Ecosemiotics