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A USE FOR BEAUTY

CRITICS TODAY STEER CLEAR OF “beauty” and “beautiful” as if they were tainted words. Perhaps for critical purposes they have been damaged, though I think they suffer as much from neglect as from corruption. Circulated incessantly through the media, words such as “beautiful,” “real,” “value,” “love,” and “energy” have their nuances worn away and take on a quaver of authoritative meaninglessness. Nuanced areas of experience to which these words apply are accordingly cast into a darkness of ineffability. But to provide occasions for shedding light on elusive perceptions and feelings, to show that they can be shared by enlivening the language that will render them a common reality, is part of the social function of art and of writing about it. It’s troubling that art writers apparently can do so little to keep key words in esthetics from being turned into the lingo of commercial and official

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