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Aesthetic activity as a whole—from the most casual and spontaneous experience of beauty to the most sophisticated and purposive works of art—and the place of this activity in the yet larger context of human life as a whole, is the subject matter of this book.
The author develops a theory of the nature of art and of the role of art in everyday life, and he places it within a more general theory of man and man’s status in the universe. On these terms he analyzes the character and structure of art works, of aesthetic experience, and of the creative process. Thus, Iredell Jenkins provides an explanation of the part art plays both for the individual and in the culture.
Here we see that all of the higher and distinctly human activities have their origin in the process of adaptation and they find their eventual function as instruments of life. The main body of the book is devoted to an examination of aesthetic activity and the works of art in which it culminates. Among the topics discussed are the character of aesthetic experience, the process that leads from this through expression to creation, the structure of art, the corrupt types of experience and artifact that often are confused with the aesthetic, the major varieties of art, and the values that art confers on man. Throughout, there is a consideration of the relations between art, theory, and technology, and of the ways in which they interweave with one another to constitute the fabric of the human enterprise.