The Rise of Science and the Aesthetic Reaction to It

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By the 19th century, the primacy of science, sparked by the Enlightenment of the 18th century was fully evident in the progress outwardly seen in society and the economic industrialization of the West. Religion was toppled down from its pedestal of spiritual or inward source of faith.


The reaction to Darwin and Freud (whose psychological theory did not as much as put forward the rationality of man, rather that he is driven by irrational forces) was seemingly two-fold in fin de siecle literature. First, was the depiction of the separation of inner and outward character (a painting that serves as the mirror of the soul of a debauched, perfect-looking man in Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray or a Mr. Hyde, the monster to the respectable Dr. Jekyll in the famous novel by Robert Louis Stevenson) whose reconciliation would not happen in actual life but would be brought about only by death. Second, was the cold-blooded, detached view of life as a field where one can experiment and perform whose boundaries need not be set by society, but by only the individual. In both cases, the case of appreciation for what constitutes beauty or in general, what constitutes art, is laid at the mercy of a conscious or unconscious imitation of the scientific method. ...
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