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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Saturday, May 3, 2014



By Albert B. Casuga


The art appreciator invariably starts appreciating the object of art from a sensory plane. In other words, he is confronted by the phenomenal structure if not physical appearance of the object of art. He senses the articulated medium in terms of a recognized content (subject matter) thereby apprehending a gestalt of unified elements in the form. He is expected to react or respond emotionally to this form. But this response is engendered by his sensory recognition of the materials (medium) whose significance he interprets in terms of certain stock associations or significance ordinarily associated with the medium and its articulation as symbol of latent experiential responses. Ultimately, he renders a value judgment on the worth of such an apprehended and comprehended significance. What he has been after all the time is a recognition, interpretation, and evaluation of a meaning. Upon this meaning rests the satisfaction of his aesthetic attitude.

The approach most often used in literary appreciation is primarily formal; i.e., starting from the object result (building in architecture, the poem on the page in literature, etc.); but the entire process does not preclude such other approaches as the historical approach (in the criticism of styles peculiar to art periods; viz., Hellenic style to Pop, to Dada, etc.); or the archetypal approach (in the criticism of how well the technique serves the artistic purpose of concretizing the aesthetic experience; i.e., techniques vary from Art Period to Art Period, from mood to mood, movement to movement; hence, some artistic traditions may be found reflected in an object of art like the mythical material of literature).

Neither does the formal (textual) approach discount the psychological approach in the criticism and evaluation of the artistry of the author’s style and technique --- these are processes proceeding directly from the personality of the artist, specifically his creative process.

Finally, the appreciator is called upon to evaluate the significance of the object of art confronting him --- in this occupation, he cannot but summon meanings and/or values derived from an awareness of the human condition exemplified in human life (moral), values affecting man as a social being (sociological approach), values affecting man as a rational animal moving with and moved by ideas and ideology (philosophical) approach. (1)

Is not analysis of the articulated medium and content (to get at the art’s “point”) enough in the appreciation of a work of art? Why is there a need for the criticism of its style and its technique? Why must there be an evaluation of the significance of the work of art? How do these two latter processes help in the achievement of an aesthetic experience (satisfaction of the appreciator’s aesthetic attitude)?

To the first question may be given an answer which, although non-conclusive, is sufficient. It (analysis) is a valid approach; however, it may not be enough for a keener and more intelligent appreciation of art (the italicized words are concepts consistent to art’s ultimate reference to and realization in the rational nature of man). After all, if after analysis one simply comes across the meaningful experience and purpose of the artist, one may still not have been aesthetically satisfied. This stems from the fact that the experience is not what is artistic nor beautiful. What is artistic is the artist’s articulation and use of his medium and the presentation as well as ordering of the selected details of his content (style and technique). It is from the Style and Technique of the artist that the appreciator apprehends and comprehends that which comes closest to the approximation of beauty --- that found in an ordered design or in re-ordered reality.

If after analysis and criticism, the appreciator experiences a satisfaction of his aesthetic attitude, but would not be able to recognize the value of his experience, of what good was the appreciation after all? Would it not merely be an exercise of awareness? Would not evaluation place in proper perspective a thing of beauty? That “proper perspective” might be defined as its (thing of beauty) participation in the ever widening experiential horizon of man as the ultimate measure of things; man who, in this century, is not only homo sapiens but endlessly proving to be homo symbolicus; i.e., the man who has continued Adam’s preoccupation of naming things, hence, making them his own.

The teacher, therefore, must realize that from the point of view of the student-appreciator, the following concepts are significant: the satisfaction of the aesthetic attitude, what satisfies this attitude, taste and beauty (taste as an identification and expression of recognition-appreciation of art as objects).

Seen from an overview, the aesthetic theory the teacher may adhere to may be built around the following pivotal facts about aesthetic appreciation.

In fine, when the appreciator beholds the object of art, he is expected to proceed from the structural presence of such an object as a phenomenon. He analyzes from this form certain meaningful symbols which have been used to concretize the creator’s aesthetic experience. From this, he arrives at the context of the creator’s meaning as well as eventually, his experience. This experience reveals the purpose of the author-artist. Either this meaning is adequate material for the appreciator’s emotional or wilful response or not.

Using the recognition of meaning as a springboard of reaction, the appreciator may then criticize whether the artist’s use of media, content, and form is skilful and purposive; i.e., does his use of these materials serve the artistic purpose of objectifying the experience?

Since medium, content, and form in themselves do not constitute that which is artistic, one may say that it is in the application of human dexterity where one may recognize that which is artistic. In other words, artistry rests in the creator’s style and technique.

Finally, the appreciator evaluates his aesthetic awareness of the object of art in terms of certain universal (2) and particular values (3) as informed by his subjective apprehension and comprehension of art and its details.

The entire effort of analysis, criticism of style and technique, and evaluation is expected to result in the satisfaction of the aesthetic attitude of the appreciator. It does not matter whether or not his response if sympathetic or antipathetic. There would still an appreciation, an aesthetic response. Strictly speaking, of course, this response is and should be pleasurable for it to be worth investing precious lifetime on.


1  Wilbur Scott, Five approaches of Literary Criticism, pp. 23-26, 69-73, 123-126, 179-184, and 247-251, Collier-Macmillan, Ltd., London, 1962.

2  Universal values in art are those which have been gleaned from literature, history, culture, civilization, mores, etc. that apply to the content of the work of art as communicators of universal significance. Particular values are those peculiar to the genre. These are evaluative criteria that measure the aesthetic value of a given literary piece. They are outstanding value characteristics common to works of the same form; therefore, they are gleaned from a broad area of appreciated work in any given form.

Artistry or expressiveness as a value is common to all fine art. It has something to do with the artist’s application of a skill on his medium and content to shape up an aesthetic form. Other values which are universal by virtue of their being endemic in all art are: intellectual value, suggestiveness or emotional value, spiritual value, permanence, universality. These values find their cogency in age-old artistic doctrines; viz., the intellectual value of art is consistent with the formative function of art enunciated by classical civilization. As a value, it takes the form of the work of art’s ability to present a fundamental truth about the human condition; the appreciator, appreciating this, will have a new insight into the meaning of human life. Suggestiveness is moored in the theories of Modern Art, principally those enunciated in the Romantic Movement where the power of the concrete to suggest meaing was prominent.

3  Particular values governing the evaluation of works as being either “good” or “bad” proceed from the education of an individual’s taste. This taste can only be educated by a liberal sampling of all known and conscientious work of a given form; vide., Gerald Sanders lists down in his A Poetry Primer, pg. 6 et seq. (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, N.Y., 1962) the marks of a good poem.

Taste and beauty are two distinct concepts. Beauty satisfies the taste, where taste is the aesthetic attitude of the appreciator/artist. This attitude must be trained to respond to proper aesthetic stimulus, and benefit from such a response. The aesthetic attitude is one’s capacity to react to a design purportedly poised to solicit an emotional response, attention, interest, and delight. (See Nikolai Shamota, "On Tastes in Art (The Soviet View)", Aesthetics Today, Morris Philipson, ed., pg. 27 et seq. The World Publishing co., N.Y., 1964. the essay of Shamota discusses the development of an educated taste.)
(Next: Part 4. An Aesthetic Theory for Teaching Literature as a Humanistic Discipline.)

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