Hugo, Hegel, and Architecture

Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics 44 (1):153-163 (2021)
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Abstract

This essay aims to contribute comparative points of contact between two influential figures of nineteenth century aesthetic reflection; namely, Victor Hugo’s artful considerations on architecture in his novel Notre-Dame de Paris and G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophical appraisal of the artform in his Lectures on Fine Art. Although their individual views on architecture are widely recognized, there is scant comparative commentary on these two thinkers, which seems odd because of the relative convergence of their historically situated observations. Owing to this shortage, I note that, while certainly not identical, Hugo and Hegel share an aesthetic family resemblance in how they hold similar ideas on architecture’s symbolic function, cognitive content, and, ultimately, how the artform’s ability to remain a standing paragon of meaning was razed by successive modes of cultural communication. Consequently, the essay works to show some congruent aesthetic affinities between these two great figures, but which appears to be overlooked in the literature.

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José Luis Fernández
Fairfield University

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