aesthetic/aesthetics The term 'aesthetic' has both narrow and expanded uses. Thus it can be used to name the formal or compositional aspect of a work of art as against its content, to refer to a coherent philosophy of art, or to the artistic dimension of culture as a whole. 'Aesthetics', meanwhile, embraces the study of any or all of these things. Traditionally, however, it has concerned itself with the nature, perception, and judgement of beauty. The term was first used with this sense in the eighteenth century and aesthetics has been a prominent part of German philosophy, most influentially in the work of Immanuel Kant. The tendency in this discussion has been to try to identify the transcendent and timeless aspects of beauty and to discriminate against what is contingent and therefore not art. In this way, it has been allied to the discussion of cognate terms such as 'genius' and taste and has operated in a similar fashion to the notion of the canon. A recent study such as Terry Eagleton's The Ideology of the Aesthetic has demonstrated that while seeking an essentializing and transcendent definition of art, this tradition has in fact served to buttress particular ideas of subjectivity, freedom, autonomy, and universality, which make it 'inseparable from the construction of the dominant ideological forms of modern class society.' Aesthetics, like art itself, therefore becomes an ideological and historically conditioned set of discourses. This analysis does not seek to dispense with the realm of the aesthetic but to provide it with a situated cultural history and more open, alternative political character. A more iconoclastic response to the bourgeois ideology of 'Art' and all it entailed was associated with the European avant-garde of the 1910s and 1920s. It is commonly thought that the image-driven world of the post-modern has produced an entirely 'aestheticised' society.' In which case, where all is seen as fashion, taste and style, there can be nothing for the aesthetic as a distinct realm and practice to detach itself from or connect with. [from: Brooker, 1999]