Leo Tolstoy compares art to speech by mentioning that art is a form of communication. The communication that Tolstoy writes about in “What Is Art?” is of two types, good and bad. According to Tolstoy, good art is what carries humanity towards perfection (Tolstoy 383). It is this movement forward in humanity that is emphasized by Tolstoy. Tolstoy informs his readers that speech is what teaches knowledge from human history, but art is what teaches the emotions of mankind’s past. As knowledge becomes obsolete in society it is replaced by new and more relevant information. Tolstoy asserts that emotions act the same way. The purpose of art is to express new and more relevant feelings to humankind. The new feelings are for the betterment of humanity, allowing a progression of morality in society.
It is instructive to the reader to point out that Tolstoy's usage of the word “art” speaks of a wide sphere of artistic expressions. Among these expressions are literature, poetry, painting, sculptures and music. According to Tolstoy, it is art that brings mankind together and allows for the commonalities in humanity to be emphasized. Tolstoy describes these commonalities as man's need for union with God and with one another. Good art, for Tolstoy, is art that expresses itself through religious perception. This religious perception is how the culture of its current time views its most important values. This is similar to William Wordsworth’s ideas for literature. It is important to Wordsworth that the author of the work express emotions that the common man can relate to. It is fundamental to Tolstoy, as with Wordsworth, that the work be accessible and understandable to all people. This is why Tolstoy supposed that music is the...
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...t. It is important that art be simultaneously accessible and enjoyable to the common man. According to Tolstoy, a work of art need not follow all of the guidelines that have been given in the past, such as Aristotle's teaching on the Unities, as long as it carries the principles of instruction and enjoyment. Tolstoy believes that the greatest of unities are the unity found in God and with one's neighbor. The purpose of art is to highlight and influence this unification.
Tolstoy, Leo. “What Is Art?” Kaplan, Charles, and William Anderson. Criticism: Major
Statements. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 382-393. Print.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “Biographica Literaria” Kaplan, Charles, and William
Anderson. Criticism: Major Statements. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 261.
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