Welcome to my website, where I’m glad to bring to people what I’ve learned from Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded in 1941 by the great American poet and critic Eli Siegel.
I grew up near Cincinnati, majored in English Literature at Denison University, and moved to New York City where I first attended an Aesthetic Realism public seminar. I was electrified by the honesty and scholarship of the speakers, and what they were saying about art and life.
What Aesthetic Realism Is
I began to study these principles, stated by Eli Siegel, which are the basis of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism:
1. The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.
2. The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it….Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.
3. All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.
I recommend the book Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism and many other works by Eli Siegel in the Online Library. And there’s the international journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known edited by Ellen Reiss. I quote from “The Aesthetics of Restlessness”:
“Take a woman who cannot concentrate on something important that she’s reading but must too often get up and look out the window, check her email, look for something on Ebay, wipe a countertop, text a friend, take a selfie with her dog, get something from the refrigerator. In her restlessness, she is dealing painfully, inaccurately, with opposites that are one in every instance of good music, motion and rest. The oneness of these opposites makes for beauty anywhere…” —Ellen Reiss, TRO #1993
Men Can Be Fair to Women!
Attending classes in the formal and exciting study of Aesthetic Realism, I was understood by Eli Siegel, seen with good will, and my life and mind were encouraged immensely. Here’s just one example of his deep comprehension of humanity:
So, What Is Bitterness?
Anna Jameson and Hedda Gabler
By Eli Siegel
Introductory note by Martha Baird
No man was a more accurate critic of women than Eli Siegel; and no man ever respected women, honestly admired them, more than he. I say this as a woman and as his wife. Eli Siegel understood me, and I have heard many women in Aesthetic Realism lessons and classes say sincerely, “Eli Siegel, you understand women.” This is praise I do not believe another man has earned sincerely. Women are chary of nothing so much as saying any man can understand them.
A classic text on the subject is Mr. Siegel’s “A Woman Is the Oneness of Aesthetic Opposites” in Definition 18 (1964). Since Aesthetic Realism sees reality as the oneness of opposites, it stands to reason that every instance of reality, including a woman, would be that too. But one doesn’t feel understood until the particular way one has opposites is seen, and this is where Aesthetic Realism criticism becomes art.
Among the women Eli Siegel was a critic and admirer of is the 19th-century writer, now little known, Anna Jameson. Mrs. Jameson had a mind: she was an art critic and she wrote well of Shakespeare’s plays. She also suffered as a woman. In relating these two aspects of her, Eli Siegel says something of all women, and particularly—for this was his purpose—of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. The lecture from which this. excerpt is taken was given in 1969, when Mr. Siegel was presenting a new way of seeing Hedda Gabler.
So, What Is Bitterness?
By Eli Siegel
I have mentioned various people as illustrating Hedda Gabler. Today, I deal with Anna Murphy Jameson, 1794-1860. What hurt Hedda Gabler seems to have hurt her. She was the daughter of a pretty well known miniature painter, an Irishman named Murphy. Some of her writings are very notable. Anyway, a lawyer, Robert Jameson, proposed to her. They were engaged; the engagement was broken off. Later there was a marriage, and the marriage didn’t last very long. The pain of Anna Jameson came to be known, because she wrote about it.
What can be presumed is that Robert Jameson was interested in Anna Jameson because of the fact that she had mind. But they separated soon because the idea of being so close to a feminine being with mind apparently didn’t please Robert Jameson. Anna Jameson was hurt too. I think there is a likeness of the hurt of Anna Jameson and the hurt or bitterness of Hedda Gabler. Anna Jameson, whatever else, is one of the women of the 19th century who had mind and knew things her husband didn’t, although he was a pretty impressive and learned lawyer….more