aestheticism: Reverence for beauty; for “art for art’s sake.” …Also refers to nineteenth-century movement in art and literature that held that beautiful form is more to be valued than morally instructive content, and even that morality is irrelevant to art…In part a reaction against the ugliness and mere usefulness of the products of industrialization, the movement reached its peak in the 1890s and is usually associated with Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, and Aubrey Beardsle, who aspired to live their very lives as art, to live lives of beauty and intensity and brilliance rather than lives of goodness or usefulness.
aesthetics: the philosophy of art; the study of the nature of beauty in literature and the arts, and the development of criteria for judging beauty.
– The NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms
My take on aestheticism
I don’t know what else to say on this topic other than…this is the fucking dream. It’s the dream because subjectivity rules and understanding what is beautiful and what is “ugly” rules. Aestheticism is a paradoxical chaos in itself and that is why it is intense, brilliant, and philosophical. As a writer, this is certainly how the worlds and stories in my head form. It’s all chaos I try to organize, but the momentum isn’t tamed in the slightest. That’s what makes being a creative spirit absolutely thrilling. The criteria for judging this kind of art, though I’ll never believe it’s set in stone, must be just as Wilde says, “…a search for the secret of life.” That’s exactly what I live for. It’s what I’ll die for.
Antihero: “A central character, or protagonist, who lacks traditional heroic qualities and virtues (such as idealism, courage, and steadfastness). An antihero may be comic, antisocial, inept, or even pathetic, while retaining the sympathy of the reader. Antiheroes are typically in conflict with a world they cannot control or whose values they reject,” – The NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms
My Take on The Antihero
Honestly, this is my favorite type of character. They fall under other archetypes like tricksters, desperados, lone wolf, and the like. Ostracized, brooding, angsty, mischievous, chaotic, and neutral only when they want to be. These characters are near and dear to my heart probably because I’m the antihero of my own life. As I write my novel, I have several characters that fit this mold. I just love them.
I think what’s most important about this definition is the very last sentence: “Antiheroes are typically in conflict with a world they cannot control or whose values they reject.” The most prominent attribute of the antihero is conflict. This comes from their ambiguous alignment (not always lawful, chaotic, good, or evil), their “many shades of gray” point of view, and their autonomy. They conflict with many elements of the story because of their independence and resourcefulness. It’s them against the world, no matter if they have a few allies or not. Although these traits can be admirable, there is a lot of stress that comes with it, which is probably why they gain sympathy from the audience. Freedom isn’t free and you always have to watch your back. Antihero’s often come off as hardened, distant, or mistrusting. The conflicting circumstances they run into simultaneously reinforce the skills they have sharpened from their independent nature and challenge the morale they have for their lifestyle with ethical questions. I love watching a character who does their best to be neutral struggle with their ethics because it really is relatable; it’s how you establish your own personal philosophy.
Have you designed an antihero before, fellow writers? Do you favor this archetype more than others?