English Literature (Jun 2015)

The Spectator, Aesthetic Experience and the Modern Idea of Happiness

  • Norton, Brian Michael

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 1, no. 1


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Focusing on Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s Spectator papers, this essay links modern ideas of happiness to the emergence of aesthetic theory in early eighteenth-century Britain. It argues that Addison and his contemporaries understood aesthetics foremost as a means of enriching life through sharpening our sensory experience of the world, especially the world of nature. The «happiness» that attends this experience, as they describe it, is a heightened sense of feeling alive, of connecting to the providential order, and being part of a common universe of existing things.