Metamorphosis: Visual Perception and Aesthetic Autonomy

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Mark M. Anderson
"Sliding Down the Evolutionary Ladder?"

This critical essay by Mark M. Anderson is about the aesthetic autonomy in The Metamorphosis. Anderson argues that his essay will attempt to "describe Gregor's form in visual and aesthetic terms, even when the text itself leaves these terms vague or obscures their reference." He talks about how readers must use their imaginations to visualize Gregor's metamorphosis, and gain an aesthetic understanding through their own personal visualizations. Anderson brings up ideas of a German scientist, Ernst Haeckel, who theorized that life forms (plant, mineral, and animal) which might be seen as ugly, bizarre, or weird, can be looked at and treated as "beautiful aesthetic forms in their own right." (158)

The author of this essay makes a clear and distinct point that art and aesthetics can be seen and recognized at any time in this story, regardless of gross things, conditions, or ugly visuals. He claims that "even the process of dying has an aesthetic, spiritual dimension." (168)

Looking at The Metamorphosis through Mark M.Anderson's ideas about aesthetic autonomy in his essay, almost everything in The Metamorphosis can be viewed as art and aesthetics. For example, when Gregor tries to speak to his family for the first time, all that they hear is animal gibberish. Although he thinks that he is speaking clearly, his family can no longer understand him. This "animal talk" could be seen as aesthetic and beautiful through the eyes of Anderson, because it is a form of expression regardless of whether or not it is understood.

Another example of an unusual aesthetic moment is when Gregor is walking along his walls and hanging from the ceiling. The visual that one gets when picturing an insect crawling along a wall in a house and hanging from the ceiling is most likely gross and ugly, and a feeling of fear would most likely accompany it. According to Anderson, this act of hanging from the ceiling could be looked...
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