Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry

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Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984 - 259
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Originally published in 1766, the Laocoön has been called the first extended attempt in modern times to define the distinctive spheres of art and poetry; its author, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, has been called the first modern esthetician. As Michael Fried writes in his foreword, it is Lessing who invented the modern concept of the artistic medium, and it is in the Laocoön, ultimately, that we find the source for modernist assumptions of the uniqueness and autonomy of the individual arts. And, as Fried argues, it is a work that present an impressively coherent esthetic semiotics, a book that at once sums up and moves beyond classical thought about the nature of the sign.

Long a central text for literary critics, art historians, and philosophers, the Laocoön is here returned to print in Edward Allen McCormick's authoritative translation. McCormick's introduction, notes, and biographical appendix have been retained; the new foreword by Michael Fried emphasizes Lessing's current importance for recent trends in art history and literary theory.

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Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, and art critic.

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