Aesthetics deals with art, that is with a human construction; but what one experiences when placed before nature is also an aesthetic feeling; indeed, the countryside is the contemplation site par excellence. In this essay Milani addresses precisely this issue: natural landscapes as an aesthetic category. Using a wide array of materials drawn from philosophical tradition, literature and art, the author has written a detailed guidebook to the aesthetic experience of landscapes. He thus calls the reader's attention to a special consciousness, originally established during the pre-Romantic age, which is a distinctive feature of contemporary spirituality. The volume has three parts. The first focuses on the definition of landscapes in relation to the concepts of nature, environment, territory and man-made settings such as gardens and cities. The first part also examines the advent of the predilection for countryside scenery among landscape painters and in travel literature. The second part addresses the peculiar nature of landscape aesthetic experiences; analyses the role of aesthetic categories such as wonder, picturesque, sublime, grace and beauty; and explores landscapes as objects of contemplation. The third part develops an original morphology of natural beauty through the scrutiny of landscape elements that are most frequently associated with aesthetic emotion: the colour of water and the sky, earth and stones, fire and volcanic eruptions, ruins and mountains.
Raffaele Milani teaches History of Aesthetics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bologna.