The reception of Croce’s Aesthetics in America

Croce’s Estetica of 1902 immediately attracted attention in the United States, and he remained central to American discussion in aesthetics until the later 1960s. He won some able partisans, but he was widely misunderstood, even labeled an apostle of excess, license, and debauchery. Still, Croce remained a familiar figure well into the 1960s. Most observers granted the enduring importance of his contributions, but by the early 1950s he was attracting more plausible criticism. Most damaging was the charge that he propounded an essentialist aesthetics, claiming to specify the essence of art, thereby restricting what cannot, in fact, be restricted. However, such criticisms were often simplistic and one-sided, taking themes out of the wider context of Croce’s historicist cultural program. Although periodic calls for reassessment followed his eclipse in the later 1960s, a single-minded focus on Croce’s aesthetics has proven deleterious to his fortunes in America.