The authors of the standard approach to Bonaventure’s aesthetics established the broad themes that continue to inform the current interpretation of his philosophy, theology, and mysticism of beauty: his definition of beauty and its status as a transcendental of being, his description of the aesthetic experience, and the role of that experience in the soul’s ascent into God. Nevertheless, they also introduced a series of pointed questions that the current literature has not adequately resolved. In Bonaventure’s Aesthetics: The Delight of the Soul in Its Ascent into God, Thomas J. McKenna provides a comprehensive analysis of Bonaventure’s aesthetics, the first to appear since Balthasar’s Herrlichkeit, and argues for a resolution to these questions in the context of his principal aesthetic text, the Itinerarium mentis in Deum.
Thomas J. McKenna is professor of history and philosophy at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia.
A Note on the Cover Illustration
Introduction: Disputed Questions on Bonaventure’s Aesthetics
1. Bonaventure’s Debt to l’Esthétique Musicale
2. Bonaventure’s Debt to l’Esthétique de la Lumière
3. Bonaventure’s Account of the Aesthetic Experience
4. The Aesthetic Dimensions of the Itinerarium Mentis in Deum
In this book, McKenna proposes to provide the first comprehensive contemporary analysis of the aesthetics of St. Bonaventure (c1217–74), Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher/theologian, mystic, and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. The initial chapters compare Bonaventure's description of aesthetic beauty to the more rigorously theoretical theories of Renaissance and modern thinkers. The later chapters delve more deeply into an analysis of Bonaventure's description of the soul's experience of aesthetic beauty in his Itinerarium Mentis in Deum (The Journey of the Soul to God [or "into God" as Mckenna translates] ). Bonaventure's Itinerarium is a unique weaving of Plato, Aristotle, Neoplatonism, Stoicism, Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Augustine, St. Francis, and sacred Scripture, and it is unlike any other medieval text. Mckenna artfully presents the details of this "travel guide" for the soul's aesthetic journey from sensual experience of beauty to spiritual mystical immersion in divine beauty itself. Mckenna's account is largely sympathetic to Bonaventure's mystical meanderings, although in the concluding remarks he acknowledges problems regarding its adherence to theological orthodoxy. Bonaventure's Itinerarium is a fascinating piece of mystical literature but a very difficult read. Those interested would do well to start with McKenna's helpful analysis, which is enhanced by a good bibliography. Recommended.
"In this, the first full-scale treatment of Bonaventure’s aesthetics since Von Balthasar, Thomas McKenna deftly engages the full range of past assessments and with care and precision, establishes a re-reading of Bonaventure’s entire corpus attentive to both propositional content and historical-textual inheritance. McKenna’s arguments clarify the range of Bonaventure’s unique contributions to medieval aesthetics, centering the fact that for Bonaventure, the soul’s delight in the beauty and goodness of the cosmos is an 'aesthetic stimulus' to its rational analysis of creation’s testimony that in turn prepares it for 'supra cognitive delight' of union with the Divine."
A must read for anyone interested in a deeper grasp of the Doctor’s philosophical-theology. McKenna has made a major contribution to Bonaventure studies generally, and no doubt Bonaventure’s Aesthetics will serve as the industry standard in the field for some time to come.
Thomas McKenna has given us a good introductory book on Bonaventure and his theory of ascent to God from sensory and aesthetic experience; he is very well read in primary and secondary literature; the book contains a wealth of information and is clearly written and easy to read.