Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Gibson, John

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Elpidorou, Andreas

Committee Member

Elpidorou, Andreas

Committee Member

Greene, John

Committee Member

Brady, Emily

Author's Keywords

Shaftesbury; Addison; Gilpin; beauty; sublime; picturesque


This dissertation examines the interaction of nature and art as objects of aesthetic appreciation in eighteenth-century Britain, with special emphasis on the aesthetic theories of Anthony Ashley-Cooper-3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Joseph Addison, and William Gilpin. Despite its openness to explore principles of aesthetics and concepts, such as beauty and sublimity, that were common to both nature and art, modern aesthetic theory framed the relation of art to nature hierarchically, an aspect captured by the term ‘paragon’. In this dissertation I trace a movement away from theories in which the superiority of nature to art was recognized (chapter 2 on Shaftesbury’s aesthetics) to theories where this aspect was complicated (chapter 3 on Addison’s aesthetics), contested, and reversed (chapter 4 on Gilpin’s aesthetics), and I argue that this transformation was deeply interwoven with complex and changing notions of artistic imitation, conceptions of the sublime, and aspects of natural theology that were then an integral part of the aesthetic. By showing that the supersession of nature by art was already contained within Gilpin’s notion of the picturesque, this dissertation offers a historical antecedent to Hegel’s radical exclusion of natural beauty from the scope of philosophical aesthetics.

Included in

Aesthetics Commons