Once-Told Tales - An Essay In Literary Aesthetics
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More About This Title Once-Told Tales - An Essay In Literary Aesthetics


Drawing comparisons with other art forms, this book examines the role of aesthetic features in silent reading, such as narrative structure, and the core experience of reading a novel as a story rather than a scholarly exercise.
  • Focuses on the experience of the art form known as the novel
  • Uses the more common perspective of a reader who reads to be told a story, rather than for scholarly or critical analysis
  • Draws comparisons with experience of the other arts, music in particular
  • Explores the different effects of a range of narrative approaches


Peter Kivy is Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University and a past president of the American Society for Aesthetics. He is author of The Possessor and the Possessed: Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and the Idea of Musical Genius (2001), Introduction to a Philosophy of Music (2002), The Performance of Reading (Wiley-Blackwell, 2006), Music, Language, and Cognition: And Other Essays in the Aesthetics of Music (2007), and Antithetical Arts: On the Ancient Quarrel Between Literature and Music (2009), and editor of The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics (Blackwell, 2004).



1. What it’s All About.

2. The Aesthetics of Literature: A Neglected Topic.

3. The Aesthetic Property: Its Kinds and Its Kind.

4. The Ethical, the Aesthetic, and the Artistic.

5. Structure Aesthetics and Novelistic Structure.

6. Continuous Time and Interrupted Time.

7. Seeing is Believing.

8. Reading is Believing.

9. Twice-Told Tales and More.

Appendix: Paraphrasing Poetry.




“Kivy is to be warmly commended for the originality and insight of his perspective on literature, and for the lively and engaging manner in which that perspective is developed. Philosophers interested in the complexity and significance of our reading experience will welcome this valuable contribution to our understanding of such matters.”  (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 14 February 2012)

"Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and above." (Choice, 1 December 2011) "With the lucidity and unflinching honesty we have come to expect from him, Kivy defends his distinctive vision of the aesthetics of literature."
Susan L. Feagin, Temple University

"Peter Kivy's new book poses a deep, and disconcerting, challenge to conventional wisdom about what literature is and how and why we read novels. Agree with him or disagree, there is no disputing the formidable powers of Kivy's reasoning, the stylishness of his writing, and the originality of his vision."
Peter Lamarque, University of York