Aesthetic Realism Lectures
by Eli Siegel

 Lectures given by Eli Siegel in Aesthetic Realism classes have been serialized in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known

The 25,000 books now in the Eli Siegel Collection were used by Mr. Siegel in the lectures presented online here, and so many more, all of which he gave extemporaneously.


arrowAesthetic Realism and Learning

Ellen Reiss writes, in her introduction:

"...In this lecture, Mr. Siegel speaks, greatly, on the relation of knowing and feeling and about the kind of feeling people are looking for. Aesthetic Realism is education in how to know the world and ourselves rightly so we can feel rightly. This education has been needed for centuries. In every year in every place of the world, people have had the pervasive pain of not being proud of their feeling, because it was not large enough, deep enough, accurate enough. We see that grief even in people who sometimes had feeling so rich and true that they are part of lasting culture. There is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, writing in his “Dejection: An Ode” about stars, clouds, sky: “I see them all so excellently fair, / I see, not feel, how beautiful they are!” There is Matthew Arnold, in a letter to his friend Arthur Hugh Clough: “I am past thirty, and three parts iced over.”

Introduction         Part 1          Part 2          Part 3


arrowMind and Schools

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Introduction:

"In the schools of New York and elsewhere, there is a battle between learning and anger. Aesthetic Realism can have learning win.

Eli Siegel has shown that the deepest desire of every person is to like the world. This is true of a girl we can call Nora Jimenez. Six years old and entering first grade, she has heard her parents fight loudly, seen rats in her apartment, and sometimes gone without lunch because there was not enough money. It is true about a high school student—we’ll call him Christopher Morgan—of Forest Hills. He has come to feel everybody is a phony and out for number one; he thought last week of killing himself in the basement of the Morgan home. Aesthetic Realism shows that if a person dislikes the world he will be deeply disinclined to take that world into him in the form of subjects in a school’s curriculum. He will also want to punish the world, manipulate it, leave it."

This lecture was published earlier in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.

Introduction         Part 1          Part 2          Part 3


arrowNew York Begins Poetically in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1814 - 1820

Writes Ellen Reiss in the Editor's Commentary:

"With this issue we begin to serialize the lecture New York Begins Poetically, which Eli Siegel gave in October 1970. Relating aspects of history, literature, and the feelings of people, it is a deep, leisurely, surprising, often humorous discussion. In it, this Aesthetic Realism principle is inseparable from New York—her earth, years, lives: 'All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.'

     Eli Siegel loved New York, and the city is present in many of his poems. Despite all the injustice, and the suffering too, that have taken place here, New York is beautiful, and one of the reasons is the way suffering and injustice have been fought.

      In New York Begins Poetically, it is principally Manhattan that Mr. Siegel speaks of and presents as having that oneness of opposites which makes for poetry. In this first section, beginning with 1626 and Peter Minuit, he comments on three pairs of opposites. And so, by means of introduction, I’ll say a little about ways those opposites can be in us, in all people, very often confusingly and troublingly."

brown diamond ornament for Aesthetic Realism lectures CONTENTS
(1) New York Is Land & Feelings

(2) New York, Poetry, & Our Lives

(3) To Whom Should New York Belong?

(4) Feelings, Money, & New York

5) New York, the Opposites, & People's Hopes

(6) New York, Love, & Poetry

(7) Walt Whitman, New York, & Our Lives Right Now


arrowThere Are Two Freedoms in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1674-1680

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Commentary:

"With this issue we begin to serialize There Are Two Freedoms, the lecture Eli Siegel gave on June 5, 1970. It is about one of the most beautiful and important words in the world: freedom. And yet, as Mr. Siegel shows, people have used the word freedom as a cover for some of the ugliest and most vicious activities....Economics now ha[s] to be based on true freedom, the freedom of good will: the seeing how self-expression, individual creativity, real self-glory are the same as justice to other people and things." arrowBegin reading these issues of The Right Of here.

(5) Freedom & Confusion: Historic & Everyday

Lecture, Part 5: "Why We Misjudge"

(6) Freedom That Is Justice Too

Lecture, Part 6: "Free Expression & Accuracy"

(7) How Should We Think about People?

Lecture, Part 7: "Literature & Poverty"


arrowPoetry and Women in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1525-1529

Writes Ellen Reiss in the Editor's Commentary:

"We begin to serialize the historic lecture Poetry and Women, which Eli Siegel gave in 1949. So much in women’s lives has changed since then. Women now do just about everything men do. Yet though it is expected that girls play soccer, and female doctors and lawyers abound, and no one is surprised to see a woman wield a hammer, there is still a difference between woman and man. The question What is a woman? remains."  Includes discussions of 16th-century poet Louise Labé, 17th-century Mary Chudleigh, Caroline Norton (1808-77), Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Virginia Woolf. arrowBegin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.

(4) Two Women
(5) To Be Herself

arrowSelves Are in Economics in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1511-1521

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Commentary:

"Eli Siegel saw what other economists have not: the chief matter in economics is the human self in its fulness, the self of every person. Economics is connected to the same self in each of us that hopes, loves, is bewildered, wants to understand who we are..." arrowBegin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.


arrowEducational Method Is Poetic in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1448-1456. Writes Eli Siegel:

"I’ve called this talk 'Educational Method Is Poetic.' I use the word poetic carefully, and persons listening should judge whether that is a flamboyant title or is essentially true. The material for such a talk, of course, is all over the world...." Begin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.

arrowAesthetic Realism and Nature in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1417-1423

(4)  There Are Whales, Too
(5)  With & Against Nature
(6)  Logic: A Product of Nature
(7)  Nature Is Unity and Variety


arrowOwnership, Strikes, Unions in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1356-1366

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Commentary:

Ownership, Strikes, one of the "Goodbye Profit System" lectures—in which Mr. Siegel described, documented, and explained something enormous taking place in world economics and within people....By the spring of 1970...the profit system, a way of using human beings that had always been ugly, was now irrevocably crippled....And even more than in the1970s, there is an anger across America [now]...a fury in people about the way they are seen on the job: contemptuously, in terms of...profit.  Begin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.


arrowPoetry and Keenness in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1314-1323

Writes Eli Siegel:

"Keenness is in poetry because it is one of the big things in life. A person has a cheek; a person has fingernails. There are points in our body, and wide surfaces and smooth surfaces. Keenness is the world coming to a point, the world being sharp. In keenness, aesthetically speaking, there are four things: cuttingness; piercingness; neatness; and depth. And keenness is a sign that there is an interior, a dimension." arrowBegin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.

(6)  Beyond Surface
(7)  The Senses and the Self
(8)  More about Keenness
(9) Whole Vision
(10) Keenness Divides and Joins


arrowAnimate and Inanimate Are in Music and Conscience in TRO no. 1291-1301

Writes Eli Siegel:

"I found that the depths of Aesthetic Realism could be shown in a rather new way through music. And strangely enough, the most modern things in music, the most difficult things, are the most useful there. The fight between structure and emotion, between emotion and music almost as solid geometry, does go on. And there are terms that concern conscience—the earlier term polyphony, the new one polytonality, also atonality. And I hope to show that looking at these things is a way of seeing conscience too."arrowBegin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here

(7)  Mahler: Awesome and Frail
(8)  Conflicts in Music
(9)  Music: Pain and Pleasure
(10) Junction, Separation, Evil
(11) The Melody of Conscience


arrowPoetry and History in TRO no. 1385-1393

From the editor's commentary by Ellen Reiss:

"Mr. Siegel wrote and lectured much on history.  His scholarship in the field was immense.  And—whether he was speaking about Wat Tyler or John Adams, the French Revolution or the Spanish Civil War—the events and the feelings of the time became real to those who heard him, as close to you as the very clothes you were wearing...[and] you had a sense always (it's in the lecture we're serializing) of largeness—you felt the bigness of reality...."
Begin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.