I am trying to figure out if I can use 'aesthetical qualities' to refer to qualities that writers or readers find pleasing in texts.

This question comes from a remark by a professor on an essay I wrote some time ago. The essay was about the literary genre of Exilliteratur - literature written by dissident or antifascist writers who left Germany during the Nazi era. To cut things short, I was trying to make the point that some of the authors picked topics for their aesthetical qualities (and not because they were trying to make a political point).

Can I use 'aesthetical qualities' in this way? i.e. to refer to properties of texts that authors find attractive or pleasing? My professor said that I may have meant literary features. Any insight on this word would be much appreciated.

Thank you! If I need to add more information, comment away.

  • I'm probably the wrong person to answer this, but from your description of these qualities, I'm tempted to suggest the term "style".
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 16, 2014 at 1:04
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    Drop the -al Sep 16, 2014 at 1:07
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    aesthetic qualities is fine, just drop the suffix as @FumbleFingers said.
    – Barmar
    Sep 16, 2014 at 1:28
  • @DanBron I like 'style' and I think it is close to what I meant...if 'aesthetic qualities' - relating to beauty and taste - can act as a synonym for style. (?)
    – 0MM0
    Sep 16, 2014 at 1:40
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    No, in my opinion, not at all. Pleasing is the effect, so to speak, and aesthetically is the source. Ice cream tastes good; good is the effect, taste is the modality. Pleasing is the effect; aesthetically (related to outward appearances or style of behavior) is the source, e.g. a profile can be pleasing or not. Maybe because of my profession, I may define aesthetics more rigourously, e.g. I might call in a Plastic Surgeon to repair a stellate laceration on a young boy's face (this happened) because of aesthetics. Medically Plastics is unnecessary. (The combination gets 1,890,000 hits). Sep 16, 2014 at 2:00

1 Answer 1


A couple of points:

The German term is Exilliteratur, not exilliterature; if you want to anglicise it, you ought to render it as 'exile literature'. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exilliteratur).

Equally, there exist two similar words in English — (a)esthetic and (a)esthetical, the second of which is rather more restricted in scope (look up the words in the Onelook.com metadictionary to explore the differences in connotation).

Personally, I would use aesthetic qualities to refer to the stylistic characteristics of the texts under consideration. Literary features implies an emphasis on the individual technical devices used by the authors rather than on the totality of how they generate an emotional impact on their readers.

EDIT (see comment below)

As I'm sure you've noted, Onelook is not a dictionary per se, but a portal that leads to all the relevant hits/entries it finds in the set of actual online dictionaries that it knows about. So what you encounter will depend on which individual dictionary hits you click on. I'll restrict myself to Lookwayup.com's definitions of the adjective:

1. relating to or dealing with the subject of aesthetics ; "aesthetic values".
2. concerning or characterized by an appreciation of beauty or good taste ; "the aesthetic faculties"; "an aesthetic person"; "aesthetic feeling"; "the illustrations made the book an aesthetic success".
3. aesthetically pleasing ; "an artistic flower arrangement".

concerning or characterized by an appreciation of beauty or good taste ; "the aesthetic faculties"; "an aesthetic person"; "aesthetic feeling"; "the illustrations made the book an aesthetic success".

  • Thanks for pointing out the spelling mistake. And I like your edit - In regard to 'literary features', I share your perspective. However, I can't find the more restricted meaning of aesthetical in OneLook - can you post the link to the specific entry? Merci!
    – 0MM0
    Sep 16, 2014 at 1:46
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    @Mary: Per previous comment - aesthetical is quite a rare word, mainly used in respect of the philosophy or theory of beauty. But in common parlance, aesthetic qualities are those giving or designed to give pleasure through beauty; of pleasing appearance (there's also a more restricted "reconstructive surgery" usage whereby it just means cosmetic, not medically required). Sep 16, 2014 at 2:27
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    @Mary - I've edited my original posting to enable me to respond adequately to your query.
    – Erik Kowal
    Sep 16, 2014 at 2:30
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks! you distinguished the terms admirably! I meant 'aesthetic' for sure since I wasn't alluding to any theory in my paper - (although in Erik's definition above, aesthetical would also work).
    – 0MM0
    Sep 16, 2014 at 2:42
  • @ErikKowal Thanks Erik! I didn't find that distinction in other dictionaries so thanks for posting this. I appreciate it.
    – 0MM0
    Sep 16, 2014 at 2:44

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