Beautiful Ugliness

  • Christianity, Modernity, and the Arts

  • by Mark William Roche

  • 520 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 63 color illustrations, 2 b&w illustrations

  • Hardcover | 9780268207014 | October 2023

  • eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268207038 | October 2023

  • eBook (EPUB) | 9780268207007 | October 2023


This book probes the intersection of the beautiful and the ugly, offering a systematic framework to understand, interpret, and evaluate how ugliness can contribute to beautiful art.

Many great artworks include elements of ugliness: repugnant content, disproportionate forms, unresolved dissonance, and unintegrated parts. Mark W. Roche’s authoritative monograph Beautiful Ugliness: Christianity, Modernity, and the Arts challenges current practices of the dominant aesthetic schools by exploring the role of ugliness in art and literature. Roche offers a comprehensive and unique framework that integrates philosophical and theological reflection, intellectual-historical analysis, and interpretations of a large number of works from the arts. The study is driven by the recognition that, though ugliness is usually understood as the opposite of beauty, ugliness nonetheless contributes significantly to the beauty of many artworks.

Roche’s analysis unfolds in three parts. The first offers a refreshing conceptual analysis of ugliness in art. The second considers the history of ugliness in art and literature, with special attention to its role in Christian art and its central place in modern and contemporary art. The third synthesizes earlier material, offering a taxonomy of beautiful ugliness derived from Hegelian philosophical categories. Roche mesmerizes the reader with an extraordinary range of literary scholarship and expertise, with a particular focus on English, Latin, and German literature, and with a broad range of analyzed phenomena, including fine arts, architecture, and music.

Including 63 color illustrations, Beautiful Ugliness will draw in readers from multiple disciplines as well as those from beyond the academy who wish to make sense of today’s complex art world.