The Steampunk Scholar: Defining Steampunk as an Aesthetic

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the Steampunk Aesthetic, but have realized I’ve never bothered to explain it. I, like Mike Perschon, the author of the blog Steampunk Scholar, have taken the notion that Steampunk is an aesthetic somewhat for granted. I’d like to add a personal note that I believe Steampunk to be more than just an aesthetic, but to the basic question of if Steampunk is or is not an aesthetic, my answer would be a resounding yes.

First of all, what is an aesthetic? I’ve got a handy definition here from Wikipedia that we can use:

Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as “critical reflection on art, culture and nature.”

But what is it, exactly? This style which we love so much and seek to incorporate into our personal appearances and possessions? What makes one thing decidedly Steampunk, and another totally off the mark? Mike Perschon seems to have an answer to cover some of the basic ideas of what is aesthetically Steampunk in his recent post, Defining Steampunk as an Aesthetic.

According the Perschon, the Steampunk aesthetic is “Steampunk is an aesthetic that mixes elements of technofantasy, and neo-Victorian retrofuturism.” That’s it.

I personally don’t holistically agree with this definition. I think , at least for the brand of Steampunk which I enjoy and view as the most dynamic in its field, appeals to the Punk aspects of Steampunk are incredibly important. I believe the Steampunk aesthetic applies not only to the way our art is defined, but also our culture, and for me, the Punk aspect of that culture is incredibly important. It is what separates us from the backwards looking Neo-Victorians. True Steampunks resist the way that modern society has turned, remember a time when the Enlightenment thinkers praised science and the limitless of the human spirit as the path of the future, and actively resist the status quo in an attempt to reach that yet unattained hope.

So what do you all think about all of this?

Aesthetic