@The Pentacle Queen,
The Pentacle Queen wrote:
Providing the above is true, then how does art theory 'help' art, specifically with regards to interpretation?
To answer this question, let me first backtrack to a point where you don't quite have an aesthetical theory yet, but are beginning to develop one.
Let's say you've just attended a piano recital with a friend. Now you're sitting together and talk about it over a glass of wine. What kind of statements would you typically be exchanging? Would they just be subjective outbursts like "I really enjoyed that second piece", or "I wish the pianist hadn't played the opening movement so fast"? I think not. From what I know about you, it seems much more likely that you would also make objective-sounding statements and defend them with reasons: "This second piece was beautiful because
....", and "the pianist's tempo was too fast because...
". Moreover, you would expect that each side listen to the other's arguments and be open to persuasion: "I guess you're right. He should
have played that first movement more slowly, give it more time to breathe." I'm pretty sure that's how your conversation would play out.
Once you concede that
much, you can see that aesthetic theories, at least implicit ones, are almost inevitable. If you give reasons to justify your aesthetic judgment, if you expect these reasons to persuade anyone, and if you are even the slightest bit curious, you will just have
to ask yourself where their persuasiveness comes from. You have
to ask yourself what kind of assumptions you're working from, what permissable logic gets you from one statement about aesthetics to another, and what aesthetic experiences might possibly refute the argument. And that's an aesthetic theory.
So my answer to your question is this: Implicit
aesthetic theories---the kind from which you reason in your after-concert conversations---are practically inevitable. And once you have implicit aesthetic theories, it's just interesting to make them explicit so that one can explore them. That's what explicit aesthetic theories can be useful for---the kinds that you read books about.