Recent decades have seen a flattening of the playing field in terms of the arts. The rise of popular culture programs in universities is one of the by-products of this attitude, which rejects the traditional hierarchical status of arts by genre. However, something vital is lost in that little attention is paid to the experiential aspects of encountering a work of art. This paper argues for the reestablishment of a certain cultural verticality with respect to works of art. We suggest that this hierarchy should be relative to a work’s ability to engender what we call "elite experience." After putting forward an account of our conception of a work and a work of art, the paper outlines four levels of experience, the last two of which are aesthetic. The ultimate aesthetic experience is rare and universally appreciated–thereby deserving of the label "elite"–although the kinds of art works that engender it in a given person may be quite divergent. The resulting hierarchy is therefore one of experiential types rather than groups of people, social class, or historical tradition. The article concludes by making comparisons and drawing distinctions between our approach and several well-known lines of aesthetic argument that have come before.

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