Many people appear to attach great value to sad music. But why? One way to gain insight into this question is to turn away from music and look instead at why people value sad conversations. In the case of conversations, the answer seems to be that expressing sadness creates a sense of genuine connection. We propose that sad music can also have this type of value. Listening to a sad song can give one a sense of genuine connection. We then (...) explore the nature of this value in two experimental studies. The results suggest a striking relationship between music and conversation. People see something distinctively musical in works that express precisely those emotions that they think most create connection within conversation. (shrink)
The “classic” is a vexed term in the work of William Carlos Williams. He uses the category to describe both the stale classicism of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and, conversely, the authentic, “aberrant” classic of James Joyce and surrealism. Analyzing unpublished archival manuscripts alongside the posthumously published collection of essays, The Embodiment of Knowledge, I approach the classic through Williams's theories of pedagogy. Williams parodies and rejects academic modes of reading that cling to the “malignant rigidities” of the (...) past. Yet Paterson and The Embodiment also theorize the reader's interpretive power to disrupt any homogenizing conformity latent in the literary tradition. This dissonant hermeneutics can recuperate the classics and represents a form of resistance to a binary logic of past versus present, or European versus American literature. (shrink)
For almost 300 years, five different art forms have used the same instructional method. This Common Arts Instructional Method (CAIM) can be explained using a variety of theories. The CAIM also offers the opportunity to understand instructional methods under the banner of design: instances of types rather than applications of laws or principles. The differences between theory and design are explored, and some recommendations are offered for striking new instances of this common type.
Art works provide a unique and influential way to teach human virtues because they can place individuals (or particular artistic expressions) within the ambiguities, complexities, and forces of the human experience. I use four art works to teach about the virtue of kindness: Giotto di Bondonie's Scene 2: St. Francis Giving His Mantle to a Poor Man; Bishop Charles Francois in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables; Adam in William Shakespeare's As You Like It; and Sonya in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. (...) In these four examples, we see necessary characteristics of being a kind person: supererogatory behavior, altruistic behavior, a display of the way the world ought to be, and the presence of a kind soul. (shrink)
After showing how pragmatist aesthetics and Marcuse's critical theory affirm aesthetic education as key to transforming society toward greater freedom, equality, pleasure, and fulfillment, I compare the ways these two approaches differently perceive the scope and role of aesthetics in such transformation. Whereas Marcuse identifies the aesthetic dimension with the realm of high art, pragmatism understands this dimension far more broadly to include the popular arts and somaesthetic arts of living. Because Marcuse identifies art's critical function through its oppositional transcendence (...) and autonomy from ordinary reality and practical life, he insists that aesthetics cannot directly contribute to transformative praxis in the real world but can operate only indirectly by transforming our sensibilities. Pragmatist aesthetics, particularly though somaesthetics, resolves the dilemma in Marcuse's aesthetics of liberation by bridging the alleged gap between aesthetics and praxis by reeducating our sensibilities in a more direct, practical, embodied way. The article further exemplifies the overlaps and differences between Marcuse's critical theory and pragmatist somaesthetics by focusing on erotic experience, which is essential to Marcuse's liberational program and increasingly present in somaesthetics’ concern with aesthetic reeducation of our senses and sensibilities. (shrink)
Joanna Baillie (1762–1851) came to fame in 1798 with the first volume of her Plays on the Passions, which included her theoretical account of drama, including tragedy. This article reconstructs Baillie's theory of tragedy and shows how the theory informs the design of the Plays on the Passions. For Baillie, all human beings have powerful and dangerous passions that we need to learn to regulate. Tragedy can help with this and can serve an educative purpose by presenting us with narratives (...) in which the protagonists repeatedly fail to check the growth of a particular passion, such as jealousy or hatred. We witness this passion gain more and more hold over the character's mind until they are destroyed. This offers a warning and motivates us to watch out for the growth of our own passions and keep them in check. Baillie's theory of tragedy is original and combines a moral orientation, a voluntarist belief in free will, and optimism about the human condition. For her, the sufferings undergone by tragic characters could have been avoided had the characters made better choices. Thus the message of tragedy is not that suffering is inescapable but that suffering can be minimized if we cultivate self-knowledge and emotional self-control. (shrink)