SAAP 2016

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Feeling Beyond Form: Dewey’s Aesthetics, The Unconscious, and Decay

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John Dewey offered a revolutionary new aesthetic theory which sought to connect the fullest expressions of culture with the material conditions of living. Aesthetic experiences are characterized by “culminations” in which the sum of an experience is brought into relief such that each part is revealed as subtly interrelated. This is how coherence is achieved for the human organism: experiences that are otherwise fleeting and fragmentary are drawn into unity. However, art throughout the 20 and 21st century has increasingly featured anxiety, trauma, and indeterminacy. This paper takes a careful look at an interesting and productive aporia in which art reflects an experience that refuses to resolve. I will sketch out Dewey’s unarticulated theory of the unconscious and demonstrate the vital importance of those aesthetic experiences that allow us to dwell with complexity where we have previously enjoyed false simplicity.

Author(s):

Bethany Henning    
Southern Illinois University
United States

 

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