This was a fascinating new thread you opened up. I appreciate how you
weaved Aristotle and catharsis into our exploration of experience and
On Sat, Mar 2, 2013 at 5:12 PM, Andy Blunden <email@example.com
Thanks for that Martin. All very interesting indeed.
I always tend to presume that wherever an ancient source is cited
for some concept, unless the citing author is a classical scholar,
there was some *mediating* source which is the *proximate* source
of the concept. The attached excerpt which I think I took from the
CW of Freud, explains where I got the idea that Freud got it from
Josef Breuer (mediated via a friend who is au fait with Freudian
thought). But, maybe Vygotsky was studying Aristotle. I'l have a
look at that section of "The Psychology of Art". Thanks.
But sources aside (I defer to you on that, Martin), the
descriptions you have provided of catharsis square with my
understanding as well. I appreciate how you have made the
connection between the usual Feudian meaning of catharsis, and the
aesthetic process which was central for the young Vygotsky - and
Dewey too apparently! But I don't see this in Vygotsky's later
work anywhere. Would be interested if you can find anything about
catharsis in this vein post-1924.
Also, I can't recall where I read something about art which
explained why art is necessary to communicate an experience
directly, by allowing the audience to "re-experience" the
experience, rather than an explanation of it. Dewey? Stanislavski?
Vygotsky? Do you know?
Martin Packer wrote:
Here's Victor Turner, in the book I mentioned in my previous
message, on what for Dilthey makes a difference between
'experience' and '*an* experience':
"These experiences that erupt from or disrupt routinized,
repetitive behavior begin with shocks of pain or pleasure…
Then the emotions of past experience color the images and
outlines revived by present shock. What happens next is an
anxious need to find meaning in what has diconcerted us,
whether by pain or pleasure, and converted mere experience
into *an* experience. All this when we try to put past and
present together" (36).
"Aesthetics, then, are those phases in a given structure or
processual unit of experience which either constitute a
fulfillment that reaches the depths of the experiencer's being
(as Dewey put it) or constitute the necessary obstacles and
flaws that provoke the joyous struggle to achieve the
consummation surpassing pleasure and equilibrium, which is
indeed the joy and happiness of fulfillment" (38).
I'm not sure why Andy attributes Vygotsky's notion of
catharsis to Bleuler and considers Aristotle irrelevant. It is
to Aristotle's writing that LSV himself attributes the
concept, in the Psychology of Art. Catharsis for the Greeks
was "a sudden emotional breakdown or climax that constitutes
overwhelming feelings of great pity, sorrow, laughter, or any
extreme change in emotion that results in renewal,
restoration, and revitalization" (as Wikipedia has it).
Viacheslav Ivanov, who LSV refers to in the Psych of Art,
considered catharsis (a la Aristotle) to be the way a novel,
for example, grips and affects its readers and leads them to
self- knowledge. Catharsis is not only an aesthetic affect, it
is the engine of positive historical action.
Vygotsky's own definition of catharsis spells out this dynamic
and transformative character in some detail, reminiscent of
both Ivanov (though he didn't accept Ivanov's Symbolism) and
Turner on Dilthey. Catharsis is "a complex transformation of
feelings," an "affective contradiction" that results in
resolution: in short, a dialectical process on the level of
emotion. Feeling alone is not sufficient to bring about the
psychological transformation that Vygotsky is interested in;
it is the work of art that has the power to initiate "the
creative act of overcoming the feeling, resolving it,
On Mar 2, 2013, at 4:13 PM, mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org
Re boundaries of experience and Dewey. In his book on
experience he quotes "the poet" in a relevant way
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
The poet was Tennyson, the *I*, Ulysses.
On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 8:50 PM, Larry Purss
<email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> wrote:
I find this topic very fertile ground which may need
to be *reworked*.
Robert mentioned Dewey was criticized for not having
an understanding of
the *tragic soul* Andy mentioned that an experienced
must be *bounded*.
I would like to add further reflections from Tom
Leddy's article you
attached on Dewey's Aesthetics. I am referring to page
34 & 35 where Dewey
is exploring the common substance of the Arts. This
section is a response
to the *tragic soul* and *bounded* experience.
The creative process BEGINS with a "total seizure", a
determines the development of art into parts. THIS
*element* Dewey refers
to as a *penetrating quality* which is immediately
experienced in all parts
of the work. It is so pervasive we take it for
granted. Without this
penetrating quality the parts would only be
mechanically related. The
organic whole IS the parts PERMEATED by this
penetrating quality. It may be
called the SPIRIT of the work. It is also the work's
*reality* in that it
makes us experience the work AS *real* This
penetrating quality is the
BACKGOUND that qualifies everything in the foreground.
What are the *boundaries* of this background which
Dewey calls *the
setting*? Dewey's answer is thought provoking. He
assumes that although
experiences have bounded edges like those of their
objects, the whole of
*an* experience, and especially its qualitative
penetrating *spirit* within
the object, EXTENDS INDEFINITELY. This penetrating
quality of the
experience is THAT which is not focused within the
experience. The margins
of our experience shade into that indefinate expanse.
penetrating backgound is only made CONSCIOUS within
the specific objects
that form the focus. Behind every explicit experience
there is something
implicit that we call *vague* but this vagueness was
not vague in the
ORIGINAL experience for this penetrating quality is a
FUNCTION of the whole
*situation* An experience *is mystical*, Dewey
believes, to the extent
this feeling of a penetrating background is INTENSE.
quality is particularly intense in certain works of
art, for example IN
TRAGEDY. A work of art must include something not
I am not sure if Vygotsky shares a *family
resemblance* with this
expansive, penetrating sense of *substance* which
makes reality FEEL
*real*. The question of the boundedness of *an*
experience, from Dewey's
understanding certainly was reflecting on the *tragic
On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 9:17 AM, mike cole
<email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> wrote:
It all moves so quickly it is hard to take it all
in, Larry, let alone
find time to comment.I am still
back on rhythmicity which I am thinking of from
the perspective of
someone who thinks of
communication as patterns of coordination over time.
In this regard, it seems to me that many of
Durkheim's ideas in
Elementary Forms of Religious
Experience are highly relevant. Durkheim's pluses
and minuses are, I
know, a matter of important
debate in themselves, but they come down to me
through my engagement with
research through Levy-Bruhl and Piaget.
And now, toss in the Bakhtin (the liar or the
seer) and it should be
enough to think about when we are being absent minded.
On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 8:43 AM, Larry Purss
This months themed issue linking felt
experience with Bahktin's notion
of genre's and cultural-historical-activity
theory wiil keep the current
dialgue with Dewey alive.
I'm anticipating a lively encounter.
On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 8:20 AM, mike cole
We will be re-posting the articles for
discussion poll a little later
restarting the balloting so that the full
menu is out there for people
AND COMMENT ON!
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