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[Xmca-l] Re: Having an experience

The context is the concluding chapter of "Psychology of Art", entitled "Art
and Life". The title itself tells you something of what Vygotsky wants to
say. The great slogan of nineteenth century realism was for life to
permeate art, hence the realistic conversations we find in Jane Austen
(compared to the epistolary novels of the eighteenth century and the speech
making we find in Samuel Johnson), hence Monet's paintings of railway
stations, hence "verismo" in Italian opera. But the acmeists (an offshoot
of symbolism to which Vygotsky was was quite close at the time of writing
"Psychology of Art") turned this on its head. Their great slogan was for
art to permeate life, so that each moment of everyday conversation, each
photograph we take, and each snatch of street noise might
be live-experienced the way we experience a novel, a painting, or an opera.

Vygotsky says that for this to happen we need art criticism. If art is the
moment of actual experiencing, art criticism is the "perizhivanie" of the
experience. This is incorrectly conceived of as "catharisis" (even by
Vygotsky himself earlier in the book). "Catharisis" is therapeutic and
self-limiting; it's a matter of explaining away and destroying a pathology;
this is true whether we read Aristotle or Freud. But that is not
"perizhivanie". Like all units of development (Vygotsky: "relational
units"), perizhivanie is a unit that develops: in the infant it means one
thing and in the art critic something that is linked, but distinct. We can
say that for the infant, "perizhivanie" is the feeling of what happens more
or less as it happens (the satisfaction of drinking the milk as you are
drinking it). But for the art critic, "perizhivanie" is really Wordsworth's
"emotion recollected in tranquility". It's a catharsis which doesn't
disappear but which develops into a more complex, more potent, and higher
form instead.

Wordworth wrote some good poems, but we can only really see how and why
when we read his really bad ones, and I think "The Tables Turned (Enough of
Art and Science)" is an example of Wordsworth at his very worst. Ruqaiya
Hasan wrote that what is different about verbal art (she means what is
different about verbal ART as opposed to other forms of verbalism) is that
we can separate its verbalization from a layer she calls "symbolic
articulation" and we can even seperate this layer of symbolic articulation
from a layer she calls "theme". In Wordworth's poem, the verbalization is
the rhyme and meter, the way in which "leaves" rhymes with "receives" and
"intellect" does NOT rhyme with "dissect". The layer of symbolic
articulation is at the level of "barren leaves" and "murder to
dissect", both of which are symbols which articulate Wordworth's
small-minded, reactionary, English disgust with and hatred for the great
French tradition of rationalism.

But the theme? The theme is..."turning the tables" and abandoning your
books! This is why it's really a bad poem--the means contradicts the
message. I hope I have not, with this explanation, destroyed anyone's
pleasure in the poem, but anyone who feels that I have should go and read
"Tintern Abbey" or the Lucy poems....here you can see that the layers do
not contradict each other at all, and the difference really like the
difference between chewing dry crunchy barren leaves and fresh green shoots
that you can whistle with or put in your salad.

David Kellogg

On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 4:24 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> You may be right, Rod. Perhaps Beth could give us the quote in context so
> we have a better chance of understanding it?
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> On 17/07/2015 5:19 PM, Rod Parker-Rees wrote:
>> Apologies again for coming late into a conversation but I was interested
>> by a disparity between my reading of Beth's quote from Vygotsky and (what I
>> understand as being) Andy's  reading of the same quote. Andy seems to read
>> the quote as saying that art BOTH produces (or perhaps catalyses) an
>> experience in the observer AND explains this experience but I read the
>> quote (and Beth's use of it) as suggesting that it is imperative BOTH for
>> art to bring on the experience AND that that experience should be explained
>> (it is imperative ... to explain it) - though not necessarily explained BY
>> the art itself. The reason why I was intrigued by this difference in
>> interpretations is that it made me reflect on what is achieved when an
>> experience is explained. I suspect that we tend to focus too much, even
>> exclusively, on what the explanation brings to (and out from) the
>> experience but isn't it also true that the process of explaining an
>> experience also affects the medium in which the explanation is expressed. A
>> language which is bent into the service of explaining experiences is bent
>> by that process, becoming enriched by the ways it has been used, acquiring
>> a patina of use which is carried into other situations. A system of
>> categories can perhaps be given heart if people struggle with the task of
>> hacking it to describe, represent and explain things which it may not (yet)
>> be fit to explain - so language comes to echo and resonate with the
>> experiences of the people who use it - a kind of frohWian process (that's
>> Whorf in reverse).
>> All the best,
>> Rod
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: xmca-l-bounces+rod.parker-rees=plymouth.ac.uk@mailman.ucsd.edu
>> [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+rod.parker-rees=plymouth.ac.uk@mailman.ucsd.edu]
>> On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
>> Sent: 17 July 2015 07:48
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Having an experience
>> Beth. yes, when you reflect on something, it is already past. If you want
>> to reproduce it, then as a human being you will have to analyse it.
>> The trade of being an artist is the capacity to synthesise the elements
>> and give you something of the ineffable. But I love that quote you have
>> from Vygotsky, where he claims that art not only excites the experience in
>> the reader, but also /explains/ it. I think that is actually setting a high
>> standard for art. Dickens did not explain Dickensian London, but he
>> represented it so faithfully.
>> Andy
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> *Andy Blunden*
>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>> On 17/07/2015 4:13 PM, Beth Ferholt wrote:
>>> But when we reflect on some things it is hard to do so without loosing
>>> the whole entirely in the process of reflection.
>>> Jay said in a chain recently, in response to a related question,
>>> something about having an artist on every research team.  I have been
>>> thinking about this.  If the "artist, in comparison with his fellows,
>>> is one who is not only especially gifted in powers of execution but in
>>> unusual sensitivity to the qualities of things" then  this is who we
>>> need to tell us which property is the one that can characterize the
>>> experience as a whole.
>>> No?  Am I missing something in what you just wrote?  The unity is
>>> prior but how to study the object if this unity is its essence? --
>>> sort of like the empty space in the bowl being the bowl, so when you
>>> study the bowl itself then you miss the whole point.
>>> I am thinking of these two quotes, although maybe I am conflating
>>> things?:
>>> "Its nature and import can be expressed only by art, because there is
>>> a unity of experience that can be expressed only as an experience."
>>> and
>>> “Few understand why it is imperative not only to have the effect of
>>> art take shape and excite the reader or spectator but also to explain
>>> art, /and to explain it in such a way that the explanation does not
>>> kill the emotion/.” -- p. 254, Vygotsky (1971)
>>> I am really meaning this question in a very practical way, thinking of
>>> how I am always speaking to preschool teachers who describe their
>>> students and the activities with these students with such art, and how
>>> I am getting better at creating classroom spaces that support this
>>> description -- but am still not clear about how to consistently create
>>> spaces in my papers for similar forms of representation and
>>> reflection.
>>> This question also comes from reading the Alfredo and Rolf paper, and
>>> thinking about Leigh Star's work.
>>> Beth
>>> On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 1:45 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
>>> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>>      No, no, Beth. As Dewey says:
>>>          "This unity is neither emotional, practical, nor
>>>          intellectual, for these terms name distinctions
>>>          that reflection can make within it. In
>>>          discourse//about//an experience, we must make use
>>>          of these adjectives of interpretation. In going
>>>          over an experience in mind//after/ /its
>>>          occurrence, we may find that one property rather
>>>          than another was sufficiently dominant so that it
>>>          characterizes the experience as a whole."
>>>      Isn't this beautiful scientific prose! We make these
>>>      distinction when we *reflect* on an experience. And
>>>      perhaps we include the experience in our
>>>      autobiography, act it out on the stage, analyse it
>>>      scientifically, all of which presupposes analysis and
>>>      synthesis. But it is important to recognise that the
>>>      unity is prior. It is not only a unity of emotion and
>>>      cognition (for example) but also of attention and will
>>>      - and any other categories you abstract from an
>>>      experience.
>>>      Andy
>>>      ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>      *Andy Blunden*
>>>      http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>>      <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>      On 17/07/2015 3:00 PM, Beth Ferholt wrote:
>>>>      Or reproducing the part that represents the whole?
>>>>      Like a fractal? I think it is the similarity across
>>>>      scales that makes an experience proleptic, or gives
>>>>      that 'bliss conferred at the beginning of the road to
>>>>      redemption" that Vasilyuk refers to.  You have an
>>>>      experience on several timescales and so a sense of
>>>>      deja-vu is central to having an experience. This is
>>>>      what I am thinking about after reading both the paper
>>>>      of Dewey's and your recent piece on perezhivanie,
>>>>      Andy, although I am picking up on a small piece of
>>>>      the last email in this chain -- : If something is
>>>>      only itself in its whole then you can't study it, is
>>>>      what is bothering me.  Beth
>>>>      On Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 11:22 PM, Andy Blunden
>>>>      <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>>>          Not "getting at something", Michael. Just
>>>>          pursuing this question you raised about Dewey's
>>>>          saying that the aesthetic quality of medieval
>>>>          buildings arises from their not being "planned"
>>>>          like buildings are nowadays. He goes on to say
>>>>          "Every work of art follows the plan of, and
>>>>          pattern of, a complete experience." The puzzle he
>>>>          is raising here is the completeness of an
>>>>          experience which gives it its aesthetic quality,
>>>>          and this cannot be created by assembling together
>>>>          parts in the way a modern building is planned. An
>>>>          experience - the kind of thing which sticks in
>>>>          your mind - is an original or prior unity, not a
>>>>          combination, and this is what gives a work of art
>>>>          that ineffable quality, something which can only
>>>>          be transmitted by reproducing that whole of an
>>>>          experience.
>>>>          Andy
>>>>          ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>          *Andy Blunden*
>>>>          http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>>>          <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>>          On 17/07/2015 2:32 AM, Glassman, Michael wrote:
>>>>              Andy,
>>>>              I'm still not sure about your question.  Did
>>>>              I set out to have that experience, that
>>>>              morning...no, I don't think so (it was a long
>>>>              time ago, but I'm pretty sure no).  Could I
>>>>              have just treated it as an indiscriminate
>>>>              activity, probably, I had done so before.
>>>>              But I am guessing you're getting a something
>>>>              here Andy?
>>>>              Michael
>>>>              -----Original Message-----
>>>>              From:
>>>>              xmca-l-bounces+glassman.13=osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>>>              <mailto:osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>>>>              [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+glassman.13
>>>>              <mailto:xmca-l-bounces%2Bglassman.13>=
>>>> osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>>>              <mailto:osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>] On Behalf
>>>>              Of Andy Blunden
>>>>              Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2015 12:21 PM
>>>>              To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>              Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Having an experience
>>>>              YOu said: "... But that time I had the
>>>>              experience with the paintings..."
>>>>              I mean that was an experience. Did you set
>>>>              out that morning to have that experience?
>>>>              RE, your question: "what does he mean when he
>>>>              says you can't do things indiscriminately and
>>>>              have vital experience, but you also can't
>>>>              plan things?"
>>>>              Andy
>>>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>              *Andy Blunden*
>>>>              http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>>>              <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>>              On 17/07/2015 2:09 AM, Glassman, Michael wrote:
>>>>                  Well I'm not sure I understand your
>>>>                  question Andy, but perhaps it has
>>>>                  something to do with my grandfather's
>>>>                  favorite saying (translated from
>>>>                  Yiddish),
>>>>                  Man plans, God laughs.
>>>>                  Michael
>>>>                  -----Original Message-----
>>>>                  From:
>>>>                  xmca-l-bounces+mglassman=
>>>> ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>>>                  <mailto:ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>>>>                  [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+mglassman
>>>>                  <mailto:xmca-l-bounces%2Bmglassman>=
>>>> ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>>>                  <mailto:ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>]
>>>>                  On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
>>>>                  Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2015 12:04 PM
>>>>                  To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>>>                  <mailto:xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>>>>                  Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Having an experience
>>>>                  So Michael, there was just that one
>>>>                  occasion, in all your museum-going, when
>>>>                  you had an experience. Was that planned?
>>>>                  (I don't mean to say you haven't had a
>>>>                  number of such experiences,
>>>>                  Michael ... just some number actually)
>>>>                  Andy
>>>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>                  *Andy Blunden*
>>>>                  http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>>>                  <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>>                  On 17/07/2015 1:19 AM, Glassman, Michael
>>>>                  wrote:
>>>>                      Hi Larry and all,
>>>>                      I think this is one of the most
>>>>                      complex aspects of experience, what
>>>>                      does he mean when he says you can't
>>>>                      do things indiscriminately and have
>>>>                      vital experience, but you also can't
>>>>                      plan things?  I have discussed
>>>>                      (argued) about this a lot with my
>>>>                      students.  I have especially seen him
>>>>                      raise this point in at least two of
>>>>                      his great works, Democracy and
>>>>                      Education and Experience and Nature -
>>>>                      and again of course in Art as
>>>>                      Experience (notice he is not saying
>>>>                      how Art enters into experience but
>>>>                      how art is experience - I have come
>>>>                      to notice these little things more
>>>>                      and more in his writing).
>>>>                      The difficulty we have, at least in
>>>>                      the United States because of the
>>>>                      dominance of the idea of
>>>>                      meta-cognition, is that we too often
>>>>                      translate what individuals are
>>>>                      bringing in to experience to organize
>>>>                      it as a form of meta-cognition.  It
>>>>                      is kind of possible to make that
>>>>                      interpretation from Democracy and
>>>>                      Education, although what I think he
>>>>                      is doing more is arguing against
>>>>                      misinterpretations of his work as
>>>>                      random, child centered activities.  I
>>>>                      think he is clearer in Experience and
>>>>                      Nature that we bring in who we are at
>>>>                      the moment into the activity, and use
>>>>                      who we are (I don't want to say
>>>>                      identity) as an organizing principle
>>>>                      for what we do.  It is perhaps one of
>>>>                      the places where Dewey and Vygotsky
>>>>                      are close.  Perhaps I can use the
>>>>                      same Jackson Pollock example.  The
>>>>                      first few times I saw his paintings I
>>>>                      was trying to "apprecitate" them
>>>>                      because I was told that was the best
>>>>                      way to experience them.  Dewey says
>>>>                      no vital experience there because my
>>>>                      activities become stilted and artificia
>>>>                          l.  Sometimes I went through the
>>>>                      museum and just looked at pictures,
>>>>                      one to the other.  No vital
>>>>                      experience there, just random
>>>>                      threads.  But that time I had the
>>>>                      experience with the paintings I was
>>>>                      allowing who I was, what had been
>>>>                      built up in the trajectory of my life
>>>>                      to enter into my experience with the
>>>>                      painting, making it a vital
>>>>                      experience.  I think Dewey makes the
>>>>                      argument in Experience and Nature
>>>>                      that it is not just the experience
>>>>                      the moment before, but the
>>>>                      experiences leading to that
>>>>                      experience, the context of my life,
>>>>                      of my parent's life, of a long line
>>>>                      of historical experiences.
>>>>                      Anyway, my take.
>>>>                      Michael
>>>>                      -
>>>>      --
>>>>      Beth Ferholt
>>>>      Assistant Professor
>>>>      Department of Early Childhood and Art Education
>>>>      Brooklyn College, City University of New York
>>>>      2900 Bedford Avenue
>>>>      Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889
>>>>      Email: bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu
>>>>      <mailto:bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu>
>>>>      Phone: (718) 951-5205 <tel:%28718%29%20951-5205>
>>>>      Fax: (718) 951-4816 <tel:%28718%29%20951-4816>
>>> --
>>> Beth Ferholt
>>> Assistant Professor
>>> Department of Early Childhood and Art Education Brooklyn College, City
>>> University of New York
>>> 2900 Bedford Avenue
>>> Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889
>>> Email: bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu
>>> <mailto:bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu>
>>> Phone: (718) 951-5205
>>> Fax: (718) 951-4816
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