Re: Butterflies and life

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sun Apr 03 2005 - 12:52:36 PDT

Ana-- I am confused by the law of aesthetic response.
I get two (perhaps) relevant defintions from OED for catharsis:
1. The purification of the emotions by vicarious experience, esp. through
the drama
2. *Psychotherapy*. The process of relieving an abnormal excitement by
re-establishing the association of the emotion with the memory or idea of
the event which was the first cause of it, and of eliminating it by

My copy of Psych of Art has long ago been borrowed in extinction. Can you
elaborate so I can follow the rest of the thought?

On Apr 2, 2005 11:27 PM, Ana Marjanovic-Shane <> wrote:
> In the Psychology of Art, Vygotsky said:
> "The law of aesthetic response ...: *it comprises an affect that develops
> in two opposite directions but reaches annihilation at its point of
> termination*.
> This is the process we should like to call catharsis."(Psychology of Art,
> MIT Press, 1971, p. 214)
> Learning is often, probably always, driven by the law of catharsis --
> learning which is meaningful and transformative.
> But the emotion that develops in two opposite directions is not always a
> benign and sweet thing. It is dramatic, it is breaking away, it is or can
> become fully developed drama or tragedy. Think of the great thought
> revolutions: Copernicus and Galileo.
> The best learning, a true metamorphosis is never merely academic and just
> cognitive.
> But, there are more levels here. There is a difference between a
> catharsis, as transformation into something new; and destruction, a
> transformation after which nothing is left. However, a line between the two
> is very thin.
> What does it mean to be pro-life? A catch phrase, almost a battle cry,
> that touches some people and blinds them to everything else: complexities of
> human situation, effects on other people, scientific findings... In the same
> breath, they can be against "abortion" and for the "capital punishment". And
> it makes sense to them. And then you have people who know how to use this
> catch phrase, this battle cry to achieve some other goals. Goals which have
> nothing to do and may be contrary to the meaning of "pro-life". You almost
> feel like a spectator in a theater seeing how the affects develop in the
> opposite directions and you wait for them to reach annihilation and the
> point of termination. And you pray that the termination will be in the form
> of the social catharsis -- not social destruction.
> Ana
> Mike Cole wrote:
> Breaking away
> Breaking away
> stealing thoughts
> cutting edges and
> turning around.
> Hippity-hop!
> I cannot stop.
> Butterflies, jellyfish,
> marzipan sweet,
> snap dragon flies
> sprinkled with sand.
> Breaking away
> over the wires
> under the radar
> covering tracks.
> Hippity-hop!
> I cannot stop.
> Butterflies are blown northward
> to the San Joaquin valley in profusion.
> Orange, black, white fleeting lives,
> Flying, blowing north.
> Breaking away
> gently destroying
> remembrance of life before.
> Today the butterflies in our back yard crowded our beautiful purple
> flowers. Not yet blown away on their
> trip north. Heather appreciated the thoughts. Their lives are so short!
> Today Pope John Paul the 2nd died. They say he promoted pro life and pro
> social justice policies. It is an
> occasion,along with the furor over Terry Shaivo, for all of us to re-think
> what it means to be pro-life and pro-poor. David tried to get us to think
> about this issue earlier this week. Apparently his comments did not
> resonate. Might
> they evoke more externalized reflection the second time around?
> mike

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