Learning and Teaching Art as Experience

  • David A. Granger


In the preceding six chapters, we sought to trace in an illuminating way a series of common issues and interests that suffuse Dewey’s and Pirsig’s metaphysics, aesthetics, and individual outlooks with respect to personal and cultural renewal. We saw among these issues and interests many areas of substantive agreement, and several of disagreement as well. In the latter areas, where the value of the social and bodily dimensions of experience (or Quality) was foremost in question, I spoke at length about what I take to be the merits of Dewey’s respective positions. We likewise identified through Pirsig a number of Dewey’s apparent shortcomings as a thinker and as a writer. In addition, Dewey’s and Pirsig’s recurring motifs of a poetics of the everyday mediated this inquiry: meaning that the discussion centered on the various ways in which an appreciation for the generic traits qualitative immediacy, the stable and precarious (or the static and Dynamic), continuity (or association), novelty, pluralism, potentiality, contingency, and temporality is required of environments that support the cultivation of art as experience. This final chapter investigates some of the questions and issues involved in creating such an environment in a formal classroom setting. Before we begin, here is a last look at the focal questions that have guided us to this point:
  1. (1)

    What sort of world is it that makes art as experience possible?

  2. (2)

    What is the general nature of aesthetic experience and how might it serve to nurture the human erōs?

  3. (3)

    How might art as experience contribute to an everyday poetics of living?

  4. (4)

    What kinds of learning environments—formal and informal—help to foster art as experience?



Unify Activity Aesthetic Experience Genuine Interest Letter Grade Paper Topic 
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  1. 1.
    This began to change in the years following the publication of Joseph Kupfer’s Experience as Art (1983), Thomas Alexander’s John Dewey’s Theory of Art, Experience & Nature (1987), and Richard Shusterman’s Pragmatist Aesthetics (1992, 1st edition). Ahead of its time in this regard is Louise Rosenblatt’s The Reader the Text the Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, respectively, Michael J. Parsons, “Cognition as Interpretation in Art Education,” The Arts, Education, and Aesthetic Knowing, Bennett Reimer and Ralph A. Smith, eds. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 70–91.Google Scholar
  3. Ralph A. Smith, General Knowledge and Arts Education: An Interpretation of E.D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994); Learning and Teaching the Ways of Knowing, Elliot W. Eisner, ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  4. Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (New York: Basic Books, 1993).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    See Gilbert A. Clark, Michael D. Day, and W. Dwaine Greer’s seminal essay “Discipline-based Art Education: Becoming Students of Art,” Aesthetics and Arts Education, Ralph A. Smith and Alan Simpson, eds. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    See, for example, Harry S. Broudy, Enlightened Cherishing: An Essay on Aesthetic Education (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    My description here borrows from Philip W. Jackson’s “The Mimetic and the Transformative: Alternative Outlooks on Teaching” in The Practice of Teaching (New York: Teachers College Press, 1986), 117–120.Google Scholar
  8. Jackson maintains that the mimetic approach to teaching, which promotes an essentially positivistic orientation toward knowledge, commands the educational scene today. For a thoughtful, empirically supported critique of mimetic instruction, see Eleanor Duckworth, “The Having of Wonderful Ideasand Other Essays (New York: Teachers College Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    For research detailing the inverse relationship between competition and democratic community in the classroom, see John G. Nicholls, The Competitive Ethos and Democratic Education (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    Resources used here include Phyllis Smith, Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley: A History (Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  11. Joseph Fenton, Pamphlet Architecture No. 11: Hybrid Buildings (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1985), and “Rebuilding Bozeman’s Past, Brick by Brick,” Preservation News, htm (27 May 2004).Google Scholar

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© David A. Granger 2006

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  • David A. Granger

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