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Chakrabarti, Arindam, , . Ownerless Emotions in Rasa-Aesthetics
2011, In Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.). Asian Aesthetics. National Univeristy of Singapore Press.
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Summary: Chakrabarti explores the possibilities of rasa theory via the question of whose emotion is experienced when an audience relishes a work of art. Chakrabarti argues for the existence of a “centerless non-singular subjectivity” according to which the special emotions savored in aesthetic experience do not have specific owners. These personless sentiments indicate an ethical relationship between aesthetic imagination and moral unselfishness.

Comment: This text could serve as both an overview of rasa theory in Indian aesthetics, as a basis for comparative work in cross-cultural aesthetics, as well as comparative philosophy.

Related reading:

  • Abhinavabhāratī. Abhinavagupta. In Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation. M.M. Ghosh (ed.). Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation, 2006.
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Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., , . Samvega, ‘Aesthetic Shock’
1943, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 7(3): 174-179.
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Summary: An explication of the Pali aesthetic term samvega as the state of shock and wonder at a work of art that occurs when the implications of its aesthetic qualities are experienced. Despite being an emotion, Coomaraswamy associates samvega with disinterested aesthetic contemplation.

Comment: This text would work well in a focused study of Indian aesthetics, as well in a cross-cultural study of disinterest in aesthetics.

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Ellen Dissanayake, , . Art and Intimacy
2000, University of Washington Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Publisher’s Note: To Ellen Dissanayake, the arts are biologically evolved propensities of human nature: their fundamental features helped early humans adapt to their environment and reproduce themselves successfully over generations. In Art and Intimacy she argues for the joint evolutionary origin of art and intimacy, what we commonly call love.It all begins with the human trait of birthing immature and helpless infants. To ensure that mothers find their demanding babies worth caring for, humans evolved to be lovable and to attune themselves to others from the moment of birth. The ways in which mother and infant respond to each other are rhythmically patterned vocalizations and exaggerated face and body movements that Dissanayake calls rhythms and sensory modes.

Rhythms and modes also give rise to the arts. Because humans are born predisposed to respond to and use rhythmic-modal signals, societies everywhere have elaborated them further as music, mime, dance, and display, in rituals which instill and reinforce valued cultural beliefs. Just as rhythms and modes coordinate and unify the mother-infant pair, in ceremonies they coordinate and unify members of a group.

Today we humans live in environments very different from those of our ancestors. They used ceremonies (the arts) to address matters of serious concern, such as health, prosperity, and fecundity, that affected their survival. Now we tend to dismiss the arts, to see them as superfluous, only for an elite. But if we are biologically predisposed to participate in artlike behavior, then we actually need the arts. Even — or perhaps especially — in our fast-paced, sophisticated modern lives, the arts encourage us to show that we care about important things.

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Feagin, Susan L., , . The pleasures of Tragedy
1983, American Philosophical Quarterly 20 (1): 95-104.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Summary: This article addresses a paradox that has puzzled philosophers of art since Aristotle: tragedies produce, and are designed to produce, pleasure for the audiences, without supposing any special callousness or insensitivity on their part. The author introduces a distinction which enables us to understand how we can feel pleasure in response to tragedy, and which also sheds some light on the complexity of such responses. The virtues of this approach lie in its straightforward solution to the paradox of tragedy as well as the bridges the approach builds between this and some other traditional problems in aesthetics, and the promising ways in which we are helped to see their relationships. In particular, we are helped to understand the feeling many have had about the greatness of tragedy in comparison to comedy, and provided a new perspective from which to view the relationship between art and morality.

Comment: Really clear introduction to the nature of the relationship between aesthetic and moral value, and specifically to the topic of meta-responses to art. The last section of the paper also throws some light upon the differences between responses and meta-responses to real situations and to art. The reading is not very difficult so in principle, it could be used by undergraduate students. On the other hand, the paper contains some very specialised detail, so it might be recommendable to use it for postgraduate courses in both ethics and aesthetics.

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Friend, Stacie, , . The pleasures of documentary tragedy
2007, British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2):184-198.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Two assumptions are common in discussions of the paradox of tragedy: (1) that tragic pleasure requires that the work be fictional or, if non-fiction, then non-transparently represented; and (2) that tragic pleasure may be provoked by a wide variety of art forms. In opposition to (1) I argue that certain documentaries could produce tragic pleasure. This is not to say that any sad or painful documentary could do so. In considering which documentaries might be plausible candidates, I further argue, against (2), that the scope of tragic pleasure is limited to works that possess certain thematic and narrative features.

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Korsmeyer, Carolyn, , . Pleasure: Reflections on aesthetics and feminism
1993, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 51 (2):199-206.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: For some time my own interests in aesthetics and in feminism appeared to run parallel yet mutually exclusive courses, but it seems to me now that philosophical aesthetics and feminist views of culture have begun to dovetail and to share certain concerns and orientations. Philo sophical aesthetics is not by and large taking note of this, however, and in the first section of this essay I argue that feminist perspectives pro vide a vantage from which the appearance of breakdown in unified theorizing can be seen to have an underlying order and pattern.2 Thus at first I shall emphasize a potential harmony be tween feminist critiques and recent directions in aesthetics. Then in the second section I shall focus on one of the subjects that has all but dropped from view in the reshuffling of the oretic concerns: aesthetic appreciation or plea sure. I argue that this concept is urgently in need of reexamination, a need that is especially evi dent when we consider feminist alternatives to the traditional idea of aesthetic pleasure.

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Saito Yuriko, , . Aesthetics of the Familiar: Everyday Life and World-Making
2017, Oxford University Press
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Publisher’s Note: Yuriko Saito explores the nature and significance of the aesthetic dimensions of people’s everyday life. Everyday aesthetics has the recognized value of enriching one’s life experiences and sharpening one’s attentiveness and sensibility. Saito draws out its broader importance for how we make our worlds, environmentally, morally, as citizens and consumers. Saito urges that we have a social responsibility to encourage cultivation of aesthetic literacy and vigilance against aesthetic manipulation. Yuriko Saito argues that ultimately, everyday aesthetics can be an effective instrument for directing the humanity’s collective and cumulative world-making project for the betterment of all its inhabitants.

Everyday aesthetics has been seen as a challenge to contemporary Anglo-American aesthetics discourse, which is dominated by the discussion of art and beauty. Saito responds to controversies about the nature, boundary, and status of everyday aesthetics and argues for its legitimacy. She highlights the multi-faceted aesthetic dimensions of everyday life that are not fully accounted for by the commonly-held account of defamiliarizing the familiar.

Comment: Of the three parts of the book (Concepts, Cases, Consequences), the first is the most theoretically involved. It engages with the current debates in everyday aesthetics, examining the concepts of ‘everyday’ and ‘aesthetics’, and arguing with the common drive to defamiliarize the familiar, aimed at making what is mundane stand out, turning the ordinary into something extraordinary. What is there to be gained by ‘artifying’ things, and thus making them special? Does the fact that we treat some objects as aesthetically special, not prevent us from seeing the aesthetic qualities of other things? Those questions can make for interesting topics to explore in class or to debate.

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Saito, Yuriko, , . The aesthetics of unscenic nature
1998, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56 (2):101-111.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Revolution in the aesthetics of nature often takes place when people start appreciating the parts of nature formerly regarded as aesthetically negative. One such example is the change in the aesthetics of mountains which occurred during the early eighteenth century. We are witnessing another revolution in this country which started a century ago. Its primary purpose is to overcome the pictorial appreciation of the natural environment, a legacy left by the picturesque aesthetics established during the latter half of the eighteenth century. The picturesque emphasis on vision as the vehicle for appreciating the natural environment has led us to regard nature as a series of scenes consisting of two- dimensional designs. This approach to nature has also encouraged us to look for and appreciate primarily the scenically interesting and beautiful parts of our natural environment. As a result, those environments devoid of effective pictorial composition, excitement, or amusement (that is, those not worthy of being represented in a picture) are considered lacking in aesthetic values. Consider, for example, John Muir’s experience of encountering two artists on Mt. Ritter in the High Sierras. Muir complains that they were satisfied only with a few scenic spots affording spectacular, startling views. However, other parts that attracted Muir, such as the autumn colors of the surrounding meadows and bogs, were “sadly disappointing” to the artists because they did not make “effective pictures.” Half a century later, Aldo Leopold echoes Muir’s complaint. “Concerned for the most part with show pieces,” Leopold claims, we are “willing to be herded through ‘scenic’ places” and “find mountains grand if they be proper mountains with waterfalls, cliffs, and lakes.” Because we expect to be entertained by the grand, amusing, and spectacular parts of nature (such as in national parks), we find the Kansas plains “tedious” and the prairies of Iowa and southern Wisconsin boring. Against such a common tendency, Leopold reminds us that “in country, as in people, a plain exterior often conceals hidden riches,” and urges us to develop the aesthetic sensitivity to penetrate the “plain” exterior to reach the hidden riches. The same sentiment is expressed by a contemporary painter, Alan Gussow. While not objecting to the popular appreciation of the “crown jewels” in the National Park system, he calls for “the cultivation of an ability to see beauty in more modest, less aggressive settings,” such as tidal wetlands and wildlife habitats. According to Gussow, their beauty is primarily based upon health and sustainability and is more subtle, less visible, than the grandiose splendor of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or Mt. Rainier. Holmes Rolston III, a contemporary writer on environmental ethics, reiterates this concern for the common inclination to depreciate the scenically challenged parts of nature. In defending the positive aesthetic value of a rotten carcass of an elk full of maggots (not our typical example of scenic beauty), he advises against our tendency to look for pretty objects and picturesque scenes fit for a postcard. ‘At the beginning,” Rolston claims, “we search for something pretty or colorful, for scenic beauty, for the picturesque. Landscapes regularly provide that, but when they do not, we must not think that they have no aesthetic properties.”‘ In his recent writings on nature aesthetics, Allen Carlson also challenges the pictorial approach to nature. According to Carlson, considering nature as a series of landscape paintings is inappropriate, simply because that is not what nature is. This landscape model for appreciating nature “requires us to view the environment as if it were a static representation which is essentially ‘two dimensional.’ It requires the reduction of the environment to a scene or view.” Experiencing nature as a static, representational, two-dimensional scene, however, “unduly limits our appreciation …, it also misleads it.” Carlson claims that with a proper approach (to be specified later), even pictorially challenged natural objects would appear aesthetically positive, confirmed by the change of people’s attitudes regarding mountains, jungles, insects, and reptiles.

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