July 10-13, 1997, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The first session this year was a plenary one. Becky Cox White (California State University Chico) presented “Medicine: Art or Science,” arguing that the physician is, in effect, an artist because he/she helps the patient attain a physical satisfaction akin to the aesthetic experience of unity. Rudolf Brun (Texas Christian University) explored relationships between the new sciences and artistic form, finding that both depend on naturally increasing levels of complexity, in “A Biologist Looks at Science and Art.” Manuel Davenport (Texas A&M University) completed the session with a talk on “Teaching: Art or Science,” in which he argued for the intuitive and spontaneous as elements in both successful teaching and art, in contrast to ideas of pedagogy based on the scientific method.
The second session consisted of two panels, “Art and Metaphysics” and “Art, Identity, and Community.” Charles Nussbaum (University of Texas Arlington) began the first panel with a paper on “Aesthetics and the Problem of Evil,” in which he argued that the failure of rationalistic philosophies to account for “evil” is actually an indication of a greater problem in the tradition of metaphysical essentialism. The second presenter, Alastair Beattie (University of the Andes) presented his paper, “The Emergence of the Tangible Mind,” which continued his research of recent years into the physical dimensions of human spiritual experience, in this case, drawing on recent models of mental processing.
The second panel of the session, “Art, Identity and Community,” was comprised of Michael Manson (University College of Cape Breton) who, in his paper, “Fiction of Identity and Empire: The Postmodern Turn in Great Expectations,” argued that Dicken’s own struggle with identity, as both a member of the lower class and an aspiring middle-class writer, reflects the struggles of his main character, Pip, and poses the question of identity itself as a fictional construct. The second speaker, Robert Scott Stewart (University College of Cape Breton) discussed, in his paper, “Tayloring the Self: Identity and Community in The Shipping News,” the idea of identity formation as both geographical and cultural in Proulx’s novel. The final speaker, S.K. Wertz (Texas Christian University) presented research gathered with R.D. Boyd (Fresno City College) deisputing Siegfried Kracauer’s position in Theory of Film that films “tend to weaken the spectator’s consciousness,” questioning whether the viewing experience did not, in fact, heighten consciousness.
The Keynote Session featured Arthur Stewart, the Lamar University Director for the Center for Philosophical Studies. Stewart’s paper, “Pragmatism and Nonrationality: Criticism within Creativity,” discussed the possibilities of Charles Pierce’s idea of abduction as a nonrational logic that puts into question the aesthetic experience as understood through the rationalist tradition. Stewart suggested that Pierce’s notion of abduction holds a key to the aesthetic process from artistic discovery to “post-creation” consequences.
Saturday morning’s session consisted of two panels. The first, “Southwestern Myths, Places and Traditions,” in keeping with the Division’s hopes of promoting discussions of regional aesthetic import, featured Robin Jones, from Santa Fe, who, in her paper, “Myth-Making in the Southwest: Sequin, Texas,” explored the contemporary retelling of cultural myths as a mode of empowerment for minor authors, and Chicana author, Sandra Cisneros, in particular. The panel’s second presenter was George Moore (University of Colorado Boulder), who discussed, in his paper, “Ritual, Repetition, and Memory: Native American Literature and Modernist Aesthetics,” repetition as an aesthetic experience in the context of its interpretations in both Native American and modernist written texts.
Lori Ryker (Texas A&M University), in “Making and Beauty: A Triadic Resolution,” argued for the spiritual dimension of architecture by means of an Hegelian dialectic. Vincent B. Canizaro (Texas A&M University), in “The Struggle of Earth and World in Architecture,” examined the designs of gothic cathedrals and Palladio’s Villa Rotunda in terms of Heidegger’s characterization of the struggle between “earth and world.” The last presented for this panel, and the chair, was John Samson, English, Texas Tech University, whose paper, “Nietzsche on the Prairie: Cather’s O Pioneers! and My Antonia,” continued his research into Willa Cather’s fiction in the context of Dionysian and Aollinian roles in Nietzsche’s early work.
The fifth session was a plenary one entitled “Technology, Creation and Re-creation,” which began with Steve W. Lemke (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) presenting his paper, “The Serpent in the New Eden: Technology and the Hudson River School.” Lemke focused on the Christian influences in the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Richard F. Fleck (Community College of Denver) was the second to talk, and read a chapter, “Descent to History: Utah’s Grand Gulch,” from his most recent collection of nature essays, Where Land is Mostly Sky. Frances Downing (Texas A&M University) was the final presenter for the panel, exploring, in her paper, “Re-creating from Memorable Experiences,” the notion of memory as a site of difference symbolic experiences, and, using the work of Susanne Langer and others, suggesting that architects recreate from their experiences by identifying the form within those places of memory.
Saturday afternoon’s sixth session allowed members of the Division to meet with two artists to discuss and experience their paintings. Neal Adams and Andis Applewhite, both of Houston, Texas, presented paintings and slides as part of their discussion on “The Creative Process.” Neal Adams discussed his work, associated with gestural painting, as a process of forms interacting on the canvas, rather than focusing on the medium as such. Applewhite’s process includes the transformation of symbolic forms and silk screening as extension of the creative act. Both artists engendered lively discussion.
The seventh and final session of the conference took place on Sunday morning. It began with J. K. Swindler (Wittenberg University) discussing, in “Identity, Meaning, and Truth in Metaphor,” recent work in the cognitive function of metaphor. Jill Heydt-Stevenson (University of Colorado Boulder) questioned the denigration of the picturesque as an aesthetic category in 19th century landscape painting in “Picturing the Contradictions: The Picturesque in Mass Culture.” The final presenter for the session was Nancy A. Nield (University of Chicago), who, in her paper, “Anxious Embodiments: The Interrelationship Between Figuration of Male Corporeality and Tropes of Circumcision in Barnett Newman’s Stations of the Cross,” explored Newman’s post-Holocaust expression of both Jewish and artistic alienation through the representational and symbolic dimensions of his paintings.
George B. Moore