The American Society for Aesthetics Eastern Division meeting was held March 18-20, 1999 at Towson University. The theme for the conference was “Cultural Studies and Aesthetics.” Carol Gould (Florida-Atlantic) was the program chair and Gerald Phillips (Towson) and John Murungi (Towson) coordinated the local arrangements. Don Keefer (RISD) designed the program brochure.
The structure of the conference included the traditional format of speaker and respondent as well as panel discussions. In the past we found the panel discussions to be particularly engaging, allowing maximum participation from the audience.
The panels directly addressed the theme of the conference. Faculty from various disciplines at the host institution (Peter Baker, David Bergman, Deborah Shaller) presented a panel on, “Cultural Studies at the Edge of Aesthetics.” A second panel, whose members included Paisley Livingston (Aarhus), Jerrold Levinson (U Maryland) and George Wilson (Johns Hopkins), addressed, “Visual Narration, Fictional Showing, and Narrators.”
There were many papers which challenged the boundaries between cultural studies and aesthetics or sought to integrate these two realms. These included papers on the relationship of aesthetics to our interpretations of violence (Dawn Perlmutter, Cheyney University; Eva Pariser, Long Island University), the dialogue between aesthetics and technology (Michael Dahnke, Temple; David Maier, Columbia), and the integration of art and society (Arnold Berleant; Deborah Fitzgerald; Adam J. Lerner, Contemporary Museum, Balto).
Traditional questions in aesthetics were addressed by sessions which probed definitions of art and beauty (Roman Bonzon, Augustana College; Jeffrey Dean, University of Wisconsin). While John Dilworth and Chris Perricone (Baruch, CUNY) wrestled with epistemological issues, Marcus Verhaegh (Emory), Victor Krebs (Universidad Simon Bolivar), and Monique Roelofs (Brown) focused on ethical ones. Issues of ontology and truth were treated by Ann Marie Olesen (University of Aarhus) and Yu Liu (Niagara County CC).
There were a number of sessions which dealt with the application of aesthetic theory to the arts. Lee B. Brown (Ohio State), Albert Mosley (Ohio University), and Fred Everett Maus (University of Virginia) contributed to the session, “Musical Aesthetics.” Literary problems of fiction and ontology were the focus of a session given by Sarah Worth (Furman University), Robert Howell (SUNY, Albany), and Ira Newman (Mansfield University). W. Stephen Croddy (Westchester State), William Irwin (King’s College), and Barbara Savedoff explored photography, allusion, and Modernism in a session entitled, “Philosophies of the Arts.”
Professor Naomi Zack (SUNY Albany) delivered the invited plenary lecture. Professor Zack, who is well known for her work on the problem of race as a biological concept, presented, “Mass Art, Interpretations, and Culture: The Links.” In this paper, she explored the philosophical justification for deriving claims about a culture from claims about the art of that culture. Her work raised questions about the definition of art and the nature of representation. She argues that in order to detect cultural attitudes in an artwork, one must presuppose that the culture holds such attitudes.
The conference also included a special presentation by Arnold Berleant entitled “The Art of the Piano.” He explained the fundamentals of piano performance and interpretation, demonstrating his points with brief performances as well as discussion.
A jazz trio played at the reception Friday evening. We were served an elegant dinner in the Potomac Room. The dinner was accompanied by piano music providing a complete aesthetic experience.
At the Business Meeting the committee expressed its thanks to Gerry Phillips and John Murungi for the quality of the local arrangements. As our host, they provided a professional and comfortable environment. The Music Department (College of Fine Arts and Communications, Towson) and the Philosophy Department (College of Arts and Sciences, Towson) contributed labor and finances to ensure the success of the conference.
We also thanked Carol Gould for her work as program chair. Due to her diligence, we received a large number of excellent paper submissions. Two new committee members were nominated: Sarah Worth and Aaron Meskin. All ASA members present voted them onto the Steering Committee. One of these positions replaces Kevin Melchionne. Melchionne, who was elected last year, has found that he is not able to serve on the Steering Committee at this time.
John Carvalho will be the program chair for the Spring, 2000 conference. Martin Donougho volunteered to be the site coordinator. The plan is to have the conference at Villanova with Carvalho as site coordinator in the year 2001. The group assembled discussed the possibility of finding a permanent site for the ASA Eastern conference. Looking to the Pacific Division as our model, we thought that having a desirable, central site might shore up attendance. Of the many sites considered, the majority of the group favored Washington DC. We decided to put this site into the regular rotation. If a conference works well there, we will discuss repeating that venue at that time.
It was emphasized that the committee needs the help of all members in soliciting submissions for ASA Eastern conferences.
Beth Ann Dobie