July 9-11, 1999, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Rocky Mountain Division of the American Society for Aesthetics held its annual meeting July 9-11, 1999, at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The First Session was a plenary session, Art and the Sublime, chaired by George Moore, English, University of Colorado, Boulder. Presenters were John Marmysz, Philosophy, University of Buffalo, whose talk, “Humor, Sublimity and Incongruity” explored differences between Kant¬πs and Burke¬πs positions on laughter and the sublime; Manuel Davenport, Philosophy, Texas A&M University, the retiring president of the Division, whose paper, “Adorno¬πs Dictum and Dilemma,” discussed the question of art after the Holocaust and the moral implications of aesthetics according to Adorno; and Sarah McCoy, Philosophy, Texas A&M University, whose talk, “Lyotard¬πs Answer to Adorno¬πs Dilemma,” furthered the discussion by suggesting a “postmodern aesthetic,” detached from modernist ideals, as one answer to Adorno¬πs moral debate.
The Second Session was comprised of two panels, “The Use of Art,” chaired by Arthur Stewart, Philosophy, Lamar University, and “Art and Literature,” chaired by Donald Driscoll, Philosophy, University of Southern Colorado. In the Panel Two, Raphael Sassover and Louis Cicotello, Philosophy, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, discussed the diversity of the American image and the difficulty of artists and observers to discern and/or name one image that epitomizes America. Showing slides of the “Christos,” he offered one solution as “a vacant west” without humans. Tiffany Sutton, Philosophy, CUNY, whose paper, “Audiences for Video Art,” discussed the history and evolution of video art in the context of whether or not video art can and does survive the recontextualization of art. The panel was concluded by Charles Hudlin, Philosophy, and Pan Chadick, English, United States Air Force Academy, with their talk on “After MapplethorpeAfter Miller,” a joint presentation exploring Chadick¬πs ideas on the chasm created between the art world and its public, caused by the outrage over the obscene nature of the Mapplethorpe exhibit in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Hudlin¬πs discussion of the evolution of constitutional law regarding what is considered obscene.
The Third Panel included Cathy Moses, English, Texas Tech University, whose paper, “Russell Banks’ Continental Drift,” explored Banks¬π novel in the context of the imaging of racial “whiteness” as defined by Black presence; and Michael Brown, Philosophy, Creighton University, whose talk, “Rethinking Wallace Stegner¬πs Eden,” focused on the relation to place as “home” suggested in both Stegner¬πs and Edward Abbey¬πs writings.
The Keynote Session featured Mary Devereaux, Philosophy, University of California, San Diego. In “The Moral Evaluation of Art,” Devereaux sought to construct an argument for agency in fictional texts, using Wayne Booth’s theory of the “implied author,” and discussing the idea of moral “effects” produced in readers. Using Oscar Wilde as an example, she presented a case for a general theory of the moral implications of art as an aesthetic context for reader and audience judgments.
The Fourth Session, Saturday morning, was comprised of two panels”Art in Application,” chaired by Michael Manson, English, University College of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and “Aesthetic Experience,” chaired by Manuel Davenport. Panel Four began with Peter Hanowell¬πs paper, which dealt with an environmental model for the aesthetic appreciation of nature. Following Allen Carlson’s model, in which he argues for nature as foreground and viewed in terms of self vis a vis the setting, and arguing for the use of what he calls common-sense knowledge or a scientific awareness of nature, Hanowell defends Carlson¬πs position against those who use other models, notably Steckner. Francis Downing and Robert Warden’s paper, “Worldview Research in Context,” explored student assumptions about physical reality as reflected in their choices in terms of critical perspectives on architectural research. The authors argued, using diagrams showing differences in approach, that students become more skilled at reaching deductive arguments when they are exposed to a range of approaches out of which they must scientifically support their assumptions.
The Fifth panel included three speakers. Aron Edidin, Humanities, New College of University of South Florida, in his paper, “Playing in a Box Artistry in Classical Musical Performance,” addressed the relation between musical compositions and performance. Artistry may be exercised in both the planning and execution of the performance and because great compositions are “inexhaustibly rich” each allows many different great performances. John Samson, English, Texas Tech University, argued that Melville’s Moby-Dick is an example of post-structural aesthetics as described by Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. His paper, “Nomad Art and Moby-Dick,” called attention to the rebellious and oppositional features of Melville’s work, which in Samson¬πs opinion were intentional and contribute to its greatness. W. Gordon Snow, Philosophy, Hilbert College, contended in his paper, “Reconsidering the Aesthetic Attitude in Light of Attention Theory,” that George Dickie in claiming that “the aesthetic attitude” is really nothing more than a case of paying attention overlooks the fact that attention is what makes the aesthetic attitude special. Indeed, recent research in attention theory may revive the original concept of aesthetic attitude.
Session Five was comprised of two panels. Reuben Ellis, English, Prescott College, was chair of the Panel Six, “Art and Literature II.” Bob J. Frye, English, Texas Christian University, presented a paper on “Barbara Kinsolver¬πs Realistic Craft,” which explored the aesthetic realism in Kinsolver’s novels and discussed the use of humor as a counterpoint to harsh social and economic conditions in her settings. Michael Manson’s paper, “John Nichols’ The Nirvana Blues,” focused on Nichol’s understanding of the Southwest, and the idea that Anglo-American culture, through its increased presence in the region, has paradoxically destroyed the very thing it sought to find, a nostalgia for the ahistorical in its image of the Southwest.
Charles Hudlin chaired the Seventh panel, “Art and Metaphysics.” Lori Ryker, Architecture, Montana State University, in her paper, “Adventure, Experience, and Creativity,” claimed that the practice of architecture has become separated from natural human concerns because it has followed a rigidly scientific paradigm. To overcome this separation the teaching of architecture must stress our need to be one with Nature and our inner selves by means of encouragement and creativity. Arthur F. Stewart, Philosophy, Lamar University, in his paper, PeirceA Neglected Argument for the Esthetical Reality of God,” described how Peirce claimed that our general
success in abduction plus the interconnections we see among various levels of reality are best explained by the belief that God is real. The final paper was read by Professor Owsley¬πs graduate assistant. Richard M. Owsley, Philosophy, University of North Texas, argued in his paper, “Martin Heidegger’s Expressionistic Theory of Art,” that in his writings on poetry and other works of art Heidegger advocates the view that art reveals and expresses the nature of Being. But the artists is not merely a transparent means through which Being is expressed; Being also accommodates itself to the artist’s particular perspective.
Our “Artist at Work” this year was Heather Sellers, English, Hope College, Michigan. Ms. Sellers is a novelist and short story writer, who read her story, “Fla. Boys,” from recent work which had begun as an outtake to a novel in progress, Georgia, Underwater. Evoking the atmosphere and landscapes of the South, she explores the sexual education of a fourteen-year-old girl coming to terms with her father’s alcoholism and neglect and her own sense of emerging identity. After the reading, she discussed the processes of discovery in the character and in her methods for developing the story.
The Seventh Session on Sunday morning, the 11th, was a plenary session and our final for the conference. John Samson was chair of “Native American and Southwestern Art.” George Moore presented a paper on Cormac McCarthy’s work entitled “An Aesthetics of Violence in the Southwest,” which discussed audience attraction to violence in art and entertainment, suggesting that art has always incorporated violence into its aesthetics and will continue
to do so as long as violence is a reflection of the society itself. Reuben Ellis’s paper, Da-gi-na-a (I Have Some Flexible Things),” discussed the Cherokee writer, Jimmie Durham, analyzing the bilingual elements of Durham’s poetry. Stephen Swords presented a paper on “Edmund Wilson in New Mexico,”exploring the little known connection between the New Critic, Wilson, and the American Southwest. Wilson spent time in New Mexico developing an understanding of Native culture more in line with our present understanding than with the often racially compromised viewpoints of his own contemporaries.
The annual Business Meeting followed on Sunday after the last session. Michael Manson of University College of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was elected Vice President, to serve for three years, and then move up to the office of president. John Samson of Texas Tech University was elected Secretary for the Division, to serve in that capacity for five years. George Moore assumed the three-year position of president of the Division, after having served as vice president for the last three years.