Once again, the Rocky Mountain Division of the American Society for Aesthetics held its annual conference at the historic Hotel St. Francis in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, from July 14th through the 16th. We enjoyed the beautiful summer weather of the high-desert Southwest: sunny days with occasional afternoon thunderstorms.
Activities on the 14th began with conference registration and opening remarks by Vice President Dove, as President Stewart had a last-minute family emergency and could not attend this year’s conference. The program itself covered a broad variety of topics and emphasized the interdisciplinary character of the Division’s work. The 2006 conference program featured the following panels: Issues in Aesthetics I (S.K. Wertz, George Moore, James Mock); Literary Investigations I (Linda Dove, Steven Salmoni, Michael Manson); Aesthetics and Ethics I (Eva Dadlez, Norman Fischer, Martin Donougho); Aesthetics and Ethics II (David Levine, Raphael Sassower, Frances Downing); Issues in Aesthetics II (Linda Dove, John Bengson, Brian Laetz, David Conter); Literary Investigations II (John Samson, Lewis Whitaker, Miles Kimball); and Philosophy, Character, and Music (Ryan Jordan, Benjamin Moritz, Carol Gould).
Although the topics, texts, and disciplines represented by the papers were diverse, there were definite intersections that kept discussions lively among all participants. To name but a few examples: S.K. Wertz, George Moore, and James Mock engaged with the political representation of aesthetics in papers they (respectively) gave on the NEA, on fascism and modernist poetry, and on two recent films depicting the Vietnam War: Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. Frances Downing presented a series of slides to illustrate how feminist space(s) and so-called “green” building techniques dovetail in architecture. Miles Kimball discussed the way that the aesthetic expectations of 19th-century London maps gave rise to a sociopolitical conciousness concerning class. Benjamin Moritz presented an early musical composition of Nietzsche’s, his mazurka, and demonstrated how Nietzsche’s social theory of the uberman was resonant in the way he manipulated the mazurka’s traditional aesthetics.
The Manuel Davenport Keynote Address was given this year by Ann Hawkins, President of the College English Association, who spoke on “Marketing Beauty: The Case of Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington, and the Mid-Nineteenth Century Book Trade.” The Artist at Work plenary session was presented by Mary Ciani Saslow, who is a Senior Lecturer in the Visualization Program of the School of Architecture at Texas A&M University. Her interactive power-point presentation was entitled, “I Laugh In Yellow: The Intersection of Traditional and Digital Media.”