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1997 Canadian Society for Aesthetics Meeting
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Our conference at Memorial University on “The Rock” – the rugged island of Newfoundland – opened on June 4 with four papers in French on the topic: “Correspondence comme lieu de Communication.” Suzanne Foisy (Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières) began with an analysis of Schiller’s response to Kant in his correspondence with Korner on the contested topic of the relation of beauty to the understanding. Ghyslaine Guertin (Montreal) followed with a comparative analysis of the correspondence of Glenn Gould and Arnold Schonberg. Monique Langlois (Université de Québec à Montréal) discussed video letters, that is, art videos formulated as communications or asnarratives about attempts to communicate. The session was concluded by Manon Regimbald (Université de Québec à Montréal), who presented a discussion of an exchange of public letters between the critic Thierry de Duve and the artist Michael Snow.

The next session, “Art: Old, New and Eternal,” began with a paper by Thomas Heyd (Victoria) in which he argued that rock art surviving from prehistoric times in Australia and elsewhere enhances appreciation of the landscape around it by hinting at the viewpoint of ancient inhabitants of the land. Duane Burton (Alberta) followed with “Teachings from the Oral Tradition and Cyberspace,” a discussion of the similarities between cyberspace and non-Western “orality cultures.” Gloria Ryder (Guelph) argued in her paper that art historians and aestheticians have underrated and misunderstood three-dimensional representation as exemplified by sculpture. Time was running short, so Allen Carlson (Alberta) graciously truncated his presentation “Hillerman’s Landscapes: Landscape Description and Aesthetic Relevance.” His paper addressed the issue of art appreciation and the relevance of thoughts not present or proper to the object being appreciated.

The afternoon session, “Culture, Postmodernism, Deconstructionism,” began with a feminist analysis by Kathleen Batestone (Manitoba) of the art of cooking, as exemplified in Ang. Lee’s film Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. Roger Seamon (UBC) followed with a paper which argued that modern academic literary interpretation, of both the formalist and the more recent “cultural” varieties, resembles biblical hermeneutics and is “the enemy of the appreciation of art.” Bella Rabinovitch (Marianapolis) defended Dewey’s aesthetics against recent postmodernist attacks. Leon Surette (Western) concluded the session with a paper arguing that Coleridge reformulated the imagination as a linguistic rather than an imagistic or iconic faculty (as it was conceived of by Kant) in the light of Horne Tooke’s theory of language.

The late afternoon session featured Joan Munro (Alberta), Roger Seamon (UBC), Danine Farquharson (Memorial) and Douglas Arrell (Winnipeg) leading a lively but inconclusive debate about E.D. Hirsch’s theories of “cultural literacy.”

The next morning was devoted to music and began with “Co-Authorship of Musical Texts and the Ritualization of Musical Performance,” presented by Yaroslav Senyshyn (Simon Fraser), who invoked R.G. Collingwood to buttress a plea for some freedom of interpretation for performers; his view was given qualified support by his commentator, Paul Rice (Memorial). This was followed by a panel of composers discussing “The Creative Act and Musical Communication.” The panelists were Allan Gilliland (Grant MacEwan), Gordon Nicholson (Grant MacEwan), and Clark Ross (Memorial). The discussion focused on music education and the neglect of composition in it.

The following session concentrated on the visual arts. Tom Roach (St. Francis Xavier) presented a comparison of the Vladimir Madonna and Child and a Bellini Madonna and Child. He found that the Orthodox Madonna was more semiotic, “painted from the inside,” while the Belllini was much more mimetic, “painted from the outside.” Mark Cheetham (Western) discussed Kant’s surprising influence on the visual arts; he exemplified this by a description of the reception of Kantian ideas in the circle of artists led by Asmus Jakob Carstens in Rome.

The afternoon session, “Education and the Arts” began with a paper by Rowland Marshall (St. Mary’s) which argued passionately for the humanizing force of education in the arts, and the increased need for it in a technologized and commodified society. He was followed by Douglas Arrell (Winnipeg), who reported on his experience of using case studies as a pedagogical tool in teaching aesthetics to theatre students. James Hamilton (Kansas State) presented a drama-teaching model in which students were given brief but intensive exposure to a number of non-naturalistic theatrical styles, and then wrote and performed a play in one of those styles; this experience led Hamilton to some insights about the nature of style. Will Buschert (Toronto) concluded the session with a discussion of the social and pedagogical implications of teaching students about irony.

The afternoon session, “Words and Meanings” began with “Literature and Cognition: a Defense from Neuroscience,” by Christine Watling (Alberta) which surveyed the relevance of neuroscientific theories of right and left brain function to the capacity of verse to express feelings. “Why Donald Davidson is Wrong about Metaphor,” by Leon Surette (Western), found Davidson’s argument that metaphorical meaning is just the literal meaning of the words to be incoherent Victor Haines (Dawson) closed the session with “Appreciating Art Appreciations,” which argued against Kantian aesthetic disinterest, maintaining that the appreciator must be “engaged” with the artwork; that is, appreciation involves enjoyment as well as evaluation.

The third day opened with “Continental Philosophers.” Victor Kocay (St. Francis Xavier) presented an analysis of Mallarme’s sonnet, “Couche” to illustrate the Ingardian notion that art objects are aptly reconstituted as a manifold by the art appreciator, and in that sense are “other than” or a negativity of the object represented. Stephen Boos (King’s College) followed with “The Masks of Imagination: Mirror, Lamp and Looking Glasses,” which surveyed theories of representation from Plato to Baudrillard.

The next session, “Eminent Victorians” began with “Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Use of Poetry,” by Kerry McSweeney (McGill), which revealed the Jesuit poet’s surprisingly low estimate of poetry and its social function. Michelle Weinroth (Ottawa) followed with “The Aesthetic Education of Desire: William Morris, Utopianism and the Marxist Dilemma,” a discussion of the contrasting ways Morris’s utopian novel News from Nowhere was viewed by English conservative and communist thinkers.

The final session of the conference was a discussion of Sheryle Bergmann Drewe’s book Creative Dance: Enriching Understanding, which is a defense of the educational value of creative dance. The aesthetic arguments in the book were critiqued by Joan Munro (Alberta) and Francis Sparshott (Toronto), and Drewe (Manitoba) responded.

The conference concluded with a reception at the Emma Butler Gallery in downtown St. John’s, and, for the hardy few, a pub crawl though some of the city’s famous Irish-style bars.

Leon Surette
Doug Arrell

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