Wednesday, May 12, 2010


In Homo Aestheticus, Dissanayake broadens her arguments from What is Art For? She continues her argument that art is not an artificial, impractical group of objects created by bored individuals who are fortunate to be part of a leisure class. Art, in her view, should be regarded as a behavior, and she's pretty convincing when she argues that art has been an intricate part of humanity's successful evolution.

Much of the book is an inspired attack against post-modern theory, which argues that art is meaningless in comparison with language, which is itself empty of significance. Dissanayake thinks we've priviliged literacy too much in our modern age, and that we have lost touch with other forms of mentation which cats like Howard Gardner have only lately begun to re-discover. She also believes that the removal of Art from the hands of Everyman--and its association with a class of experts and academics and critics who judge what is Art or what is mere ornament--has rendered a grave disservice to mankind.

Again, a challenging and interesting read. I particularly liked her discussion of recent research which suggests a symbolic relationship between particular sounds and concepts which seem to imbue all languages. It was very much akin to ideas in the esoteric traditions, which regard sounds and the manner of producing them as sacred and evocative of forces. For a while I thought she might be espousing Schwaller de Lubicz's Symbolique...

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