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Title:Educating the self through aesthetic experience
Author(s):Blanken-Webb, Jane
Director of Research:Dhillon, Pradeep A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dhillon, Pradeep A.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Burbules, Nicholas C.; Mayo, Cris S.; Thibeault, Matthew D.
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):aesthetic experience
John Dewey's philosophy
psychoanalytic theory
aesthetic education
Abstract:This study calls for a shift in the way we think about the mode, meaning, and purpose of education by recognizing the aesthetic dimension. Through deepening Deweyan aesthetic theory with D.W. Winnicott’s ideas on the self, I am addressing a crucial gap in educational literature pertaining to the constitutive role of aesthetics in the growth and development of the self. Put simply, John Dewey’s philosophy upholds the idea that learning and growth is inherent in aesthetic experience because it refines the way we are related to the world and Winnicott’s psychoanalytic account offers this insight greater precision and depth by filling out a critical component that Dewey does not address; namely, our early interactions in the world and the development of the self. This approach informs both policy and practice, speaking to arts education and beyond by advancing the notion that there is profound learning potential embedded within aesthetic experience. Thus, I argue that we need to cultivate this mode of aesthetic learning throughout all of education. To make this case, I lay out Winnicott’s theory of differentiation as I see it relating to the work of the Deweyan scholar, Elliot Eisner in chapter two, “The Difference Differentiation Makes: Extending Eisner’s Account.” This offers an understanding that recognizes how aesthetic education continues to carry out the process of differentiation throughout life. In this, the self is continually refined in relation to the world through aesthetic experience. Chapter three, “Dewey's ‘Peculiar’ Mode of Human Association: Aesthetic Experience and Meaning,” proposes a link between aesthetic experience and meaning making by identifying a quality of relation that they share in common. I suggest that we understand this quality of relation as a literal quality of relationship, as I draw on Dewey’s conviction that the establishment of partners within the “peculiar” mode of human association is what gives rise to intelligence and meaning. This insight is deepened through Winnicott’s psychoanalytic account, which fills out significant gaps within Dewey’s account. The linkage between aesthetic experience and meaning affords the insight that the quality of relation that bonds the two is precisely what we need to foster in education; thus, offering a valuable insight that has fundamental significance for education. Chapter four, “A Potential Basis for the Ideal: John Dewey’s Philosophy and the Unthought Known,” extends this discussion through consideration of Victor Kestenbaum’s recent work concerning the role of the ideal within Dewey’s philosophy. Drawing on Kestenbaum’s work, I propose what might be the developmental basis for understanding the role of the ideal throughout human life. Through this extremely broad perspective on human living, I believe we find a way to connect my educational project with a view of human life that is rarely considered, but nevertheless might explain a crucial, motivating force throughout all of our lives. In the final chapter, “Conclusion and Implications for Practice,” I consider what this approach means for educational practice and the education of teachers in particular. I propose that we aspire to cultivate the self of the teacher in such a way that will allow for teachers to extend this approach with students. I argue that it is vital to establish an experiential basis within teacher education for teachers to draw upon and offer examples from the arts to inform how this mode of education might work. In this, I uphold the notion that the arts have the potential to serve as the model for the rest of education for how we might cultivate the aesthetic mode of learning that is so central to education itself.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Jane Blanken-Webb
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

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