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    Poetry as embodied experience: the pragmatist aesthetics of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry

    Gander, Catherine (2018) Poetry as embodied experience: the pragmatist aesthetics of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry. Textual Practice, 32 (7). pp. 1205-1229. ISSN 0950-236X

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    This essay reads Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry (1949) as a vital account of pragmatist aesthetics in the vein of John Dewey’s Art as Experience (1934). It argues that Rukeyser’s treatise is an exercise in embodied cultural experience that draws upon the key pragmatic aesthetic tenets of pluralism and naturalism – i.e. the understanding that knowledge is derived from a living organism’s mind–body interaction with its environment. Further, it explores Rukeyser’s understanding that ‘aesthetics’, as contemporary philosopher Mark Johnson has argued, must move beyond the compartmentalised study of art and its a/effects to ‘become the basis of any profound understanding of meaning and thought … to explore how meaning is possible for creatures with our types of bodies, environments, and cultural institutions and practices’. Highlighting recent studies in neuroscience, cognitive linguistics, and philosophy of embodied mind that are grounded in pragmatism, this essay demonstrates Rukeyser’s foresight in constructing a cross-disciplinary, multivalent aesthetics of human meaning-making that anticipated such advances by decades. The Life of Poetry suggests a practical philosophy of the art of living that breaks down the traditional binaries of mind/body, science/ art, self/other by positioning poetry pluralistically to encompass the social and personal potentialities of embodied human experience.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Muriel Rukeyser; pragmatist aesthetics; John Dewey; embodied experience; naturalism; The Life of Poetry;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > School of English, Media & Theatre Studies > English
    Item ID: 12907
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Catherine Gander
    Date Deposited: 18 May 2020 14:55
    Journal or Publication Title: Textual Practice
    Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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