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A Philosophical Reconstruction of Modernism for Existential Learning

René V. Arcilla

Publication Year: 2010

Explores the contemporary pedagogical significance of modernism. Mediumism considers what the modernist movement in the arts could mean for us today. It examines how artists and critics, particularly in the visual arts, responded to the growth of industries of distraction since the nineteenth century by creating new kinds of artworks that stress their mediums. René V. Arcilla draws out the metaphysical and ethical implications of the work of critics Clement Greenberg, T. J. Clark, and Michael Fried from a perspective rooted in existentialism. He finds in the resulting moral orientation a way to understand the distinctive purpose of liberal education and its political resistance to consumerism. Eschewing terminology that would be familiar to only one set of specialists, the book aims to be accessible to a general audience as well as to readers interested in modernist art, cultural politics, existentialist philosophy, and the philosophical principles of liberal education.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

When you look at a painting like the one on this book's cover, what do you see? Leaving aside the particular features of the image, you might see a more or less interesting, more or less beautiful, work in the abstract style. Perhaps that style reminds you not only of similar paintings but also of works in diverse mediums that share the traits we have come to recognize as modernist. And seeing that, ...

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CHAPTER ONE. Modernism: A Pedagogical Culture?

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pp. 1-13

How might the fields of education and culture better support each other? This book is going to seek some initial answers to that question, both utopian and practical. Of course, as soon as you mention culture these days, many reach for the more skeptical query, whose? Cultures, we are reproved, belong to disparate groups with interests in excluding, dominating, or protecting themselves from ...

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CHAPTER TWO. Existential Learning

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pp. 15-27

Although existentialism may no longer be in the news, as in Willy Ronis’s famous photograph, the word “existential” regularly is.1 We read about brooding, “existential” thrillers, or stark, “existential” forms, or the dissonant crescendos of an “existential” nightmare. It is easy to make sport of such Arts and Leisure prose, but clearly the term is common currency. “Existential learning,” though, ...

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CHAPTER THREE. Strangerhood

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pp. 29-45

In my call for existential learning, I broached the possibility of moving from an experience of a problematic situation to that of questionable existence. Instead of immediately trying to solve the problem, one would pause to see in it a reflection of the questionable nature of everything that is. The problem would thus serve as an occasion to return to an experience in which, I suggest, one is most ...

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CHAPTER FOUR. Presentmindedness

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pp. 47-64

What does strangerhood look like? Jasper Johns evokes this condition in his painting Land's End. A hand reaches up from the blue depths; is it signaling for help? It is hard to be sure, because none of the signs in this work are stable. The word "red" is colored red, but it is also colored blue and is used as a set of shapes that can be mirrored in reverse. Below that is "yellow" colored blue, with ...

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CHAPTER FIVE. Counterconsumerism

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pp. 65-82

This might be a good time to review the principal steps of my reasoning so far. That argument was broached by the question of whether my declared culture of modernism, combining elements of traditional Western high culture with some of the countercultural energies I experienced in the seventies, has any importance for education today. To substantiate my intuition that it has, I began ...

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pp. 83-98

For the purpose of existential learning, of cultivating our understanding of what it is like to exist, we are interested in pedagogical works that possess certain characteristics. They should show us how commonly recognizable experiences may lead us to the central experience of strangerhood, and why this path, even when it deviates from practical concerns, can nevertheless compel with the ...

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CHAPTER SEVEN. Who Is a Mediumist Educator?

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pp. 99-106

Most of this book has been focused on explaining why we should be concerned with existence and what that concern would imply, particularly for how we may conceive of a culture of modernism. In this concluding chapter, I would like to return to the central role played in this culture by educators. That modernism is essentially educational could sound obvious: what else could it be? one might ...


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pp. 107-115


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pp. 117-119

E-ISBN-13: 9781438429274
E-ISBN-10: 1438429274
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438429250
Print-ISBN-10: 1438429258

Page Count: 131
Illustrations: 4 figures
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 567804705
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Mediumism

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Subject Headings

  • Education -- Philosophy.
  • Learning -- Philosophy.
  • Existentialism.
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