Art and action : exploring postmodern aesthetics


Despite notable recent developments in epistemology and aesthetics, postmodernism is still largely met with reservations within the philosophical community. Within the art world postmodernism has also spurred controversy. However, while the philosophical community has quarreled about the coherence of theory and objected to the adoption of postmodernism on theoretical grounds, the art world has largely championed postmodern aesthetic theory. The disagreement here has thus not been one of theoretical coherence but rather of practical manifestation. That is: Have we really witnessed a change in art? Do we experience art differently? Clearly these are questions that connect theory with practice, tying philosophy to art. Further, these are questions that can only be answered with reference to some understanding of both modernity and postmodernity. My project will therefore begin by loosely defining modernism and postmodernism. Then, utilizing personal interviews that I have conducted with five award winning folk artists, I will make the case that the popular understanding of aesthetics is neither wholly modem nor wholly postmodern. While the genesis of folk art can be understood as a uniquely postmodern phenomenon in the sense that it has championed the role of community and context in aesthetics, it has simultaneously been commodified and exploited under the distinctly modem idea of 'art for art's sake'. This is a tension which I will suggest is the practical manifestation of the theoretical issues plaguing the philosophical community, and one which I intend to utilize to critique postmodern theory in a more general sense. Therefore, I will begin by establishing a loose definition of modernism as a historically unique set of values. Against this backdrop I will pursue the question, is folk art postmodern? by juxtaposing the interviews that I have conducted with the work of John Dewey and Martin Heidegger. From this question I will argue that folk art provides the occasion to help us distinguish the modem from the postmodern by highlighting both the ways that folk art has clung to specifiable modern ideals and the ways that it has departed from the


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Thesis Completion





Congdon, Kristin G.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program

Political Science


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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