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Notes Towards Day 20 (Thursday, Nov. 14): Playing Deeply/Writing Critically

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I. 11:25-11:45: course-keeping
* sit with your writing group
* hand back papers
* all set for your trip this weekend: everyone made plans w/ their traveling partners?
[Agatha to check in w/ Phoenix? Cathy and Everglade accompanied?]

* homework this weekend:

Web Event #9 (due on-line @ midnight on Sunday, November 17). These instructions have a reflective structure: they/we ask you to take up what we think is important in the work we are reading, by asking you to raise the stakes in your own writing.

Describe a moment of deep play that you have experienced or were close enough to to be able to describe it vividly. In your description, consider how that moment feels, how it looks to the outside, and what its significance is in its own context. The moment could be yours or someone else’s. It could be from waking or dreaming. It could even be imaginary. But it should really exemplify deep play to you. (You may or may not identify this moment as “deep play” at this stage of the essay.)

What is deep play? Create and articulate a clear definition for yourself, beginning with Ackerman (and possibly incorporating additional sources if you like). It may be helpful to “read” your moment of deep play to articulate the definition—or not.

What would deep play be in critical writing? This should follow from your definition, but it need not be identical with your definition. What would distinguish deep play writing from other writing? How would it be different to the writer? To the reader? Would it change the way the classroom functions? Or your ideas about your education?

Consider the writing you have done in our class so far and describe how your approach to at least one essay would be different I you were intending to write paper utilizing deep play. (There’s no need to judge your prior writing harshly, just to say how deep play writing would change your writing.) Consider any aspects of your writing that you consider to be important to deep play writing.

BONUS: include a new first paragraph for one paper.

Note: This assignment pretty much sets up a model structure for you. You could choose to write using a different structure, but it would be as completely reasonable approach to accept the structure as presented.

Also: come to class on Tuesday ready to "closely read" 17 Border Crossings together
(that will be our text--what lenses can you bring to your reading?)

* we haven't quite reached electronic consensus re: Dec. 8--
Anne and Mark with confer tomorrow morning @ Toast and come back to you w/ a proposal
(so if you want to weigh in again on the course forum, do so before 10 tomorrow);
and/but have we agreed to set aside 2-7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8?
(2:50 Paoli-Local--> arrives at Market East at 3:21.
5:40 Paoli-Local--> arrives at Bryn Mawr at 6:09)

II. 11:45-12:15: on Tuesday we began discussing
Diane Ackerman's essay, "Deep Play,"
by telling one another what it is,
giving examples of when/if we'd experienced it,
and explaining how it differs from simple and critical play.

[See also Clifford Geertz. Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.
The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, 1973.]

Geertz/Ackerman's work calls us to shift orientation, from the city
to the natural world (she talks about birds @ play),
from analytical and political interventions,
to sacred/transcendent/heightened/ecstatic awareness,
from rational activity to what Bentham dismissed as "any activity in which the
stakes are so high is irrational for anyone to engage in it at all" (p. 11).

Let's take some time now to explore this idea, turn it around, hold it up, examine it:
do you "buy" it? does the term "work" for you? where/why/how do you resist it?
what dimensions might be useable, revisable....??
do you think it might be applicable to classroom interactions?
(Anne listed teaching as one form of deep play she engages in;
Ziyan was the only one who gave an academic task as an example
writing code)
what about writing academic papers? can they take the form of deep play?
if so, what might this look like...?

III. 12:15-12:30: get out the essays you printed off by the members of your writing group
(and your own). Re-read them to see if you see any "deep play" happening--
or any spots where, w/ a little-or-a-lot of work, it might happen.
[Another version of looking for "the crack," the opening where light gets in....]
Let's think together, collectively, towards
a revised approach for these papers that WOULD BE deeply playful.
[What are the characteristics we listed?
How might they be embodied in language?]

Come back to large group--what emerged?
Anyone see some real possibilities here??
(...then you can use this for your paper...)

IV. 12:30-12:45: For today, we asked you to read John Dewey's
Preface and "The Live Creature," from Art as Experience.

Ever heard of John Dewey? (1859-1952) You owe him a lot…
he great-grandfathered much of how Mark and Anne teach,
a method loosely known as “experiential education"
(notes here are straight from wikipedia...)

Dewey was a democratic philosopher and educational theorist who believed that the formation of the mind is a communal process. He saw learning as social and interactive, and schools as social institutions where social reform should take place (he thought a lot about the education of immigrants to be American citizens).

Dewey believed that students will thrive when they are allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum. He made a very strong case for schools as places to learn how to live: to realize our full potential and use our skills for the greater good, “coming to share in the social consciousness.”

Dewey also very specific ideas about how classrooms should be run. He argued that "the child and the curriculum are two limits which define a single process. Just as two points define a straight line, so the present standpoint of the child and the facts and truths of studies define instruction…if knowledge comes from the impressions made upon us by natural objects, it is impossible to procure knowledge without the use of objects which impress the mind.” The teacher's role in this process should be that of facilitator and guide, “selecting the influences which shall affect the child,” “guiding students to independently discover meaning.”

The essay we asked you to read today focuses on
the “object” of learning that is art.
It has the striking title of “The Live Creature.” So…

take some time to look over the text, and write (as we did w/ Ackerman):
1) what is "the live creature"?
2) why is he calling our attention to this?
3) what does this have to do with apprehending art?

To be continued...

Anne's Reading Notes
My greatest indebtedness is to Dr. A.C. Barnes....I have had the benefit of conversations with him through a period of years, may of which occurred in the presence of the unrivaled collection of pictures he has assembled....these conversations...have been a chief factor in shaping my own thinking about the philosophy of esthetics....the great educational work carried on in the Barnes of a pioneer quality comparable to the best that has been done in any field during the present generation, that of science not excepted (viii).

the actual work of art is what the product does with and in experience....the very perfection of some of these products, the prestige they possess...creates conventions that get in the way of fresh insight...isolated from the human conditions under which it was brought into being and from the human consequences it engenders...a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance....Art is cut off...A task is to restore continuity between the refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art and everyday...experience (3).

In order to understand the meaning of artistic products, we have to forget them for a time, to turn aside from them....We must means of a understand the must begin with it in the raw (4).

The arts which today have the most vitality for the average person are things he does not take to be arts (5).

Why is it that to multitudes art seems to be an importation into experience from a foreign country and the esthetic to be a synonym for something artificial? (13)

The world is full of things that are indifferent and even hostile to life....Form is arrived at whenever a stable...equilibrium is reached.....Order cannot but be admirable in a world constantly threatened with disorder (14-15).

There are two sorts fo possible worlds in which esthetic experience would not occur. In a world of mere flux, change would not be cumulative; it would not move toward a close. Stability and rest would have no being. Equally is it true, however, that a world that is finished, ended, would have no traits of suspense and crisis, and would offer no opportunity for resolution. Where everything is already complete, there is no fulfillment (17).

Most mortals are conscious that a split often occurs between their present living and their past and future....To the being fully alive, the future is not ominous but a promise....But all too often we exist in apprehensions....we do not enjoy the present beause we subordinate it to that which is absent....Art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moments in which the past reenforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is (18).

The activities of the fox, the dog, and the thrush may at least stand as reminders and symbols of that unity of experience which we so fractionize when work is labor, and thought withdraws us from the world. The live animal is fully present, all there, in all of its heightened signifies active and alert commerce with the world...complete interpenetration of self and the world of objects and events (19).