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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

Beauty: A Course and a Conversation Forum

Welcome to a forum (embedded in a brand new course) on Beauty. Post here, each week, your thoughts about the experiences you are having as we explore together what is beautiful, what moves us; what is not, and does not.....

Forums from past weeks' discussions can be found @ the Course Forum Area.

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

What is "beauty"?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-01-14 16:45:37
Link to this Comment: 12042

As your first class assignment, Sharon and I are asking you to complete the survey @ What is Beauty? Collecting More Data on our Own Experiences and then write up one paragraph about your responses:

If you are so moved, bring something beautiful to class with you on Thursday.

Looking forward to learning what you find out--

First post...
Name: Brittany P
Date: 2005-01-18 14:30:29
Link to this Comment: 12065

Haha, I posted first, what a dork. :)
Anyway. Beauty. I've always had a very traditional, romantic, nature-based idea of what constitutes "beauty". My favorite artist is Claude Monet, and my room (both here and at home) is filled with pictures/paintings of nature scenes, particularly wood and seascapes. So I was surprised that, in the survey, I ranked "David" as the most beautiful picture (gave it an 8; I'm stingy), despite the presence of a few nice nature scenes. Not sure why I did this. It's a lovely depiction of the human form, sure, but I gave every other artistic rendition of human beauty a significantly lower score. They just didn't make my breath catch in my throat the way "David" did. I think it might be because I have an inherent respect for the *genius* it took to create something like that, and I find that type of genius inherently beautiful.
My other definition of beauty is a literary one. I love poetry/prose, words that flow together musically, or phrases that just "strike me." As with my more artistic definition, I also tend to gravitate towards literary pieces which contain haunting natural description, or at least, description that creates a visual image in my head. For example, Hopkins' "shining like shook foil" and everything by Yeats and Frost.

Name: Brittany (
Date: 2005-01-18 14:32:43
Link to this Comment: 12066

I misquoted Hopkins. How embarrassing... it ought to be "like shining from shook foil."

What I find beautiful
Name: Liz
Date: 2005-01-18 15:12:36
Link to this Comment: 12068

I realized while taking the survey that I find nature exceedly beautiful. Everything is so simple and so complicated at once. It always feels as though there is some master plan to how all these things interact, even though it is clearly just the result of evolution. I realized that I also find expressions of the human mind beautiful. Salividor Dali is one of my favorite artists (along with other surrealists) because the painting show both a talent with a brush and the ability to express one's mind and thoughts on canvas. I realized that while I find people beautiful, I did not find those shown beautiful. This is because the people I find beautiful, most often use their body as a canvas to express who they are and how they feel. These people were merely aestically pleasing, not beautiful. To me there is a difference between the two. To be beautiful, I feel there must be something there to catch my eye, something unique.
I feel that this survey was a way is a useful way for us to evalute our own opinions on beauty. I do not think however, that it is enough for others to evaluate us on. I would have like the images of humans used to have been more diverse. I also felt soem of the images of nature were mildly repetative and to really get a sense of what is beautiful to us, there needs to be a large amount of diversity. There were no images of destruction, in nature for example. There is a certain beauty in that to some people.

Most beautiful or least ugly?
Name: Lauren K.
Date: 2005-01-18 16:13:34
Link to this Comment: 12072

I'm rather suprised at my own traditional, unoriginality in regards to the selections I made for deciding which among the images were beautiful and which were not. I said that Michelangelo's David was the most beautiful, ranking it even higher than the stars, which sort of made me feel guilty. How can I possibly compare the two? I then realized that comparison had a lot to do with my decisions about all of the pictures. I found myself thinking "Well, the statue of David is certainly more aesthetically pleasing than that dead-looking tree on the cliff, but can I really compare a man's work of art to one of the natural wonders of creation?" This also brings up the question, how can one gauge beauty if one has never experienced ugliness? I was fully aware that this is merely a test of visual beauty and I found myself making judgments about the images themselves rather than my prior knowlege of the subjects which they represented. However, the test said to comment on the images, so I did exactly that. However, if I were see the real statue of David in a museum and then go outside and see a night sky bright with stars, I'm not sure that I would rank the statue "more beautiful" than the stars as I did with the images of those two subjects.
These factors, along with my deep attraction to the aquamarine powder in class today, reinforces a new theory of mine that not only is beauty extremely subjective, I find myself attracted to, and more likely to call "beautiful" those things which are pure. The purity and intensity of the blue color of the aquamarine nearly had a hyponotic effect on me. I felt that it was the only thing that I could look at in the room because I might never see something so blue again. This fear that experiencing the color's beauty was delicate, a fleeting moment, may also have infulenced my thinking that perhaps something might be called beautiful if it is precious and fragile; the sense that one muct make the most of beauty NOW, because it cannot possibly last must work its way into my theory. So much to think about!

beauty can be ordinary
Name: Gwen Budin
Date: 2005-01-18 16:18:23
Link to this Comment: 12074

The most surprising discovery for me was that something can be very beautiful but also extremely ordinary. In fact, oftentimes the things I wanted most to call "very beautiful" were the most familiar to me (being from northern California): redwoods, the Golden Gate Bridge, an ordinary man. I would have thought that I might value the more mysterious and exotic things as beautiful, but the two didn't necessarily correlate. I'll be interested to see further analysis of this survey and how the various factors are correlated.

Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-01-18 16:52:13
Link to this Comment: 12078

I think that beauty is in things that are, well, I guess unexpected but natural is the best way to put it. The things I liked best in the survey were the things like stars. I like paintings with details you don't notice at first, like the one in the survey with the woman and what looks to be a cloud, but then you notice has human features. Even everyday landscapes that are done in a different style catch my eye, like pointillism, or paintings with parts that you have to find, like people hidden in the darkness or a river way off in the distace. I didn't like how the survey questions came in pairs. I was torn, at times, not knowing if I should make things even, for example, does a plus 2 on the beautiful scale mean it has to be a minus 2 on the ugly scale? I did like the wide range of things that could be considered beautiful, from sculptures and paintings to photographs or nature scenes.

My first posting
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-01-18 19:23:25
Link to this Comment: 12081

I have a confession to make. I am a narrow-minded science-fanatic who is the target audience for the "Art for Dummies" handbook. This class is a little bit of an adventure for me. As such, it probably does not surprise the reader that I find science and mathematics playing hand in hand the most aesthetically pleasing marvel I have encountered. I love to see the academically fabricated lines of classification that are chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology and the like blur into one scientific orchestra. My second love is mother and child images.
From the survey, I found that my criterion for beauty was not necessarily works of nature: the image I rated the highest was the jellyfish, but I rated the flower garden scene lowly because it was too mechanical and too cluttered. Nor was my criterion for beauty human expression: I found the painting of the smoking woman in shadow grotesque while rating the sculpture of David highly. What I did realize, however, is that I have a fascination with light and how it effects my perception of beauty. The scenes I liked best, like the jellyfish with the light shining through it, were radiating with light, while the images I liked least, like the painting of the smoking woman, were in shadow. I think this is because I associate light with purity. Also, I liked light contrasted with dark, like both the starry scenes. I think this is because I associate it with purity (or maybe goodness) breaking through.
The survey’s data-collecting methodology was generally good: there were a variety of images. Nevertheless, it distracted me to see famous images like the David sculpture and the wilted clocks. I had trouble deciding if these were aesthetically pleasing or simply familiar. Our perception of aesthetics is, I believe, a cultured phenomenon.

What is Beauty?
Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-01-18 20:49:07
Link to this Comment: 12086

I found the adjectives used in the survery frusturated me because they did not give enough depth to describe the intracacies of what I find beautiful or ugly. After a while, it started to bother me that the only way a picture in the survey could have "value" was for it to be beautiful. After taking the survery, I realized I differentiated between whether the image itself was beautiful or if the thoughts brought on by the image/processes by which the image was created were beautiful. For example, I'm not sure I think Dali's work is necessarily beautiful, but I think the idea of a surreal world and the way in which he conveyed that idea is beautiful. It also occured to me that I often found things that were both complex and simple to be beautiful. The pictures of nature/natural occurences epitomized that phenomeneon to me. I found the picture of the jellyfish to be incredibly beautiful because it captures a sense of fraility, of the beauty in what is "normal", of something complex and simple at the same time. It was both exciting and peaceful- I see these contrasts all the time in the natural world and that is one of the things I find most breakthtakingly beautiful.

Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-01-18 20:49:55
Link to this Comment: 12087

I found the jelly fish and the space landscape by far the most beautiful of all the pictures, way ahead of any of the others. I agree with Rachel's comment that the famous picturse were somewhat distracting; I didn't know if I was reacting to the mystique of David or the image. I found the Dali painting challenging and inspiring, but not exactly beautiful. Unlike a few others have commented, I don't see beauty in terms of purity, though I also wanted to stare at the aquamarine powder. Most of the things I found beautiful in the survey were highly detailed and had many shades and hues. I didn't have an emotional connection to any of the more mundane pictures, so I didn't find those particularly beautiful. However, I can think of many very mundane, visually unremarkable things that I find incredibly beautiful, because I connect them to people I love.

Date: 2005-01-18 20:58:38
Link to this Comment: 12088

I find relationships and people the most beautiful. The complexity of human nature and of people captured in the simplicity of a photograph or a painting is beautiful to me. Images that seem relative to myself and my own experience are more relevant and thus become more beautiful to me.

What is the purpose of the survey? What is it supposed to unveil about the person taking the survey, if anything? I found that I could move through it quickly by the end because I realized that I was only really drawn to or moved by the images of people or something that had a more "human" touch to it. The images of nature or of the more inanimate objects like repeating geometric shapes didn't really do anything for me. I found that the survey, though it did not have a certain pattern or order necessarily, was possibly trying to reveal what each participant finds beautiful in general. Though this method could reveal some deeper meaning and insight into the person's character or personality, I think that it could also be effected by other factors like time limitation, mood, media, or environment.

Biases towards beauty
Name: Kara Rosan
Date: 2005-01-18 21:43:33
Link to this Comment: 12090

I definitely think I have biases when it comes to determining whether something is beautiful or not. For example, my sister is an art enthusiast and has dragged me with her to countless museums throughout my life. At each one, she takes me around and explains to me what "good art" is and how I can spot it. She also familiarized me with certain famous art pieces. I found while taking the survey that I definitely was more inclined to call a famous art piece, or one that is "good art" according to my sister's definition, beautiful. I don't know if this contradicts which pictures I otherwise would have thought of as aesthetically pleasing, but it certainly might. And its certainly not true that just because something isn't a classic work of art, it's not beautiful. My point is, I think that a person's definition of beauty has a great deal to do with her interests and what she has been exposed to in her life. We all have instinctive reactions to certain things based on the ideas that have been instilled in us, and as a result, each probably have a very different definition of what makes something beautiful.

Discovering Beauty
Name: Danielle M
Date: 2005-01-18 21:50:58
Link to this Comment: 12091

The concept of beauty is a unique and personal experience that every human being contemplates. Interpreting an object, person or art piece as beautiful involves the five senses, and sometimes one’s opinion on what’s beautiful can be swayed through the influence of certain combined senses. Beauty is complexity, vibrancy and impossibility. Those things which are most unattainable and most structurally complex are deemed beautiful. The on-line survey touches on this definition of beauty.
As I scrolled through the survey, listening to the radio, I discovered that each picture was affected by the type of music playing. When I turned off the music, those pictures that were once beautiful became ordinary, dull and quite boring. Sound and sight, as a pair, greatly skewed my opinion of beauty.
To those that designed the survey, it would be interesting to create a slightly different survey that played specific music while the participant scored each picture. When I decided to turn off the music, I realized that my opinion on beauty is quite specific and I found myself asking numerous questions about each picture in hopes to better make my decision on its beauty. I feel that because music touched such a specific emotional sense, each picture quickly took on a specific meaning. If all senses could be tested in the survey, the data might reveal a very interesting outcome. Beauty cannot solely involve one sense but a consortium of sight, smell, sound, and taste, are needed to delight the mind and heighten pleasure.

Beauty Survey
Name: Alice Stea
Date: 2005-01-18 22:20:06
Link to this Comment: 12093

I find that I consider very simple images and objects beautiful. For example, I thought the Brancusi sculpture was the most beautiful. It is not complex in any way, but its simplicity is what makes it beautiful. The picture of the Golden Gate Bridge was also beautiful to me becuase it is a very familiar image to me and I have somewhat of a sentimental attachment to it.
As I took this survey I started to realize that we find beauty in things with which we can identify. This is why the notion of beauty is different for everyone. Two people may both identify with one object as beautiful, and then find that for another object one can connect somehow with it while the other cannot. I had never really thought about it this way before, but I think it is interesting.

Defining "Beauty"
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-01-18 22:43:48
Link to this Comment: 12095

There are so many things in this world that I find beautiful...nature and landscapes are high on my clothing (such as an elaborately beaded dress or embroidered shirt)...both performing and watching dance pieces, such as The Nutcracker...classical music...the ocean, with its majestic waves, sparkling sands, and pretty shells...the human, when arranged artistically...color...quantum mechanics (an extremely complex kind of beauty!) you can see, my list could go on for quite awhile!

The survey showed me that I tend to find things of nature, such as flowers or stars in the sky, as very beautiful. Mostly any picture that contained a lot of light and color, and showed some sort of familiar or intriguing object, got a high rating of beauty from me. A picture that seemed dark, gloomy, creepy, or unfamiliar got a low rating of beauty. So it seems that anything that gives me feelings of happiness, joy, peace, interest, intrigue and satisfaction (like some of the pictures in the survey) is what I find to be beautiful. If something doesn't instill those feelings within me, I don't find it to be very beautiful.

The survey was suitable enough for the purposes it intended to serve, but it is by no means the only way or the best way to determine what people truly find beautiful. There are so many factors involved in defining beauty, and an online survey alone simply cannot measure or depict all of them.

Name: Muska
Date: 2005-01-18 23:30:59
Link to this Comment: 12096

I noticed that while I was taking the survey, I tended to give higher scores to the pictures that were unfamiliar to me. I have seen pictures of the "David" and the painting by Dali so many times before that I've become numb to the aesthetic response it's supposed to arouse. However, I was fascinated by the images of the people and the designs that I had never seen before. They were very refreshing and new to me and therefore my senses were heightened when I looked at them. I'm not sure what that means in reference to my definition of beauty. Perhaps I'm drawn to exotic things that arouse a sense of curiosity in me, and therefore I classify these exotic things as "beautiful."

In response to the effectiveness of the survey in collecting data, I think the survey was fairly reliable in providing accurate information about the many different perspectives on beauty. However, I found the adjectives limiting. When I looked at a picture I felt as if I was confined by the words I was given. For example, if I looked at a picture of a color spectrum, I wouldn't necessarily describe it as simple, complex, mysterious, beautiful, etc. However, I felt as if I had to look at each picture through a certain vantage point because of the adjectives I was given. Perhaps giving a wider variety of adjectives would have been more helpful.

Name: Jaya Vasud
Date: 2005-01-19 02:11:21
Link to this Comment: 12097

For some odd reason, tangible objects or the outward appearance of things in the world weren't at all the first things that came to my mind... So what exactly do I find beautiful?

Beauty can be seeing the inherent goodness that shines through people after they do a selfless, loving deed, like helping an elderly person cross the street. Beauty can be seen in the untainted innocence seen in children- for instance, (from my experiences in India) seeing children who live in slums laugh and play with a genuine look of happiness affixed to each of their faces has definitely been one of the most beautiful things I've seen. Nature and paintings are definitely great for the eyes, but what's beautiful about them is looking at trees, plants, the sun, stars, etc. and reveling in the insane complexity of life, or looking deep into paintings and discovering the message or feeling that what the artist was trying to convey in their piece. It can also be the look of passion you see in people's eyes when they're doing something that they really love. One of the things that I find very beautiful in life is being able to look at a mirror and be happy/at peace with oneself. I could go on and on like this, even though it all sounds horribly cliche, but oh well.

I definitely learned from this exercise that I find beauty in uniqueness (if that's a word)- one of my favorite pictures was the women with the trench coat that had a scantily clad (haha) woman on the back... the woman wearing the jacket seemed so nonchalant and carefree, despite the fact that the jacket was so out of the ordinary and different- and I loved it even more for that reason. The exercise also made me realize that superficial beauty isn't permanent- flowers wither, stars combust (eventually), and people wrinkle.

I can't say that I have any questions about the exercise, although it was an interesting idea.

First Posting: What is beauty?
Name: Liz N.
Date: 2005-01-19 08:34:19
Link to this Comment: 12099

This survey, like it seems was the case for many others, helped me create a sort of framework for what I considered to be beautiful. And, as with many others, the results surprised me. I don't know if it was the fatigue framing my mind that caused me to be harsher when considering the options, but I found myself weighing each picture with a critical eye. The traditional modes of art, with the exception being the David, I think I was less favorable towards -- primarily because they weren't my favorite artists. Out of all of them I found the nature scenes the most beautiful, and I think this was a combination of the pictures being dominated by soothing colors as well as having the weight of the entity 'nature' behind it.
It's interesting that most people don't seem to have considered the simple portraits of the girl and boy as fetching, or commented on their reactions to the painful abstract pieces. The former I thought were beautiful, not only because of the composition but because they, again, represented something else: women, men, and youth. As to the latter...I think the bright green geometric design, and the black-and-white montage were the most painful to the eyes. I hesitate at calling them 'ugly', though, for fear of raining on someone else's parade. Beauty is afterall in the eye of the beholder.

Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-01-19 11:38:46
Link to this Comment: 12103

I have a very traditional view of beauty. I love Architectural Digest magazine, because of its simplicity, symmetry and bright, or muted colors schemes that blend together to create functional rooms with personality. The layout of the funiture blending with the artwork and fresh flowers and candles shouts out BEAUTY.
In the survey I just took, I realized I disliked the science, space and math types of beauty and loved the statue of David, because it is something I can touch and understand. The picture of the stars is beautiful just not on a computer screen compared to a garden of flowers.
Tangible elements are important to my concept of beauty, because without touching it and seeing it right in front, how do I know it really is beautiful? It could change (like the jellyfish could move and its position could become ugly) and then I might not like it.
I found the survey to be mundane, alot of the pictures were not on extremes of the scale, so I never used the radio buttons of "extremely beautiful or extremely ugly". I think it would be more effective as a data collection tool if the pictures were even larger so people could see the detail in some of them (the paintings). Overall, I enjoyed the survey.

Surprise, surprise
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-01-19 11:52:00
Link to this Comment: 12104

While reading about "What is Beauty" I said to myself I am sure I know what I find beautiful-simplicity. Then I took the survey, and found that I was insulting a picture if I called it simple, and I loved the ones I thought general. So I asked myself again what I find Beautiful. And it came up that I enjoy, (i.e. find beautiful) complex outer stimulation and I enjoy inner simplicity. And now looking at that, it appears a bit like a recipe for confusion...or maybe not. I'm so confused!

Beauty and What it Encompasses
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-01-19 13:23:31
Link to this Comment: 12107

I find so many things different ways. I saw the Sistine Chapel this summer and was blown away by the overwhelming beauty, but I also find drawings that my little sisters do to be beautiful. I love photographs, of people and places that I know and love but I also find beauty in the unfamiliar. To me it's not a question of whether something is simple or complex or even the senses it uses, but about the emotion that something beautiful touches on. In that sense, even absolutely ugly items can be beautiful.'
This is the second time I have taken the survey and I believe that my reactions have remained the same for most of the items. The jellyfish, the tree overlooking the sea, and others really drew me in where the brown painting of the lady I did not like. I feel that a survey such as this one helps to understand beauty but certainly does not encompass the whole picture. Why did a person choose one object over another?

Beautiful Words
Name: Catherine
Date: 2005-01-19 14:44:17
Link to this Comment: 12109

I find words to be beautiful. Wordsare so fragile. In many words, one changed letter can completely change the meaning of the word. A little change could send a strong message, depending on the word and the change made, and this change could have a big impact on someone's thoughts, feelings, or actions. People fear words, they love words, they dedicate their lives to the study of words. Words provide an efficient way of communicating. They allow society to progress. Words may be expressed differently in different languages but they really do not have boundaries, they stretch across the humanities and the sciences. They allow society to progress. Words provide entertainment. They are fun to play with- think Scrabble or Pictionary. Words can be seen and heard and they could be transformed into actions or emotions and felt, tasted, smelled. How simple yet complex are words.
After reflecting upon my evaulation of Beauty in the Beauty survey, I noticed trends in my responses. I found art with a human subject to be most beautiful, followed by the photographs of nature. The photos I found most beautiful, I also ranked high in the different categories tested, ugly, beautiful, ordinary, complex...etc. Maybe this means I find more complex and stimulating things to be beautiful.
The survey itself was very interesting. I noticed the photographs were all very different from one another, even when portraying a similar subject. Im curious to know why each photograph in the survey was chosen for the survey. I think a survey can be an effective way of collecting data for an experiment, however I think it would have been a better idea to have taken the survey in class, at the beginning of class before the survey was explained. I think too much explanation of a survey before its taken can taint the results.

About Beauty
Name: JiaJia Fei
Date: 2005-01-19 15:19:23
Link to this Comment: 12110

Beauty is one of those descriptors that could encompass anything in relationship with the person who uses it. Personally, I have always associated beauty with what is rare. Something that is beautiful always carries a positive connotation because it represents an ideal. It also carries a powerful connotation because not everyone or anything may be able to reach this ideal. I also recognize that there can be beauty found in the ordinary, but I find that ordinary experiences are only made beautiful because of a rare certain emotion or state of mind that creates such a concept. There are always beautiful moments in life, but they are only made beautiful because they are not constantly occurring. Beauty may be associated with all aspects of life, physical or metaphysical, depending on who chooses to describe such an aspect of beauty. Above all, beauty is a personal experience, and something that only exists as an abstract word that humans have assigned to describe the simultaneous collection of our past experiences and our conditioned ways of thinking. I find it so difficult to assign any boundaries to the term beauty because it is simply a word that we have chosen to describe something that is personally special to us. It's also just a flat out fluffy word, like justice, that others have manipulated to describe things such as art to polarize public opinion.

tangled values
Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2005-01-19 15:33:16
Link to this Comment: 12111

looking at the different pictures i realize that what i might call "beautiful" isn't necessarily what strikes a cord with me. what i like seems to me to be beautiful but it's not when i think of the culture my favorite picture was the last one (the bikini babe coat) but it's not what i consider to be "beautiful". the word is so saturated in meaning - classic, striking, aesthetically pleasing, easy on the eyes, pretty, pure.
i didn't find many of the pictures "beautiful" - i think it might have to do with the fact that many were fotos of objects/paintings/art such as the david. that doesn't do it for me- it's too much a copy, a flimsy idea of the actual object. i thought the black and white foto of the man/boy was was beautiful-a human moment, the jellyfish- fotos of real organic things- the ocean, the golden gate bridge and the water.
it's so impossible for me still to know what i find beautiful. it depends on my mood, the things i know or feel about something, perhaps the light at that moment, simplicity or complexity i crave, vibrant colors or simple white, textures, objects, people, music, breathing- ever hear breathing as beautiful as an orgasm?
what a complicated thing. i suppose there are things that i generally find aesthetically pleasing but it's rare that i can extract simple aesthetics from cultural values and personal history. intricate tangles.

Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-01-19 15:57:16
Link to this Comment: 12112

Today was my first experience with snow, and I was awstruck by its beauty. However, I can not stand being outside when it is cold. It wasn't until today, being surrounded by snow and beauty, did I realize that it wasn't really that cold. It is crazy how stimulation of pleasing things changes our senses. For example, food tends to taste a little better when asthetically presented. Anyways, back to the snow. What I find beautiful in the snow helped me determine what I find beautiful in life. Snow is simple, pure, white, soft, fun, natural, and new to me. Taking the survey confirmed for me that it was these characteristics that I found most beautiful. Most of the pictures that I found beautiful had those characteristics. However, after collecting all the data, I think it will still be quite difficult to make any generalizations or conclusions about what characteristics people find beautiful. I doubt there will be any real consensus.

What do you find beautiful?
What new things did you learn from taking this survey, about what you find beautiful?
What questions do you have about the survey, what reactions do you have to it, as a method for data-collecting?
If you are so moved, bring something beautiful to class with you on Thursday.

Name: Beatrice L
Date: 2005-01-19 16:06:21
Link to this Comment: 12113

It is difficult for me to clearly define beauty. Sometimes I find things that are rare and exotic to be beautiful. Other times I may find beauty in the ordinary things I see every day. I feel that, on some level, something is beautiful because it captures my attention. Beauty can be found in the features of people, places, and things - it is not necessary that the whole is beautiful. I agree with what someone said about being so familiar with images of "David" and other works of art that it became more difficult to rate them exceptionally high in beauty. Perhaps that is why I found myself giving the highest ratings to the images of nature. I liked the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge not simply for the architecture of the bridge, but also for the fact that photo seems to have been taken on a sunny day. Above all, I liked the image of the stars the most for its serenity and purity. I really think that was the only one I could say I felt was, without a doubt, truly beautiful. I suppose that throughout the survey, I felt like I was supposed to be looking for a certain quality when making my judgments, which made it more difficult for me to figure out how I would define beauty. I really didn't like trying to pick apart the images to decide whether I found them to be complex, mysterious, etc. Doing so seemed to lessen their appeal to me. Perhaps it would have been better if the survey had started off with the 1-10 rating scale of each image, and then gone into the rating of aspects of the image. I can't help but think that there would be a difference between an individual's initial reaction to a picture and the ratings participants give them after being asked to differentiate between the different characteristics of the works.

Why are some things beautiful?
Name: Megan Mona
Date: 2005-01-19 16:22:41
Link to this Comment: 12115

While participating in this survey I realized that I had rather strong negative reactions to many of the pictures selected. I got the impression that the images were chosen due to their percieved beauty and they did not include pictures they thought would be seen by most as extremely ugly but I was quite unimpressed by several of the images. The scientific and simulated images were very unappealing to me. My least favorite was the green picture of geometric-looking swirls and I didn't care for the picture of the stars or the jellyfish (I think that's what it was) either. My most favorible reactions were to the pieces of art, I found most of them to be extrememly beuatiful. I liked how they seemed somehow sofer and less rigid than the photographs. I liked the ones of single people the best, like David, Nefertiti and the romantic painting of the nude woman but I was also very drawn to the gold religious piece that depicted a large group of people. I suppose I find the human connections most interesting because they are also so mysterious. However, I was less excited about the photographs of people. I like the interpretations better because they are so much more interesting to see the subject as the artist did rather than exactly as they are.

I think the survey did a poor job of selecting a varying range of images since many of them were in the same vein and they left many possibilities out. There were not pictures of older individuals, fabrics, or arcitecture (except the brigde) but what I am refering to are things like Notre Dame or European palaces. Though, I did find the survey enlightening since it showed me that I find little beuaty in images that are obviously pleasing to many others.

Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-01-19 16:29:25
Link to this Comment: 12116

When I call something beautiful it's usually in regards to people, things in nature, and music. I also usually find very colorful and lush things beautiful. I wasn't surprised that I found some of the nature pictures not exactly beautiful because of the drabby colors. I found the bust of Nefertiti, the sculpture of David, and the jellyfish the most beautiful. Like someone else said, I feel like the popularity of some images lessened their beauty so I'm guessing that means I find the exotic and new more pleasing to the senses. I felt that the survey could have had better criterion...I felt like it was a bit reptitive.

Reality is Beautiful
Name: Rebecca Do
Date: 2005-01-19 16:38:58
Link to this Comment: 12117

As I went through the pictures the works that I found most beautiful were the ones that portrayed things that actually exist. I found the pictures of the hillside covered in flowers, the solar system, and people to be the most beautiful as opposed to the less realistic works that were to me just blobs of color. I found it interesting that the work of Salvadore Dahli fell somewhere in the middle. Perhaps this is because his work has realistic things portrayed in an unrealistic way. The statue of David and the Egyptian statue were beautiful in the same way the photograph of the man and the paintings of the women were beautiful. They all portrayed humanity in a realistic way.

Beauty Survey
Name: Tia Dutta
Date: 2005-01-19 16:57:01
Link to this Comment: 12118

OK here goes. I find it really hard to define beauty. To me it is so closely linked to an inherent feeling, strangely enough that I have trouble describing as well. In everyday life I see beautiful things, but I have just realized that I don't usually give too much thought to exactly why something is beautiful- you know all the aspects of an object that combine to create something captivating. I have always just gone with the instinctual feeling.
I do really like people and I find many different cultures to be beautiful- for example ethnic clothing, dances/music, etc. I know nothing about architecture but I am drawn to certain buildings and even furniture. Sunrises, sunsets and things of that nature have always stuck out to me as being beautiful as well. Come to think of it there are way too many things to name.
I realize that everyones' idea of beauty and what constitutes it is affected by so many different factors but I am sure there are a number of commonalities. I am really interested in seeing/talking about the results tomorrow.

Name: adam
Date: 2005-01-19 16:58:19
Link to this Comment: 12119

While I was taking the survery I realized that I found people to be the most beatiful items out of all of the things that we were asked to consider. I found people to be a wide range of things, not easily tied down to the categories of complex, simple, peaceful etc. because we tend to be all of these things at the same time. I think that I find the most beauty in people because people offer the greatest oppurtunity for interaction and fulfillment and comfort. I can describe objects such as flowers as beatiful but I would not recieve the same type of benefits that I would recieve from a relationship with another person, be it friendship, sexual relationship, teacher, comedian etc...I also found that I could find beauty in almost all of the objects. Although I found some objects more aesthetically pleasing, when I thought about it, I could find something "beaitiful" about all of the objects. For instance, on some of the statues that I found aesthetically unapealing, I could find beauty in the fact that human beings are able to express themselves through artwork such as this.

what is "beauty"?
Name: eugenia (e
Date: 2005-01-19 16:59:37
Link to this Comment: 12120

it occured to me (after taking the survey) how infrequently i use the word "beauty/beautiful" in my everyday speech. i noticed how anything aesthically pleasing was immediately associated with the word "pretty" and not "beautiful"; perhaps the words i used interchangeably for so long do have their own special connotations even if their dennotations may prove to be similar. so then, what exactly is "beauty"?

i tried to think about what, if anything, was just "beautiful" and never "pretty" or any other synonyms. i realized the people, and objects that evokes curiosity can be labled anything from "beautiful" to "pretty" to "nice"... but people and objects that conjures up emotions and memories are placed in a separate category of what is truly considered "beautiful". therefore to me, something holds "beauty" if i can relate it to more than one senses using memories. of course, memory is not entirely a true recollection of what exactly happened, but it has an ability to create a vivid image of something that impacted you with emotions... and emotions/expressions and the stories behind them are what makes something memorable and therefore "beautiful".

i think my perception of beauty (visual) has been slighly distorted after living in a large city of more than 17 million people and no plantlife. from the range of pictures i saw, i found the most abstract and modified pieces to be most beautiful (such as the golden gate and dali's work) and untamed nature to be the least beautiful.

i found the survey to be limiting in understanding whta beauty is. beauty has no boundaries and it can apply to all the senses... just not necessarily in the same manner. also the choices were limiting; it should have been more of a free response i think :)

Kinda late, but oh well
Name: Malorie Ga
Date: 2005-01-19 17:10:59
Link to this Comment: 12121

I did the survey a couple hours ago but I got distracted as I and want to do . . .
I find a lot of things beautiful. I like art and music a lot. One style I find particularly beautiful is Japanese and Asian art as well as the culture/lifestyle. I never thought of it till Tuesday, but I also find texts to have beautiful language. I'm not sure if I can pick a whole text and classify it with the word "beautiful", but there are defiantly aspects of books I find beautiful, mainly descriptions. I think poems can be beautiful as well. I love to listen to music, especially musicals. What I love about them is that both the music and the words can be beautiful and meaningful. There is something about the music in a musical that I just think is so beautiful.
From the survey, I learned that I think nature is more beautiful than other mediums. I found as a rated them from 1-10, that the nature ones seemed more beautiful to me than David. I also really liked the color square one. I found it beautiful, peaceful, and simple. I feel like I could stare at it for hours and with out getting board and in the end still thinking it's beautiful.
The survey was ok. Sometimes the words used to describe it were confusing, especially simple. Simple to me has 2 connotations, a good simple like the color squares, and a bad simple like something was forgotten. I thought the method was interesting. I especially liked that we looked at the pictures individually then as a group.

Name: Gilda
Date: 2005-01-19 20:14:03
Link to this Comment: 12125

Hi everyone and sorry for posting so late—-I was just placed into the class this afternoon.

My notion of beauty is very non-visual. I like looking at paintings, sculptures, and photographs, and do find them aesthetically pleasing, but I get a lot less excited about visual art than I do about literature. I tend to use the words “beauty” and “beautiful” sparingly and when I do, I’m usually referring to a book, a poem, sometimes even a conversation.

That said, however, the survey reinforced my belief that, at the visual level, I find bright colors beautiful. Anyone who has ever been in my room, or even paid attention to my clothing, knows that. The first image in the survey, the squares of color, was the most beautiful to me. Other people have said that what they find beautiful images of people or of things familiar to them. Upon reflection, it seems that I am primarily attracted to brightness.

As usual...
Name: kat mccorm
Date: 2005-01-20 00:07:09
Link to this Comment: 12129

On taking the survey, I found myself becoming increasingly concerned with the abstractions of what was shown- obsessing, am I supposed to judge the object in the picture? Or the image as an image? Or the motivation of the artist in creating the image? Or the effort put into image/object? My judgement on beauty of David is entirely different from my judgement on the image I saw of it. So the question becomes, how is the concept of beauty changed by the filters through which we see it?
Personally, I find that these relationships are the relationships that matter most to me: relationships between artist and object, between object and photographer, between photograph and observer- and the communication that is being attempted at each level.

first post for readings
Date: 2005-01-20 20:26:01
Link to this Comment: 12136

I found that alot of the reading related back to my section's discussion about the contrast between ideas of beauty- if we had found images on the survey beautiful because of a cultural construction of beauty that we buy into (i.e. appreciating Michangelo's "David" because we know it is an example of beautiful craftsmanship) or if we found things beautiful because they moved us emotionally/instinctually. It seemed that the authors of all three readings put a greater value on beauty that is discovered by oneself, and in the personal relationship between the individual and what the individual finds most beautiful. Perry writes " The highest satisfaction of the sightseer that his sigh should be certified as genuine." After our discussion in seminar today, I did come away with the idea that what is most important is our gut reaction to an image - whether we choose to use the word beautiful or not. So it was interesting to me that Elkins was also saying this- that art historians may appreciate a work of art in a scholary manner, but if they are not being emotionally moved by it- their response is not as valid. I'm a little conflicted here- I think we have to go with our gut about what we find beautiful because it is such an inherently personal decision, yet I don't believe that the only way something is truly beautiful to us , is when we make that discovery without outside information. The levels of appreciation of beauty, or worthiness can come so many different places, as long as you come away with that appreciation- the experience has still been valid.

Name: Amy
Date: 2005-01-20 20:29:20
Link to this Comment: 12137

the above post is mine and i forgot to put my name

we, the creatures
Name: Sharon (a.
Date: 2005-01-22 11:45:05
Link to this Comment: 12147

Thanks, Amy, for opening up the forum discussion on the essays by Dewey, Elkins and Percy. Like you, I was excited to find so many points of connection to our small group discussion of last Thursday. What about the rest of you? Please share below your reactions to a particular thesis or to the composite of ideas proposed by these three writers.

Name: Flora
Date: 2005-01-22 13:48:27
Link to this Comment: 12150

I would have liked to have seen more diversity in the choice of readings about beauty as experience. All 3 writers had similar opinions about the best way to experience art: to remove as much baggage as possible. I liked reading these 3 selections in the order they were presented in the packet because they seemed to move from a more abstact to a more specific discussion of the same theme. Dewey’s more general “creature” turned into Percy’s tourist from Boston, turned into specifically named art historians that Elkins actually talked to.

I found a couple passages in Dewey’s writing to be beautiful, especially the first paragraph on pg. 5 where he discusses every day human experiences, what he later names “art in germ.” Percy’s discussion of the dogfish intrigued me. The student ready to dissect the dogfish is trying to learn not just dogfish anatomy, but also the proper way to use his lab instruments and how to record labs in his notebook. The student may not see the dogfish as well as the kid on the beach, but the kid on the beach is not going to see the standard scientific process. And I think that’s more of a loss than Percy explains. Even the brilliant researcher reaching into the dogfish with his thumbnail is well versed in basic biological procedure, otherwise he would not have a PhD. and be working at Harvard. It’s hard to find a balance between learning proper jargon, which is necessary to participate in any intellectual community, and self discovery. I found Elkins' essay very ironic. While discussing so thoroughly why art historians and intellectuals have less emotional reactions to art and maybe should, he was adding another expectation that would interfere with the experience of looking at art, much the way his beloved history would.

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-01-22 14:20:04
Link to this Comment: 12152

I was most interested by Walker Percy's piece. In general, I agree with his argument: that it's better to experience "beauty" or have "beautiful experiences" on a personal, individual level, outside the framework of expertise; that it's better to learn about life by living it rather than reading about it.
However, I do take issue with a few of his points (or at least, a few of his examples). Firstly, Percy seems to damn poetry/literature to things that somehow cripple actual experiences. For example, he writes that those who "recognize the title of the object, to return it to the appropriate expert and have it certified as a genuine find" can't really "see the thing--as Gerard Hopkins could see a rock or a cloud or a field." Maybe it's just me, but my previous experience with good poetry actually enhances my outside experiences. For example, looking out the window right now, I see the snow and think of T.H. White, who once said that the way snow *should* lie is like icing, thick and white (or something to that effect). Because of that, the snow is *more* beautiful to me. For another, I'm sure Gerard Hopkins himself didn't write his poetry in isolation. He'd probably read a few poems about, I don't know, falcons before, but that didn't make "The Windhover" any less genuine. In fact, who knows? Maybe he didn't even notice how amazing birdflight was until he read a poem that pointed it out to him; that doesn't make *his* poetry any less inspired.
The second point I disagree with is Percy's insistence that educational environments stifle poetic enjoyment, and that if you read Shakespeare in a classroom you'll "recall the smell of the page and the smell of Miss Hawkins." My response: well, you've gotta read poetry *somewhere*, right? Just because we accept our role as "consumers of experience"---because we read sonnets in class instead of stumble upon itinerant poets in meadows (or dogfish on beaches)---doesn't mean we can't fully digest what we consume. In a way, it's our responsibility to take sovereignty over something we read, whether we find it on a beach or in a classroom. Percy is right in that artistic experiences should be individual ones. But because they are, it is our individual task to make a poem mean something to us.

...I would respond to some of Percy's points on the scientific side (like the dogfish thing), but I always wormed my way out of dissecting things in high school....

Appreciation of the Unappreciative
Name: Catherine
Date: 2005-01-22 22:47:17
Link to this Comment: 12165

All three authors seem to bring about the question whether background knowledge of the object in question of beauty enchance the object's beauty to the observer, or make the object less beautiful, or does knowledge simply have no impact. They also seem to agree that experiencing art is the only way to fully appreciate and understand it and they explore what it means to experience something.
Elkins uses the criterian of how emotionally impacted one is by a work of art, which is determined by whether or not they cry as a result of observing the art, to determine whether or not that person is capable of fully appreciating art. He explores this idea aggressively by asserting that people seem to fear allowing the "picture" or work of art fully impact their emotions, and this stagnant emotional state in response to art is often amplified with increased knowledge of art. Upon first reading Elkins, I thought he was full of it. I thought the tone of his work was that of a pompous, over educated art historian who has nothing better to do with his time than write about how people cry or dont cry and didnt really understand his argument. What I have come to understand, is that he is encouraging people to interact with the art. To not let knowledge interfere with the appreciation of a work, and that sometimes, no knowledge allows one to explore the art more, draw conclusions on ones own, and dont try to overanalyze or understand the work, just appreciate the beauty of it.
Percy emphasises the problems that arise when people hold expectations for the experience they are excited to encounter, and one's appreciation of an experience, or art, is heavily dependant on the medium in which the work is experienced. I fully agree with Percy. He almost seems to argue that the less knowledge one has of art, the less likely they are to have expectations, and the more of a chance they will have to learn about the work first-hand. I strongly agree with Percy's emphasis on "hands-on" learning. I spent a year of high school in France. Prior to my exchange I had spend years falling in love with the country, and culture. I knew France by the books as well as anyone could have. During my experience though, I learned that France was much more than the Eiffel Tower and that, in fact, the Eiffel Tower really is not that beautiful.... but the cheese is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined from the books I had read. It is important to find a balance between the books and practical experience in order to fully appreciate anything.
Finally, Dewey carries the opinion that yes, flowers can be esthetically pleasing to the observer even if the observer does not know anything about flowers, but he cannot appreciate them through understanding if he knows nothing about them. I found this idea interesting. It gives both the unknowledgeable and the knowledgeable the chance to appreciate something, maybe not on the same level, but it does not make judgement as to whether one is better than the other.
It is very interesting how each author had a different approach to answering the question on how to appreciate art, and how knowledge, and life experiences impact this appreciation.

week2 readings
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-01-23 11:53:16
Link to this Comment: 12167

I did not like the reading by James Elkins at all. He treats aesthetics as simply a spontaneous phenomenon that one cannot experience unless one is ignorant. I found his tone overly critical of art historians in general. The reading also, to be frank, depressed me a little. If spontaneity is the criterion for a deep aesthetic experience, everyone with each passing day is becoming less and less capable of experiencing beauty because we, at least I believe, learn something everyday. Elkins also ignores the thrilling aesthetic quality of the discoveries of physics or chemistry because these discoveries can hardly be called spontaneous phenomenon. For example,gravity, if looked at from the perspective of someone unschooled in physics, is just the pulling of the earth or the falling of an apple. To a physicist, gravity is the very warping of the curvature of space and time. Which is more elegant? To me the theories of general relativity are more beautiful.
That's not to say all spontaneous experiences are not beautiful, and I think Percy's article grated my nerves a little less. I can relate to his example of the Grand Canyon tourists. The article, in many ways, was a critique of present day education, and he makes a strong point that educational packaging makes independent discovery and sovereignty in learning more difficult.
I found the article by Dewey most interesting. In his text I heard a reverberation from our discussion in class that need is often the seed for art or the aesthetic experience. In fact, his description of the aesthetic experience sounded alot like a discussion of its creation through a kind of evolution. I also liked his historical discussions, how the ancient Greeks viewed art and how modern industry transformed art, for example. One of my favorite points he made was his idea that aethetics is the coming out of hardship and into harmony. I do feel some of the most beautiful experiences are ones that follow hardtimes. Finally, I liked his description of the artist vs. the intellectual, how the artist and intellectual are not so very different. Both cultivate tension and disharmony. Only their emphasis is different. Where the artist cultivates tension because it has the potential for harmony, the intellectual cultivates tension because it in itself is an area of fascination.

Art As Experience
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-01-23 14:18:18
Link to this Comment: 12169

All three writers brought up some very powerful points -- Elkins and Percy, in particular, struck my fancy. Elkins demonstrated a rather sad truth when he presented to us the results of his informal survey: many famous art historians completely downplayed any kind of show of emotion for the artistic masterpieces they studied. Their responses to Elkins almost seemed to suggest that there was some kind of unspoken law that made it illegal to express one's true feelings for art. What a thought! That art could be considered "too good" to be associated with any sort of ordinary or normal human emotion. I thought art was supposed to be a type of outlet for the free expression of human emotion. Placing art up on a pedestal, as mentioned by Dewey, seems to only bring about the opposite effect -- human emotion is bound, imprisoned, and left to rot as scholarly pursuits brutally tear emotion from the art with which it was once permitted to intermingle. I am not trying to say that there is anything wrong with scholarly pursuits, but I am saying that there is something wrong when people let those pursuits suppress their ability to live and act as a full human -- not just someone who can think, but also someone who can feel.

It is easy to get lost in all of the knowledge surrounding a painting or other object of beauty, and completely forget that we are supposed to appreciate and experience the art just as it is, for what it is! This message was touched upon by Elkins, but greatly discussed in Percy's essay. Percy mentions the "extra packaging" surrounding the dissection of the dogfish and the reading of the sonnet, which it makes it all the more harder to experience the object just as it is. The many books and articles written about a painting could be considered "extra packaging" as well. While this extra packaging is meant to help add to our experience of the object, it rather takes away from our true enjoyment of and appreciation for the object.

Week 2 posting
Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-01-23 15:21:44
Link to this Comment: 12172

I really felt a great attraction to the thoughts of all three writers, but to Percy and Elkins in particular. Percy described the way I feel often, especially on trips I've taken to foreign countries. They are supposed to be a certain way, food should taste a certain way, the people should act a certain way, and the sights I see should look a certain way. Though I agree with his statements that this is not the best way to approach a new experience, sometimes I feel that the only way to confirm that it really happened is to have it be perfect. It is very hard to explain to other people the way it would feel to sit on the beach and watch the sea roll in, but it would, absurdly, somehow make more sense to tell your friends about the crazy natives that tried to sell you knock-off designer dresses in town. If you can have the experience that is "expected" of you, it seems more real. I hope that perhaps through this course I will be able to approach life in a way more attuned to what these writers spoke of, not experiencing what I feel I "should be" experiencing, but rather a more basic joy in art or life or a distant place simply for its own sake.
As a person who enjoys science and biology I understood very well Percy's comments on disecting a dogfish. However, it seems to me that if you think too hard about it, if you approach it in an attempt to "see" it, you cannot learn exactly what it is you are trying to learn. You might gain an appreciation for the shine of the scales or the curve of the heart, but does that really teach you more about biology than the actual anatomy of the fish? While I can appreciate that it is amazing how complex the fish can be and how each of its parts join together to make a whole creature, it seems as if there would be a different time and place (and perhaps class) for that reflection, though I am not sure what it would be.

Week 2 Posting
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-01-23 16:25:21
Link to this Comment: 12173

I found the articles intriguing if you believe in what they were saying. I especially liked John Dewey's article because he states what I experience when viewing art. That people are fascinated by colorful change and imagination and gives an excellent example of a flower. I enjoy paintings by Monet, Degas without thinking of how they formed and the circumstances they were designed under. However, I like how Dewey percieves the journey of understanding art to be of importance. "The readier should be carried forward by the pleasurable activity of the journey itself." Everyone's journey is ultimately difference and their perception of art is based on that journey. I agree with his poing in chapter 2; when he questions why high achivement of fine arts is repulsed when connected with common life. I see art and beauty if almost everything, whether it is small or large things. From the sunrise to a flower arrangement to architecture to a snow fall. Walker Percy's article was extremely abstract and boring, because he thinks that the only way to experience "it" was by discovering something in it's natural state which is not a practical theory.
James Elkins was a nice ending to the denser reading and I was surprised to learn that only a small percentage had cried over a painting, but again everyone experiences emotions differently. The art historians attachement to art was an intellectual relationship, Elkins should have questionned common folk with no history of art background.

Response to Week 2
Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-01-23 17:17:50
Link to this Comment: 12174

I really couldn't relate the articles to each other in my head. I tried but my reaction to them was very different. I felt that Elkin's based his logic in facts, whereas Percy seemed to use only his own opinions and experiences. Therefore I disliked Percy and tended to disagree with him.

I was really impressed by Elkin's essay. I wonderred as I read if the people who do art are moved in some other way that is not necessarily tears. I wondered if the individuals attracted to the profession were those who were naturally immune to the emotional response of the painting. I wondered how many people had really cried from a painting. I wondered if the lack of tearful emotional response almost the result of too much understanding and a desenstization from that. Do these historians even see art as art anymore? Afterall sometimes the distance is necessary for us to analyze things intellectually. For example, some people will get upset if they see a dead animal; however, they distance themselves from the thought of it when they eat meat. I wish I had more answers to these questions but I suppose the thought provoking nature of the article was what impressed me.

I strongly disagreed with Percy's stance that having no knowledge is the best way to expeirence something. I agree that a more free learning environment would be beneficial; however, what does one gain by knowing nothing. The person who looks at the dogfish on the beach will understand and gain nothing. They do not see how the internal organs work together. Furthermore they'll probably destroy the insides of the thing and gain no knowledge. There is a reason for a classroom. However, if you taught the students general internal anatomy and how to cut without hurting the internal organs but then let the students decide how they would dissect the dogfish, they would gain the most knowledge. the same with Shakespear. If I had a copy of Shakespeare without footnotes, I would probably find myself so frustrated from a lack of understanding that I'd never touch it again. We need some guidance if we wish to learn something from something that is very far removed from our everyday lives.

In Art as an Experience, I found myself most struck by the idea that there is a difference between art that has at one time served a purpose in society, like a totem, and fine art. I find myself strongly agreeing that I tend to see a difference between the two myself, although I find it hard to pinpoint what that difference really means to me. I suppose I accept less asetetically pleasing objects as beautiful, if they were useful.

Experiencing Art
Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-01-23 21:02:33
Link to this Comment: 12177

The first two articles made me want to never see a piece of 'art' again. I don't know why they were so difficult and downright unpleasant for me to read the first time through. Dewey's writing style is so obtuse that for me, any brief lyricism he attained was moot. Dewey's early sentiment of artistic dignity to the common man felt very hypocritical--he seemed to be saying that ordinary people were finding their own art in life because of Fine Art's seclusion from mundane human experience. But the style of both chapters was so elaborate and academic that I can’t imagine that Dewey is destined to bridge the gap between art and real life, using art to live more fully. I feel like he’s part of the ivory towered, self-referential problem. If I’ve misinterpreted his meaning, please let me know. My understanding is probably clouded by my frustration with lines like “Compartmentalization of occupations and interests brings about separation of that mode of activity commonly called ‘practice’ from insight...” I’m pretty sure I know what he means, but why on earth does he have to express it that way? I interpreted Dewey’s ‘live creature’ to be the person completely appreciative of the present, enhanced or enabled to do so by art. This reminds me of readings of saints and enlightened ones, people who can appreciate life in every possible way, enabled by spirituality. I thought that was interesting; would a follower of Dewey’s see art as a path to divinity? Or is this a characteristic of many theories of art? And does ‘the creature’ in Percy’s writing describe the same thing? I thought that Percy’s creature was sublime artistic appreciation itself, but it seems impossible that the phrase could be used again without any intentional reference to Dewey. (And now I use the same convoluted sentence structure that I criticized. Shame on me.) Percy’s ideal way of experiencing art seems too extreme to me, as Liz said. I don’t see how you can appreciate a human made thing without any reference. Maybe anticipation caused by familiarity is most harmful to experiencing naturally occurring things or places. Of course, according to Elkins, over familiarity with man-made things certainly hurt the emotional impact of art on art-historians.

Art as Experience
Date: 2005-01-24 02:31:46
Link to this Comment: 12183

I found John Dewey's writing (and I'm sure that others felt the same way too) to be incredibly dense- although he does make many thought provoking points, his ways of going about it are so abstruse that I found myself having to read some paragraphs several times over. He does make great points about art and art as experience, however, that are definitely worth noting. I especially like his idea of art as experience: one must experience art to understand the true aesthetics of it.Most importantly, he made me ask the question "who exactly am I looking to to tell me what is fine art or not?" Certain remnants and objects from the past, like pottery, weapons, cave paintings etc. are put on pedestals in different galleries around the world for people to look at in awe and admiration, but when one looks at the time period that these objects came from, he/she might discover that these objects were merely tools that helped people in their everyday lives, and probably didn't have nearly as much value to those people as they do with us today. Just because some imperialists put pieces of art into a museum and call it fine art, does it necessarily mean that those displayed pieces and those like them should become universals for fine art? As a society I feel like we've learned to accept certain things (like Michaelangelo's David or pottery from the Aztecs) as fine works of art without even looking deeply into the object and deconstructing it and truly appreciating it ourselves, and Dewey made me realize that it's actually a great shame.
Percy's article was very similar to Dewey's article as a whole- it seems like he/she was trying to convey the message that an object or event is genuinly beautiful when one lacks expectations for that object/event. In general, beauty is tainted when people come to view something not for what it is (as in, they don't take the time to experience the art), but rather to view this something in order to fulfill their expectations that they've learned about or developed from society- this again goes back to our discussion in class about the David statue, and how society teaches us that certain objects are just understood to be beautiful.

As for Belkin's essay, I wasn't all that fond of it mainly because it seemed too cynical. I think that a person's background knowledge about a particular work of art will affect the way they look at the painting, but I don't necessarily think that it will affect their view in a negative way, which is what the author seemed to be implying. The background knowledge that a person has about a painting or sculpture could in fact make them appreciate the work of art much more, although this knowledge will undeniably alter their raw experience with the work.

Name: jaya
Date: 2005-01-24 02:32:45
Link to this Comment: 12184

the last comment is mine, i just forgot to insert my name. my mistake!

Accessible Art
Name: Muska
Date: 2005-01-24 12:57:33
Link to this Comment: 12188

I enjoyed all the of the readings this week, especially John Dewey's Chapter II: The Live Creature and "Etherial Things." The chapter began with a series of questions--"Why is the attempt to connect the higher and ideal thigns of experience with basic vital roots so often regarded as betrayal of their nature and denial of their value? Why is there repulsion when the high achievements of fine art are brought into connection with common life, the life that we share with all living creatures? Why is life throught of as an affair of low appetite, or at its best a thing of gross sensation, and ready to sink from its best to the level of lust and harsh cruelty?"

When I read those questions, I thought immediately about an article I read in "Poets and Writers" magazine last year. I should explain briefly that I'm a Creative Writing minor and want to become a writer after I graduate...which explains my strange choice of magazine subscriptions. Anyway, I read an article about a year ago in which a man wrote an angry article about how he hated the Poetry In Motion movement that brought poetry into the public eye through posting them on the sides of buses or inside trains. He found it insulting that poetry would be displayed so freely for the common man to read. In his opinion (I'll look up his name for future reference), the poems that were being posted in public were serious works of literary art that deserved to be analyzed and studied...not merely read in passing or on the way to work. I was very upset when I read this article because it reinforced the antiquated stereotypes that literature and poetry (or any art form, for that matter) should only be accessible to a small, select group of elite intellectuals who can truly understand and appreciate it.

The same can be said of writers/poets who are described as "accessible." Some of my favorite poets--Pablo Neruda, Billy Collins, Yehuda Amichai--have all been described as "accessible." However, in the literary world the term "accessible" isn't always considered a compliment. Often times it's comparable to being called "simple." This has always bothered me about the word "accessible" because I think the term merely means that a wide variety of people can find beauty in the words. God forbid someone actually understands the content of a poem!

But what I'm getting at is that the questions that Dewey raised about why society devalues works of art that are closely related to common life really interested me a lot and I hope to dig deeper with this topic.

Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-01-24 14:56:42
Link to this Comment: 12191

I am going to begin by apologizing if I happen to repeat something someone had said previously. I did not have time to read all of the comments, so I’m sure I will reiterate other’s comments.

Although I did not fully understand Dewey’s theory dealing with art as a unifying experience, I did find a lot of his arguments and points to be quite interesting. I had trouble some trouble seeing how they supported the main argument though. The conclusion of the first chapter captivated me the most. “Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive. Art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moments in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is” (18). The truth and directness of this statement applies not only to art, but life in general. It seems to show that when experiencing beauty, worries and anticipations are lost, but the best of the past and present are felt. I think he also finds a “consummation” (I’m going to use this word because he used it so much and it stuck to me) between the artistic interpretations and spontaneous reactions that Elkins addressed. “Experience in the degree in which it “is” experience is heightened vitality…it signifies active and alert commerce with the world; at its height it signifies complete interpenetration of self and the world of objects and events”(19). It is this “heightened vitality” that an art historian must feel in order to be drawn into the study of the piece. He most likely does not begrudgingly study a work of art unless it incites his curiosity or appeals to him in one way or another. And through this exploration and investigation of the piece does the art historian experience esthetics. One does not need to cry to show that they are truly experiencing beauty. That’s just absurd.

Week 2 posting
Name: Alice Stea
Date: 2005-01-24 15:03:32
Link to this Comment: 12192

I agree with an earlier commment that these three articles all seemed to be presenting very similar ideas. I have to confess that I am really confused about what I believe in terms of these articles. At first I really didn't agree with Elkins' argument that the more knowledge we have on a painting, the less emotion we feel when we see it. I thought about my experiences when I have seen famous paintings. When I saw the Mona Lisa, I didn't have strong emotions, and it is probably in part due to the fact that we see some kind of recreation of the Mona Lisa daily. However, when I saw Monet's Water Lilies, I definitely felt a shiver down my spine. I remember that feeling very distinctly. It is another painting that is well known and is often recreated on posters and postcards, etc. So, again I am not sure whether I agree with these articles. I think that maybe if I saw a painting I knew nothing about, maybe there would be this raw emotion, as Elkins suggests. However, I think it is possible to have a truly unique experience even if we have see pictures of recreations of a place or image a thousand times, contrary to what Percy suggests. I think an image can still take us by suprise and take our breath away, or even make us cry, even if it is something that is an everyday, mundane image. That is why I could not relate to Percy's example of the Grand Canyon. He said that our experience could only be one millionth of the experience that Cardenas had, but I truly don't believe that is true. It seems like such a cynical way to look at the world, and I think I would rather believe that when we see the Grand Canyon, for example, it can be as unique and wonderful and just as valuable as when it was first discovered, naive as that may seen.

How is beauty seen?
Name: Megan Mona
Date: 2005-01-24 15:39:02
Link to this Comment: 12194

Percy's essay struck me as the most in keeping with how I personally feel about beauty, or anything pleasurable for that matter. The most amazing experiences of beauty are those that are completely without expectations. When you anticipate anything it allows for you to apply your own preconcieved ideas to it and hardly anything can ever live up to what your own mind creates. You end up forcing the experience into someone else's mold of beauty when you are exposed to what other's have already contemplated at great lengths. A movie is usually the most funny when you don't know what all the jokes will be, a book is most fascionating when you can't wait to turn the next page and find out what happens to all the characters, and a beautiful sight is most captivating and awe inspiring upon first viewing when you are cought completely off guard. The Grand Canyon is a perfect example because I can imagine that discovering something so vast and rare would have been much more amazing if you didn't know that such a natural phenomenon existed or that it was even possible for it to exist. Now, however, I have seen pictures of it as well as film and imagined it in my mind. If I went there now it would only be a confirmation of what I had already experienced and anticipated. A participant in Elkins' study confirmed this notion when he said said that he had gasped when he first saw certain paintings but that that feeling was never the same the second or third time around.

Interestingly enough I had read Percy's Loss of the Creature in high school and I really agreeed with it. It seeemed like an amazingly accurate explanation for why things that ought to be beautiful sometimes weren't. It was a revelation for me. However, this time, while I still agree strongly with it, it was not as powerful since the point he was making had already been conveyed to me. I guess this only further supports his theory about tainting beauty.

Stone Henge
Name: Malorie
Date: 2005-01-24 15:52:45
Link to this Comment: 12196

Even though I agree that all the articles where very similar, I think that their specific content complimented each other. Dewey was saying that we should not define art by what was placed in galleries or what we are told is beautiful. We need to experience it ourselves and decide what we think is beautiful, even if it is not conventional. Percy talks about how we must strive to have unique experiences so as to really see an object. He thinks that we have too much background information on most things to really be able to “see” them. Elkins believes that that all the information we gather reduces our emotional connection with a piece.

I have a hard time disagreeing strongly with any written piece, I don’t know if that is because I am to nice and want to find something good in everything or if it is because of my preconceived notion that if I am reading it for class, there must be something positive and worthwhile that I must get out of it. Even though I can agree with what people have said negatively about some of these pieces, I can’t help but see the relevance in the pieces. I see why people have not liked the Percy’s article, saying that he is asking to much to say that we are forever tainted and that we can only truly see something if there is no context or background. For me though, when I read the beginning of the article, it reminded me of when I visited Stone Henge over break. The first thing me and my friends said when we got there was “It’s so small, I always thought it was bigger.” And while I thought it was beautiful, we where there at sunset, and wonderful and a bit eerie, as I read the Percy work, I couldn’t help but think that my experience was tainted by all my preconceived notions, not to mention the audio tour. I also liked/connected to what he said about seeing a place through a camera. I always feel like I need to take pictures to “capture the moment”. Here are some of my pictures that I took-I hope you enjoys them! ( the sheep where behind a fence surrounding Stone Henge)

Go here for the pics:

Stone Henge again
Name: Mal
Date: 2005-01-24 15:55:48
Link to this Comment: 12197

Yeah, so just paste the link into the adress bar and it should pop up. It did for me. :) If It doesn't work or sends you somewhere werid, tell me and I'll try to post it again. Also, the people in the pictures are me and my friend Sarah.


Name: Kat McCorm
Date: 2005-01-24 16:16:09
Link to this Comment: 12198

I thought "the Live Creature" was not nessecarily so interesting as an artistic essay, but was more valuable as a reflection on being a corporeal human, and what it means to be a living something WITH a body- in this way it strongly reminded me of religious document I've read, on how Jesus was used by God to bridge the gap between purely spiritual beings and us humans, who have the majority of our input and experience connected to the physicality of having a body: the constant input/output attention it demands- food, excreting, emotional closeness expressed through touch or sex- all these things are things we perform constantly, and yet throughout western history, there seems to have been a conscious effort made to forget or ignore that we need these things, to pretend that we are not, in fact, messy creatures. The idea was that humans could only understand or come to God through Jesus, who offered the benefit of shared experience in a bodily form, who had likewise experienced the "rhythm" of connecting and disconnecting with the world through our senses.

This made me think, again relationaly, of the cyclical nature of our fisions and unions in relationships with each other intrapersonaly- which is a version, i suppose, of the same rhythm which Dewey sees as producing art- except in this case creation (of art) is instead a means of communicating the alternating lonliness/closeness that humans feel when trying to relate to each other.

reading responses
Name: eugenia (e
Date: 2005-01-24 16:27:26
Link to this Comment: 12199

i happened to find all of the pieces rather interesting to read. i thought that though dewey had some interesting points, i did not find them to be necessarily true in all cases. in dewey's work, he seemed to support the idea that whatever has a "long history" or some sort of a "classical status" that it would automatically gain "unquestioned admiration". i found this statement rather interesting in that so many traditions admires practices and artwork that are painful to do or look at. perhaps then, it isnt the "curiosity" as dewey states to be the driving force - such as poking burning wood to see sparks fly, rather, it could be some pleasure or joy people find when they encounter something they are familiar with or perhaps conditioned into doing. this is possible, because after awhile, one knows the outcome of poking burning wood with a stick-- it isnt necessarily curiosity at this point, but maybe an expectation of something to come that brings excitement.

i think dewey's thinking may be limited because he is neglecting to consider all aspects of art- for example customs/traditions and the artwork that follows. something that came into mind was the chinese art of footbinding. for the longest time, footbinding was considered a work of art as women's feet were bound into a ball of crushed bone no bigger than 3 inches. this custom did have a long history, and it had unquestioned admiration but it wasnt done because all the girls were dying (curious) to experience the pain of breaking most of the bones on their feet.

but this isnt limited to asian customs- during the height of european fashion, wearing a corset made of whale bones was considered beautiful and it also had unquestional admiration. this got me thinking (once again), does beauty and pain go hand in hand? especially for women?
as for percy and elkins, i thought the two writers had two opposing views that were paradoxically true (for me at least). elkins mentioned how he prepares/researches before going to see a painting to arm himself with thoughts and questions-- this is how some people achieve the "richer experience", by knowing the story behind it- and to them, this may be beautiful. however, according to percy... it is the surprise/shock of the first encounter that makes the experience more vivid (since the senses are more active in trying to make sense (har har har) of something they havent experienced before.

i personally found both of these ideas to be true. i first saw the phantom of the opera about 10 years ago and again during winter break. when was younger, i didnt quite understand the story but i recall the music and the acting to be more dynamic than the second time i saw the musical. the second time i saw the musical, i found myself to be more critcal of each character's actions- why someone did something and how it was done. this made me lose touch of the actual 'artsy' part of the musical, which made the second experience of the musical less breathtaking in the 'artsy'way but more stimulating. either way, i still remember both encounters of the musical very vividly in memory.

there are indeed several ways to appreciate the arts :) i find both percy's way and elkin's way effective in their own ways- perhaps there is a time and place for each method of appreciation.

Name: Rebecca Do
Date: 2005-01-24 16:31:03
Link to this Comment: 12200

I found the article wrtitten by Dewey to be very interesting. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I have a love for beautiful things. Beautiful restaurants, beautiful homes, etc. However, I have never really had a great interest in fine arts. In fact I usually find exhibits of paintings quite boring. As I was reading the article I realized that my favorite pieces of art are the pictures that one of my friends takes. She'll take pictures of a peace sign she made in the sand or of her feet in the waves on a beach. I find these pictures to be much more beautiful because I am much more in touch with them. The fine art pictures in the museum are very distant and hard to connect with. I agree with Dewey that this is because it is so hard to understand the reason why they were created. WHen I look at my friend's picture I can imagine her taking them.

Re; how is beauty seen?
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-01-24 16:34:37
Link to this Comment: 12201

Rather then repeating the statements above, which seem to summarize my reactions to the articles more accurately, I would like to take one of the comments that struck a particular chord with me and take it a step further. Sorry to put you on an examination table here, Megan, but it's only because I agree with the major points in your argument.
I guess the reason why this comment and the Percy reading struck me the most is due to the fact that I really find beauty in the places where I'm not told to look. Perhaps I just have a flair for trying to be unique, or maybe I'm just quirky. But beauty for me is not about art -- and yes, I realize that this statement puts me a step closer to being lynched by a mob of English and Art majors. Formalized art perhaps is the least 'beautiful' to me, a statement which is rather ironic because I do dabble in doodles and paintings...but it's much harder for me to consider a painting or a sculpture beautiful as opposed to a flower caught in a morning dew, or a young child's smile.
I'm not saying that formalized art isn't beautiful. What I'm trying to say is that I agree with Megan: because I am expected to, or told how beautiful a painting by Monet is, or how beautiful the Grand Canyon is, or how beautiful Mozart's works are, and so forth, my expectations for them are much higher. I already know that they are beautiful, I'll concede that they're great, but they're tainted. But I can walk around and find all sorts of little things beautiful around me -- how artful that piece of frost is on my window, how beautiful the piano music coming from the living room is...and these to me have a far more lasting impression on my psyche because they are pure.
Which is one reason why I think that the world we live in is so jaded. Anything can be art now, from paintings to trash that's been glued together. The world we're in is small and closing fast, and soon there will be little left for everyone to discover on their own, to find beauty untainted.

Week 2 Posting
Name: Beatrice
Date: 2005-01-24 16:42:28
Link to this Comment: 12203

I really enjoyed this week's readings. Although I do agree with those who found the Elkins essay to be somewhat cynical, I must also say that I believe it to be pretty accurate. The way he explained how doing research on a painting lessens any emotionality when finally viewing it up close made sense to me. Even though it is not the same exact idea, this all sort of reminded me of how difficult it was for me to appreciate the images on the survey we took once I was expected to analyze it more closely to determine whether it possessed certain characteristics. I especially liked when he wrote, “Each fact is a shield against firsthand experience.” It is difficult – if not impossible - to not let our experiences be affected by any information we receive about artwork. Regarding the Percy chapter, I felt that it too made sense on some level. Even though there is no doubt that the Grand Canyon is beautiful, I will never be affected by the beauty of it in the same way that its discoverer had been. Exposure to images of the Grand Canyon and/or knowledge of its discovery prepares an individual for what they will be viewing. Obviously, Cardenas could never have expected to stumble across such a breathtaking sight. The fact that it has already been discovered does not lessen its beauty, but there will never be an identical experience to that of Cardenas. Lastly, I really enjoyed the way that Dewey had compared the artist and the scientist, showing that the work of each is similar, despite how it may seem.

Comments on Week 1 Readings
Name: Kara Rosan
Date: 2005-01-24 16:42:52
Link to this Comment: 12204

I have to say, I was really frustrated by Dewey's writing style, and I may have a bias agaisnt his ideas as a result of that. It was difficult for me to get through the denseness of his writing and understand the point that he was trying to make, but I did get one thing out of it that I liked. Art should not simply be defined in the context of paintings and sculptures and writing, but as anything beautiful that has been created. By this definition, anyone who creates something beautiful can be considered an artist, including someone who has strong relationships with others. Relating to others well is a gift, and when used properly, can create beautiful things. As someone who is not skilled in the traditionally artistic sense (I cannot draw or paint to save my life) I appreciate this broader definition of art.
Elkins' writing also appealed to me as someone who is not very good at creating works of "art" according to the traditional definition. Whenever I try to appreciate art that has been deemed a masterpiece by scholars, I feel like I cannot do it justice because I have no concept of what went into creating the work. However, if I am able to create my own standard for what is beautiful and what isn't just based on my own instincts, I don't have to feel inadequate when I am unable to find the beauty in something that others deemed beautiful. I am allowed to have my own definition that is no less accurate.
I enjoyed the style but not the content of Percy's writing. I don't believe that he is wrong to think that an experience is better when it is fresh and real and untainted by prior knowledge and expectation. However, it is very difficult to have too many experiences like that. It is natural to have a curiousity about things that you can't see first-hand, and even though it may not be as poignant to look at a picture of something incredible in a book, it certainly is better than not seeing it at all. Also, if we were able to experience all things the way Percy believes we should, we would probably not appreciate how special a new experience can be. It is because it is a rare occurrence to be able to discover something on your own that makes it so exciting when it does happen.

Week 2 readings
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-01-24 16:43:18
Link to this Comment: 12205

I really enjoyed this week's readings and I thought it was interesting how the readings tied in with the smaller group discussions on Thursday and my own feelings while I took the survey (along with other times in my life). The whole idea that it's more difficult to appreciate art that has received constant adoration over the years came up in class and also resonated with me. Like others said in class, when I say 'classic' works like Michelangelo's David, I thought it was beautiful but it didn't make me stop and say 'gosh' or 'wow' the way that some new, unknown piece of work might have. There was also this feeling that even if I didn't like the statue of David I would have to like it because it's been proclaimed a great piece of work by so many throughout the centuries. Something that the readings brought up that was also brought up in class was the idea that the process of creating the piece should be considered when trying to appreciate the artwork. When I was filling out the survey, I would often catch myself pausing momentarily to think about all the hard work and precision and etc. that were necessary to create a certain piece and I usu. gave the pieces higher marks. When I took art in high school I would also find the process of creating pieces to often be the most rewarding. All of the care and thought that went into the pieces were enjoyable to me.

Another area of the readings that I found really interesting and easy to connect with was Percy's piece in which he talks about how there is often this need for things of beauty to live up to their reputations. I have been on trips and seen different sights which I knew were supposed to be wondrous and beautiful but I would often feel like 'oh that's it?' or pretty disappointed because of how much something has been built up. I thought the line where Percy talks about a man comparing the real Grand Canyon to a postcard of it in an attempt to gauge it's beauty really funny but sadly true. And although I do hate having things built up by others or having others tell me what I should think about something, I do find that I refer to experts to see if I have the right idea about things. For example, after I watch a movie I usually go to read various critics reviews of the movie or interpretations of the movie. I feel this need to know whether or not my thoughts on the movie were 'correct.' I know it's silly but I can't help it! Whenever I read critics' reviews of movies and they resemble my own thoughts I feel this weird sense of vindication and when I see that they differ in opinon I get a little sad but defensive.

Subjective Hypnosis
Name: Lauren Swe
Date: 2005-01-24 16:43:24
Link to this Comment: 12206

It is interesting to note that many people's responses to the readings differentiated between what is called beautiful because of social constructions of beauty and what is called beautiful because it "moves" us to do so. I tend to agree with the theory that something is beautiful if it has that mesmerizing, hypnotic effect; you are so taken with the subject that it has something of a transcendent quality and makes itself the center of attention. This is how I gauge the beauty of (for example) a person, a ballet performance or a painting. The subject's beauty moves you to recognize that it is beautiful and commands attention. The degree to which this experience asserts its "hypnotic powers" is how I tend to gauge the quality of its beauty.
On the other hand, there are some experiences that have a different way of fascinating us and grabbing our attention, but in a negative way. This idea is often applied to witnesses of crimes or accidents. The feeling that I-want-to-look-away-but-I-just-can't is similar to the power that a beautiful experience has on us, but rather than seducing our attentions it violently demands them.
I take this to be the "creature" element of which Dewey writes. Our response to beauty is an almost instinctual reaction. In this sense, we are naturally attracted to beauty but the question remains of how much influence society has on our perceptions of what is beautiful. I noticed in class Thursday that some of the objects that people presented were not things that I would have called beautiful initially, but after hearing what people had to say about the objects, I began to see why they found them beautiful. I don't think that this makes my experience of their beauty any less justified, (as Elkins suggests) but I do feel that there is a significat difference of between an encounter with beauty that is recognized instantly, (without preface or agenda,) and one which is taught and learned.

Beauty and Emotions
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-01-24 16:48:00
Link to this Comment: 12207

James Elkins writes in "The Ivory Tower of Tearlessness" "The damping-down of my reactions has been a slow process. In part I grew up and away from the paintings I loved when I was younger. I suppose everyone gets sober as they get older; and I've also grown toward books and away from fresh encounters with paintings." This statement contradicts itself. He may have "dampened down" his reactions to paintings, but in doing so, has he increased his literary reactions? The books are helping Elkins to create reactions to the paintings. His library resources are helping him feel emotions about the beauty of the paintings. But, he also feels that the books are hurting the images seen in the paintings. They limit the viewer to other's ideas. Despite this, Elkins feels that art-historians shying students away from books is dangerous. But is all of the "how to look at art" conflicting with what art is supposed to bring out, emotion.
Elkins conflicting views brought me to think about what influences my emotions and my thoughts on beauty. In my thesis work, I am looking to see if peers or the media affect others appearance through pressure. The same question can be asked about whether these pressures affect the emotions of beauty. I agree with Elkins that some texts push a person to see a painting one way or another, but the texts can also open up someone's eyes to see what would otherwise not be seen. A painting is seen a thousand different ways by a thousand different people, and all those people can draw out the emotions of the others by sharing their ideas. Different resources may be beneficial in letting loose one's own emotions.

Dewey, Percy and Elkins
Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-01-24 16:51:43
Link to this Comment: 12208

I thought Dewey was a little too dense and that a lot of what he was trying to say could have been condensed and equally as useful and insightful. The main point that I got out of the pieces by him was that art should be experienced in relation to the common life and experience and that art seen through such a broad lens is not reduced in any way because of its association to what is viewed as common. Art should not be separated and placed on a pedestal only to be observed in the sterile and segregated environment that some theorists want to place art. I also liked his discussion of the force of modern industry and world markets on art and how “objects that were in the past valid and significant because of their place in the life of a community now function in isolation from the conditions of their origin” (9). In general I agreed with his argument that art should not be isolated and segregated from experience and common life. But I did not understand fully the purpose of even the meaning and direction of his lengthy discussion on life and the rhythm of breaks and re-unions. I can’t even really summarize what he was talking about, but it starts on page 13.

I somewhat agreed with Percy’s main point, but his writing style did not appeal to me. Also, though I can see where Percy is coming from and can understand the basic logic behind his argument, I don’t think that what he is saying is very practical. Most people simply are going to take the discount tour package and go on the fenced in roads. Students are still going to learn Shakespeare’s sonnets in the classroom, with a book, by a teacher. At some moments it seemed as though he was actually trying to get people to wake up at dawn in some remote area of the Grand Canyon and I did not think that very clinical, dry, concrete solution was the way to appeal to the reader. At the beginning he gave too many “packaged” solutions and who is he to say how a sightseer or a student should unwrap the layered packaging dulling his or her experience. I think that the most useful part of his piece was simply to question and think about what society does to “package” experiences and how that affects the quality of that experience.

I did not like the Elkins piece very much. I thought that he sounded really whiny throughout the piece and the ending was just a nice compromise between his urge to be an academic intellectual and his more sensitive urges to cry. Also I don’t quite understand why he has placed the physical act of crying and tears as a marker for an emotional and raw reaction. Why does it matter so much if people actually cried or not? Why is that the indication of something more “real” or “raw?” I did however like his statement towards the end about trusting what attracts you.

Privacy Invasion
Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2005-01-24 17:05:17
Link to this Comment: 12209

On Tuesday we talked about the survey and what we thought was beautiful. There were things that I objectively know are "beautiful" by accepted definitions and things that I was more attracted to because they were more real to me. I had more capacity to "experience" them or to interact with them- perhaps because they are such common things- fotos of people, individuals, walking down the street or looking off to the side. Something I could relate to and wrap my brain around in the most tangible sense. I suppose this is a prime example of Dewey's argument of art as experience. He talks about the need for there to be a "connection with the objects of concrete experience."
Honestly, I get a little squeamish talking about beauty as a personal experience. Reading Dewey I felt myself start to grimace bit by bit. Not because I necessarily disagree, but because to think of one's personal experience in relation to art, seems to be taking beauty out of it's traditional academic "holier than thou" frame. It's one thing to say "the snow is beautiful" to a friend, it's quite another when it is such an experience that one seems to be inextricably linked to the outside stimulus- snow or otherwise. It seems too intimate to share in an academic sense and space, the things that I think are gorgeous, beautiful are yes indeed, based on my experience and relationship with the world around me. It is demanding on myself as an individual to feel like so much of myself is on display- even when I don't share I can still feel the emotions and memories and dreams rushing to the surface - and it in a way seems grossly inappropriate for the classroom. I'm surprised at how conservative I feel as if I want to keep what I find beautiful to myself rather than share with all of you women I don't know- oh yes, and of course the worldwide web. I'm very curious as to how this class will go. Art as experience, sure Dewey- personal experience.

Beauty Within
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-01-24 18:06:29
Link to this Comment: 12211

I loved Dewey's piece though it was a little heady in places. But I particularly enjoyed his idea that nothing lives without its environment. Equating that to beauty, none of us could think anything beautiful or not beautiful without our past and present and our hopes for the future. Nothing is beautiful or not beautiful on its own.
Which leads me to suspect that beauty can not be on the outside. Since there can be no absolute standard of beauty, it can not exist outside of the beholder.
Therefore all beauty lies within the beholder, who then places it (or misplaces it) onto the object they choose to call beautiful. There is nothing wrong with this process. Without the thing on the outside, the beauty within would not be revealed at all. It would stay hidden within. So all of this calling of a thing beautiful is beauty itself, unfolding before us, from within us, beautifully. This thing called beauty.

What is beauty to someone who is deaf and blind?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-01-25 17:54:27
Link to this Comment: 12225

A student of mine stopped in for a conference today, and we got to talking about beauty...
Ro. said, "What is beauty to someone who is blind? What is beauty to someone who is deaf? What is beauty to someone who is deaf and blind? Can beauty be entirely internal, entirely imagined"--rather than the interactive relationship between self and world that we were exploring today?

I'd really be interested in hearing stories/gathering data about how those who don't have the use of certain senses, particularly those we've identified as primary in our perception of beauty--sight, sound, smell--experience beauty.

Not a lot of sense, even less grammatical correctn
Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-01-27 18:56:48
Link to this Comment: 12276

So I started reading CS Lewis's "Surprised by Joy" today... and came across this description of "Joy". It doesn't seem based on anything visual/sensory in that the Joy Lewis experiences is a sensation caused by the memory of a memory:

"The first is itself the memory of a memory.... there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years of of centuries, the memory of tha tearlier mornign at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's 'enormous bliss' of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to 'enormous') comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what? not, certainly, for a biscuit tin filled with moss, nor even (though that came into it) for my own past.... and before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term... Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with [Happiness and Pleasure]; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again."

Reading Lewis's experience of beauty (at least, it seems like he'd apply "beautiful" to that experience, if asked) set me to thinking of our discussion today---particularly the list on the blackboard of what we find beautiful. Most of the examples were emotional, and weren't based on visual/sensory experiences at all. Sure, a lot of our memories of our families, friends, and other "beautiful people and moments" include visual/auditory stimulation, but that's only because we were raised to connect that particular visual image with that particular beloved object (aka, I know what my mom looks like). Someone raised blind, deaf, and mute would attach a touch rather than a sight or a sound to her mom; but the memory of her mom, how "beautiful" she finds her, would be no weaker or less meaningful than someone who could look at a photograph, point, and say: "This is my mom. She is beautiful because I love her."

If emotional connections are the things which make life beautiful for us (for example, a gorgeous sunset reminding us of a special time spent with family or friends), then beauty isn't dependent on sense at all, but it's a function of our own relationship with the world, however we experience it.

"Seeing is something which must be learned"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-01-29 09:08:33
Link to this Comment: 12298


what did you think of Albert Barnes saying that "seeing is something which must be learned, and not something which we all do as naturally as we breathe"? That his method of teaching aesthetic appreciation "reduces to a minimum the role of merely personal . . . preference"? That it offers "the scientific method," something "basically objective to replace . . . sentimentalism"?

This seems very different from the one strong commonality among all the things the students in my section wrote about this week: each beautiful object called up a relationship, an emotional attachment, a familiarity with something that was beloved (lots of moms. Made me smile!) Sentimental, indeed. . . .

So. . .

what was it like for you, going to the Barnes? In what ways did it intersect (or not) w/ what Barnes says? In what ways does Barnes intersect (or not) w/ Dewey, w/ Percy, w/ Elkins (last week's essayists. . . .)?

My Experience of The Barnes Foundation
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-01-29 16:57:10
Link to this Comment: 12311

Going to the Barnes was absolutely wonderful...intoxicating...beautiful...breathtaking...I don't recall having ever seen so much fantastic art in one sitting. I purposely did not do any of the readings before going to see the Barnes, primarily to ensure that my viewing of the artwork would not be "tainted". I wanted to fully and freely experience the paintings and antiques just as they were, upon viewing them for the very first time.

I don't really cry in reaction to paintings (that is just how I am; I am by no means an art scholar:) However, I do recall that upon viewing a painting I liked or that grabbed my attention, I felt genuinely happy, and/or curious, mystified, creeped out, intrigued. I would study the painting from a distance, but I would also go up to it, as close as the black line on the floor would allow me, and try to focus on some details of the painting.

The Renoir paintings I of course liked. Paintings dated back to the renaissance and medieval periods were very attractive to me, and made me lean in for a closer look. There's just something about the older dates (1200-1600s) that makes me find those paintings more interesting, and more beautiful. I guess for me it is just knowing that there's a special long-ago period of history connected with the painting.

In some sense, I do agree with Barnes that "seeing is something which must be learned." Now that I've experienced the paintings for the first time, a priori, I feel that it would be greatly beneficial for me to go back and look at the paintings again, this time with a more constructive focus. Perhaps Barnes' art viewing method can help me to see beyond what lies at the mere surface of the painting, or help me to see the painting in a different way that I would not have on my own. Barnes' perspective on art seems friendly and approachable, as well as useful to those of us who are "non-art scholars." I feel that his way seems genuinely interested in enhancing the person's view of the art (unlike the art scholars and their methods, as mentioned by Elkins).

barnes trip
Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-01-29 18:30:01
Link to this Comment: 12313

I found the Barnes trip to have alot of beauty in it, though it was quite overwhelming to say the least!

Much to Dewey and Barne's credit...I did feel an exhilaration in just experiencing the art and I realized that when there are cards noting the artist, title, date and some information about the painting I find some perverse inner pressure to read the card as if it would give me insight into a view that I wouldn't "see" unless I had read the information. The absense of all that info was very liberating to me...I also felt there was more of an element of discovery than in a museum's typical layout where rooms are organized chronologically or by artist. That is to say, I never knew what artist I would encounter where so I felt as if I discovered some piece's by artists whereas before I may have not even entered a room devoted to only them. Dewey's ideas about art as experience, and going to the Grand Canyon resonated with that notation- I just went and experienced it. As Barnes writes in "The Art in Painting" , "It is these deeper harmonies, frusturated by our life in a world so indifferent to our feelings, that art sets in vibration."(p.46)Particular paintings at the Barnes definitely connected to me on that wordless quality...I also wanted to open the question up to everyone about how the felt about the mix between the decorative arts and the paintings? I found myself ignoring most of the Amish ironwork to go straight to the paintings...Did anyone really respond to his emphasis between the objects and the works?
Also- Roger Kimball writes about how the audio tour is contrary to Barnes emphasis on just looking...yet so many people in the Barnes had those audio sets- What's up with that? I'm kinda frusturated that all of Barne's mandates have been thrown to the wind so recently...on the other hand, I guess you can only expect to control so much after you're dead.

Barnes trip
Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-01-29 18:57:03
Link to this Comment: 12314

I found the works of art by Van Gogh the most overwhelmingly beautiful. They had a sense of life to them despite the fact that his style of painting is not as true to life as Renoir. I loved the bright background colors and the people's eyes. They seemed to be staring back.
I think that seeing must be learned in some respect. However, I feel that the whole world is a piece of art not just a piece of stone or oil on canvas. Humans have created art since the beginning of time, cave drawing where art. Some one had to have done it first, which leads me to think that there is a natural artist in us all. However, perhaps Barnes would not have considered this art. I felt he was rather condescending when he stated that Botticelli's images are merely beautiful but lack depth. I find his works inspiring, however, I feel that Modigliani, whom he seemed to love, lacks depth. His people seem to me at least to be lifeless and lack meaning. Furthermore they are in no way aestetically pleasing and almost anyone could mimic them and give off the same "feeling" that his did. Therefore I argue that the depth of a painting is in the eye of the beholder perhaps rather than in the painting. We have the power to give almost anything a meaning if we so choose.

Sooo much Renoir! :)
Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-01-29 23:06:09
Link to this Comment: 12317

I purposefully didn't do any of the Barnes readings before today, so here are my "untainted" impressions, a la Percy:

Mmm... wow. Absolutely wonderful. So many beautiful paintings packed so closely together---it was overwhelming. So overwhelming that I'm not entirely sure I approve of Barnes's layout. With some pieces, the juxtaposition really worked: for example, the two Renoir "peasant girls with baskets" facing eachother over a reclining nude in the main gallery, the room with a row of teeny-tiny medieval religious pictures, and one exhibit where a large metal arrow pointed downward at a painting of a kneeling woman, almost as if it were describing the motion she had just completed. In other places, though, the clustering/ordering of paintings distracted me. For example, putting that gorgeous Monet waterboat in a corner where it was tough to get a good look at the individual brushwork, sticking a lot of similarly-hued landscapes next to eachother, and just walls that were *too busy* in general. The one room on the upper floor full of just charcoal/pencil sketches was great, but seeing so many at once really detracted from how *amazing* some of them were, how good (for example) Degas was at capturing movement.

All of that notwithstanding... mmm, wow. :D My "notes" ended up being just a list of all the pictures I loved. It got long! My favorites included the Monet waterboat (of course, haha), Daumier's water-carrier, Guiraud's "Vue de Bordeaux" (so much fun picking out all the little details, like the single Italian flag amidst all the French ships and the rearing horse on the quay), that amazing Rubens with all the cherubs and angels flying/dancing in circles, and all those Renoir portraits/landscapes. I love that Barnes was a big fan of the French Impressionists (and Impressionism in general). Because. They. Rock.

One of the best things the Barnes did was teach me to *really* appreciate Renoir. I'd been sort of so-so about him before, but seeing some of his paintings up close showed me how warm and human his style really is. Prints just don't do him justice. The faces of his portraits glow, and his landscapes (which I'd always disliked for their "oversmooth" quality) are more like dreamscapes, ethereal and windswept. There was this one of an orchard facing an ocean, and you could just see these small white flecks--sails!--in the very background... amazing. And that enormous picture upstairs: "After the Concert"... :D

Yeah. So sum total, I really can't wait to go again.

Name: Brittany (
Date: 2005-01-30 19:30:08
Link to this Comment: 12343

Sorry, folks. I just read the articles and I just had to add this.

On the controversy of moving the Barnes to Philly... I'm split, but I think I agree more with those who want to move the foundation. (All the writers in the packet would crucify me right here). Leaving that much beautiful artwork permanently in such an out-of-the-way place as Merion just feels wrong to me; it *does* seem, despite the denials of the authors in the packet, terribly elitist. Especially since Barnes was so keen on the idea that "democracy is not inimical to high culture" and "plain people, that is, men and women who make their livelihood by daily toil in shops, factories, schools, stores, and similar places, have free access to the sustenence that art offers." I don't see how moving the foundation (while keeping its interior structure/look intact) so that more people could enjoy it would betray that mission.

But then I'm torn, because Barnes specifically stipulated, in legal documentation, that no artworks should be removed/sold/moved/loaned, or the school itself moved. So technically, moving the Barnes is legally very dubious, and even if the lawyers manage to pick holes in Barnes's will, the move is still a nasty posthumous violation of one man's sincerest wish.

But it still feels wrong to me. Ack.

Re-Thinking Dewey
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-01-30 20:42:52
Link to this Comment: 12350

I loved the Barnes. I didn't think I would. Those things usually bore me. But the display as well as the artwork was wonderful. Recently I have been to the Getty Museum, the Prado and now Barnes, and Barnes was my favorite by far. And to think it is in my own back yard!
In their literature I noticed that Dewey was an active participant in Barnes' life, and had to do with the education aspect of the Foundation.
I found this interesting bacause to me it gave me reason to give what Dewey says more consideration. I had pretty much let him go as a just a man who lived in his head. But the way the Barnes thing is set up, it was more an experience than something I witnessed like the other museums.
I am actually considering re-reading some of the Dewey works and making an attempt to more fully understand what he was trying to convey.
No promises, though. :)

barnes and readings
Name: Marissa Pa
Date: 2005-01-30 20:48:32
Link to this Comment: 12351

wow, the Barnes Foundation was incredible! I loved being able to wander around the rooms and not have to follow any sort of audio-guided path. I really grew to love Renior through this, as I believe Amy said, because his paintings just seemed to stick out to me. It was amazing how they could be realistic while sort of hazy, as if in a dream. I also really enjoyed Cezanne, and I liked that often his paintings were put near Reniors. I think I was drawn to the light in the paintings, the brightness, which was also present in Seurat's paintings, one of which literally took my breath away (the sea with the boats).
I found myself really not enjoying many of the darker paintings, full of shadow and dark colors. I think that perhaps their being so close to paintings full of light they became less pleasureable. It was the same with Van Gogh, who I usually really enjoy, but it seemed like the placement of the paintings detracted from their beauty, making them seem too harsh or bold.
I also was a little turned off by the man who was constantly running through the rooms telling people to back away from the paintings. This doesnt seem to be as obvious in larger museums. I dont know if it is because they usually have more security guards or what, but it seemed as if every room I was in he was either in asking someone to move or running through.
Also I found it interesting that often there would be a room with a sort of theme, like medieval art or the black and white sketches, but there would be a few paintings that did not fit in in any way I could see. I am sure that Barnes had his reasoning for positioning them with the rest, but it was not obvious to me.
I can't wait to go back, and I am hoping to take my mom when she comes to pick me up at the end of the year. This is something I want to share with everyone I know.
I found the readings quite interesting. After learning about the move to Philadelphia and the deliberate ignoring of Barnes wishes, I almost feel bad about liking the move and for buying a color print, which Barnes disagreed with. I do understand his desire for things to stay in their place, just as he wanted them, and I feel that we should honor his wishes. However, he also wanted his art to be available to common people, and its current location does not really allow for that. I understand the reasons for the move and for the tour of the artwork, but I also feel sad for Barnes, for his wishes are not being followed.
I also really enjoyed Dewey's first chapter about experiences. He spoke about a "storm that seemed, in its fury, as it was experienced, to sum up in itself all that a storm can be" (36) and then, speaking of experience, that "the existance of this unity is constituted by a single quality that pervades the entire experience" (37). These examples of a "true" storm and a single quality to fit in quite well what I have been discussing in my philosophy class, and it was interesting to see some of the same ideas brought up in a different perspective.
I can't wait to go back to the Barnes later this year!

Barnes Trip #1
Name: Muska
Date: 2005-01-30 22:14:08
Link to this Comment: 12357

My experience at the Barnes was much like my experience at other art museums--I felt a peculiar disattachment to the art pieces that I saw.

What was particularly interesting to me was when I stood in front of one of Picasso's "Blue Period" paintings. In high school I always had a free period and would spend my time wandering around the library. I would always stop in the art aisle and take down a book of Picasso's paintings. Something about his "Blue Period" paintings mesmerized me. I could stare at one painting for the entire period and completely lose track of time. I always thought that if I ever saw one of his "Blue Period" paintings in person, I would be moved to tears.

But when I was at the Barnes, I immediately recognized one of the paintings as one of the pictures I used to stare at during my free period in high school. For some reason, it didn't feel the same to me. I didn't feel any emotion when I saw the painting.

For the entire bus ride back to Bryn Mawr, I kept wondering why I felt a closer connection to the Picasso painting when it was merely reprinted in a book in the library.

I came to the conclusion that it had to do with closeness and intimacy. In the library I was able to hold the book in my lap and trace the outlines of the brushstrokes with my fingers. I was able to hold the book up really close to my face and look at the intricate details. Even if it was just a reprint, I felt closer to it.

At the museum I felt rigid and distant from the painting. I had to keep a safe distance away from all the art pieces, and even when the tip of my shoe went beyond the designated line on the floor, one of the museum workers sprinted from across the room and asked me to take a step back.

It just wasn't the same.

Dewey's experiance at the Barnes
Name: Malorie
Date: 2005-01-30 22:34:44
Link to this Comment: 12360

Unfortunately, I was unable to go to the Barnes because I came down with something. But here are some of my impressions from the reading as well as from what other people have said.

From what I’ve read, and what I know, Dewey and Barnes share similar ideas. Dewey asks the question “Who defines what art is?” and in some way I think that Barnes is able to get past that. Although he did create a museum and chose what pieces were in there, to my understanding, he places all the art work in a montage that has no order or signs. In this way the onlooker can see the art and have an independent experience and decide for themselves wither or not it is beautiful. This way, the onlooker doesn’t see a Van Gogh piece and say “Oh, this is Van Gogh , it is beautiful” instead they can say, “This is beautiful, I love the colors”. From this experience, you can learn what you like and what you think is beautiful. Also, you can learn what aspects of a painting are beautiful, if you encouraged by a teacher or other person to explain why you think it is beautiful. I don’t know how to analyze art, but I know I find Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” beautiful because of the swirls of color and the way the sky stands out. What I think the Barnes does, correct me if I’m wrong, is give you the Dewey experience that you can then take with you back to the classroom giving you both you’re interpretations as well as what the book says.

Barnes 1
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-01-30 23:01:04
Link to this Comment: 12363

Going to the Barnes I tried to be unattached to the paintings, to see each work as the artist would like Barnes suggested. I tried not associate the scenes to my own experiences.
That was a mistake. I only related to the paintings if I could associate them to something in my own life. For example, I kept being drawn to the Renoir paintings of the little girls, particularly of the paired little girls. There is a picture in my home of two girls playing in a garden together. I think I was drawn to the Renoirs because it reminded me of that beloved picture in my own home. Also, I kept imagining the painting was of me and my sister, Claire with blonde hair and me as the brunette.
This was a common theme throughout my interactions with the paintings. I was drawn to the Jean Hugo paintings because my paternal grandparents are Jean and Hugo. I was drawn to the Titian painting with the shepard because my ancestors were shepards in Sardinia. Some Cezanne paintings reminded me of Senior Row here at Bryn Mawr.
I agree with Muska that it was difficult to interact in the setting of the museum. The black tape kept me at a distant, and I didn't like anyone in the room while I was viewing the paintings. I would wait until the room was cleared to look at a painting. Somehow having someone in the same room was a violation of my interaction with the painters' messages. On one particular occasion I was looking at a painting of a monk kneeling before the Virgin Mary and the Christ child. The painting struck me and I was moved. The experience was shattered however by a couple that stood beside me and applauded a Van Googh of a basket of fruit. I was really frustrated that I couldn't see the beauty in the Van Googh but saw it in the other painting. Was I wrong? Uncouth? I questioned myself and the experience was lost. I guess this is what Percy was talking about.
One thing that did surprise me was how quickly I learned to identify a painter's style. By the end of the 2 hours I was able to guess that a painting was an El Greco, a Van Googh, a Matisse, a Renoir, a Cezanne, or a Modiglicani before I even looked at the painter's name, even though I know nothing about art or the painters. It was enlightening to find each painter had a truly different message for me.
The objects on the wall were very interesting. I felt like the hinges on the wall were Barnes' way of expressing the spiritual connection he hoped we were having with the paintings. Or maybe he was trying to hint to us that the paintings on each wall were somehow related to each other. I felt a relationship for example between two Pippin paintings that were side by side. One was of the Virgin Mary with Jesus as an adult. The second was of a black family together at a table. The women in both pictures were in the same poise, and the paintings were similar in a way I can't describe. I think both were a "holy family" of some type?
I was extremely frustrated that I didn't know anything about the background of the paintings. I felt I could have related better to the paintings if I knew something about them. I'm glad I visited the Barnes however. It gives me something to strive for the next time I attend. I hope to know a little more about the paintings and Barnes' philosophy for studying art. I think it will enrich my experience.

Trip to the Barnes
Name: Rebecca Do
Date: 2005-01-31 01:06:12
Link to this Comment: 12372

When my alarm clock went off on Saturday morning at 9 my first reaction was not "Yes, I am going to the Barnes." However, I am so glad that I did because I thought it was wonderful. It is the first art exhibit that I have ever truly enjoyed. I didn't do the reading before I went because I just wanted to go and enjoy the paintings without having a million facts running through my head.
My favorite painting was "The Nursemaid" (I think by Milton Avery but I can't find my notes right now). When I looked at the painting I was a little bit unsure exactly of what I was seeing. There were two adults but what struck me was in the lower right hand corner there was a little girl in a pink coat who I found absolutely adorable. When reading the material by Barnes I understand what he means when he talks about the difference between being a painter and an artist. Avery did not simply paint that little girl he created her. When talking to my friends about the painting I talk about her as if she is actually person. When my friend walked through the door to that particular room the first thing I said was, "Look, she is so cute." In my opinion that is the most beautiful painting.
I am still a bit unclear as to exactly what the entire painting was of and one of my first reactions was to go and research it online. I thought that was interesting becuase it went along with what we were discussing in class about first looking at a picture and forming a personal untainted opinion and then finding out the artist's interpretation.

First Barnes Trip
Name: Beatrice
Date: 2005-01-31 12:49:07
Link to this Comment: 12381

Maybe I'm just used to the layout of a typical museum, but, at the Barnes, I often found it to be very difficult to focus on any of the works. When I would try to really pay attention and understand a particular piece, if felt like all the other paintings on the wall were distracting me from truly having an "experience." I liked that there were no plaques on the walls, telling the story of the paintings. This would have allowed for me to understand the works on my own terms. Unfortunately, that wasn't always the case because I was easily distracted. Additionally, I felt that the lighting could have made my viewing experience better. I think another reason it was difficult for me to really throw myself into the moment as I viewed each painting is the fact that I felt I had to be very aware of where I was standing at all times in relation to whichever painting I was looking at. As Muska said, there was always a security person ready to tell you to take a step back. I sometimes felt like I needed to see a painting a little closer, but I knew better. It almost felt like I had to focus more on where I was standing than what I was seeing.

What I really did love, however, was that I found a true appreciation for the work of some artists with which I had previously been unfamiliar. I was not very drawn to the paintings by Renoir and other artists which I had known about since I was a child. It was the paintings by Daumier, Modigliani, and Soutine that really caught my eye. On a wall seemingly full of Renoir paintings, it was almost refreshing to see something new to me. Even Soutine's image of the skinned rabbit was beautiful in my eyes. Its colors and its boldness made it one of my favorites; I was unable to look away. As far as the paintings by Daumier, well, I found them beautiful because they are so dark and it seemed that his use of light is so very important. I just felt so caught up in them. Lastly, I know that Liz mentioned that Modigliani's works lacked depth and are "in no way aesthitically pleasing." I, however, consider them to be quite beautiful. I found myself searching each wall for yet another Modigliani. Perhaps I am drawn to the simplicity of his style. I found myself wondering why it is that some of his paintings have eyes, yet other do not. I agree with Liz when she says "depth is in the eye of the beholder."

The Barnes
Name: Alice
Date: 2005-01-31 14:38:34
Link to this Comment: 12383

First of all, I really loved our trip to the Barnes. I love impressionist and post impressionist work. I wish we had had more time there because I wanted to be able to see the connections between the paintings that Barnes saw. I found it fascinating in that article about the Renoir painting of the little girl and the Cezanne of the older woman, and how those corresponded to the table and vase, etc. It is incredibly thought provoking and I just find this way of looking at paintings incredible.

This was my first trip to the Barnes, but I had been curious about it ever since I first heard about it from a family friend this past November. She had been telling me about the controversy in moving it to Philadelphia. I remember seeing signs around town that said "The Barnes Belongs in Merion." Up until my friend told me about it, I had not understood that sign. However, I am inclined to agree with it. Reading those articles about moving the Barnes really infuriated me. I think moving it defeats the purpose of the institution. I think some people just don't get it. The quote that really hit me was that it was never meant to be a public museum, but rather a school with art galleries, which allowed the public to view them. I don't see that as elitist at all; he set up those works in that building for a reason; it is meant to Trying to replicate that space in Philadelphia will cause it to lose what makes it so special. The grounds and the building are as important to the experience as the paintings themselves.

It was Barnes' private collection, so what gives the Philadelphia Museum of Art the right to make it public? I have nothing against public museums, in fact I really like the PMA, but there is a place for that and a place for an institution like the Barnes. I don't see how the trustees could be so willing to break Barnes' will. It seems more selfish to me to move the Barnes than to keep it where it is. It seems like it is being moved so that museum row can have another attraction to bring in revenue; that seems more selfish than having it in Merion, where people need to take a 30 minute train ride from the city to get to it. I think that the effort it takes to get on that train is well worth it when you get to experience the Barnes, in the place and atmosphere it was meant to be experienced.

Week 3 Barnes
Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-01-31 14:56:12
Link to this Comment: 12385

I think that my gut reaction to Barnes is to disagree with him. The writing itself seems so cold and removed. At first I found his ideas to be too calculated and distant when art or the approciation of art and the esthetic experience seems to me to be a very personal and private experience that cannot be engineered and formulated to reach a desired end result. There is a part of me that wants to discount a lot of what he says, but there is also another part of me that is saying his method is simply more "rational" and that it should not be discounted simply because it is giving value to rational, well thought out responses. It links back to what I saw in Sharon's painting. Perhaps not all rational thought and procedure should be shoved aside as stifling or not understanding of the artistic/esthetic experience. Perhaps there are things to be learned and skills excercised rather than a simple flow of unharnessed and uncontrolled by intelligence as Barnes puts it.

In one way I think that reading Barnes before the trip and learning more about the technicalities and specifics about the art I saw would have enhanced my experience. To be honest, I have never really been much of an art appreciator. Art has never really impacted me or meant much to me. As I entered the museum I was unimpressed even though I recognized the names on the wall: Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso. I think that I have a problem with the way that the museums are set up not only physically but also in the minds of the viewers. The art is certainly removed from its audience-there is a black line and a security guard speed walking on a mission to catch stray toes over the line. The viewers are all silent, quietly and most of the time wordlessly tip toeing through the rooms giving just enough pause at each paiting, peering at it intently. Everything is still and there is this forced sense of reverance for these things on the walls. I felt silently scolded for lauging when I found a painting funny or for even chewing gum. I realize that there are simply certain socially accepted rituals and traditions that people follow but in reflection I find them silly at times. But it all seems so forced. Forced to be silent, forced to take time to really try and "see" something, forced to feel something. I was not moved by any of the art nor did I find many beautiful. I found some interesting, some funny, some painful, some "pretty." I did find one that I truly liked, but mostly because I thought that it was funny and that it was trying to shrug off the seriousness of art. It was a painting by Henri Rousseau and there was a image of three bears approaching one woman. The woman is simply shrugging her shoulders and looking upwards as if to say (at least to me) "Whatever." There was a nonchalance in the painting that I enjoyed.

I think that I may have enjoyed the art more if I was the only one in the museum. No guards. No people. No tape. Just me. I think that I felt very caged in teh museum and in the ritualistic way that I was supposed to art towards these paintings.

I don't know if I have offended anyone and I can assure you that was not my intention. If anything I feel ashamed because of my lack of appreciation, but then I feel angry because I have to feel ashamed. I think that in some ways, had I learned more about the artwork and more specifically the artist's life, then I would appreciate or understand the art more. I don't think that I will ever become a paiting appreciator to the core, but I also won't say that I have nothing left to learn.

Barnes: A Dying Breed
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-01-31 15:29:59
Link to this Comment: 12389

While I did not have the opportunity to attend the Barnes trip this weekend, here are my thoughts based on both the reading and research I have done about the Barnes museum.
Seizing opportunity where he found it, working his way up through brain power and through sheer luck, he not only left a lasting legacy for being a man who lived the American dream, but also a man who left the world a better place then when he found it. It is not often that millionaires will seek to surround themselves with beautiful objects and then share it with the world. But even Barnes went a step beyond that -- he is not simply sharing the artwork. If his goal was to simply share the artwork, then he would not have made such efforts to keep the gallery separate from any other institution, and preserved as he had left it. No, Barnes, through the organization of his exhibits, was truly striving to open the eyes of the general populace to a new way of looking at things.
When I first started reading about the exhibit, I'll confess that I was brushing it off. I mean, there are numerous private museums around the Washington D.C. area, where I grew up, that attempt to provide new ways of looking at artwork, such as the Phillips Collection. But after reading the article "Betraying a Legacy", I came to understand how far ahead of his time Barnes was. To group art not by the artist, to try to make it educational as well as interesting to the viewer, to utilize his private museum not for the purposes of boasting, but for the purposes of education and inspiring joy in art? Amazing. Simply amazing, and a way of organization that I have definitely seen used in other, more modern exhibits.
I love the concept of grouping the artwork by the common threads found in the art. While it's nice to compare and contrast the progression of an artist, or to contrast arts with similiar styles against each other -- I agree, it really doesn't make me look any harder at a painting. I'm more likely to skim a room that way. But based on what I've read and experienced elsewhere, I think the Barnes way of organization is stimulating. I like puzzles. I like mysterious. I would greatly enjoy trying to piece together the essence of each piece of artwork that provides the basis for commonality between them. In this way, like Dewey said, I can experience artwork; it will be a flow, a journey, as opposed to something I just witness and forget.

Barnes Trip and Readings
Name: Krystal
Date: 2005-01-31 16:12:19
Link to this Comment: 12391

I really enjoyed the trip to the Barnes Foundation. I felt like it was one of the best trips I've ever taken to see pieces of art. I don't know if it was the set up or what that made it so different, but I left feeling more pleased with my experience than I have on past trips to art museums. I'm not really knowledgeable in the field of classical art so while I had heard of some of the names at Barnes and seen some of the works, most of the art was new to me. I found that I really liked Renoir's pieces and his use of color. I particularly liked his soft brush (?) pieces of the nude women in the forest. The colors were just so lust and made the scenes appear celestial. I also was intrigued by the Chinese works. The paper and the style of the art utilized was very capitivating and pleasing. I liked how there weren't details about the paintings other than the artist and time period for which it came. I feel that it really did allow for me to take my time and actually look at the pictures to try to make some sort of meaning of them. I thought it was interesting though that there was audio available during the tours as well as what looked like packages explaining the works (I'm not sure though because I just saw people looking at them from a distance). The presence of the gift shop also was distracting because I associate it, as well as the audio companion and brochures explaining artwork, with museums...places I thought that the Barnes Foundation was trying to seperate itself from.

It does make more sense now that I read some of the articles concerning the Barnes Foundation. Unfortunately it has been mismanaged and Barnes' dream is being destroyed. I was very disappointed when I read that the Foundation would be moving into Philadelphia. It seems like a real shame and that a lot of what makes the Barnes Foundation so appealing will be lost in the move. I really enjoyed reading some of the journalists' scathing remarks about the Trustee Board of the Foundation and other supporters of the move but I think I would have liked to read a full article by a person who agrees with the move.

I was also excited when I read Barnes' writings and found that he agreed with some of the points that I made in my paper. He, in a much more clear and effective way than I, pointed out the importance of the components of a piece coming together and how the knowledge can enhance beauty or the experience rather than take away from it. I was a little surprised, but very humored, at some of the harsh criticism Barnes had for certain artists. Overall, though, I was very impressed by Barnes' writings and ideas. I wasn't, however, impressed by the guy, Sozanski, who wrote the tiny blurb "Will these choices translate?" The bit made me laugh and was a nice little break from the heaviness of some of the earlier writing...but seriously...what was his point in writing those little paragraphs?!

Dewey and Barnes Reaction
Date: 2005-01-31 16:22:07
Link to this Comment: 12392

I was unable to attend the Barnes Foundation trip last Saturday, because unfortunately I'm a slave to my weekend job, hah. I especially wish that I was able to attend because after reading other people's postings about their experience at the foundation, it may change my feelings towards Barnes completely (or maybe not.)
Barnes stressed the importance of the language being conveyed to the viewer through the artist's piece, as he stressed that one must look into the art and try to focus out what the artist is trying to tell and/or teach him/her. His ideas of having the art displayed in non-chronological order without guided audio tours especially exemplifies his mission, no matter how much his critics may disagree with these methods. Hearing that the Barnes Foundation will be moved to Philly and made into a public museum therefore deeply saddens me, because Barnes had great, thoughtful intentions- I feel like the unique, raw experiences that one would have with the works of art in the foundation will now be lost if its format is to be altered- the beauty of the raw experience will be changed.

I love Dewey
Name: Catherine
Date: 2005-01-31 16:30:04
Link to this Comment: 12393

Ok, I really appreciate Dewey's intellectual quality but struggle in making connections sometimes. So, please bear with me as I try to piece things together here...
First of all, yes I found the Barnes experience to be enjoyable. It was definitely different from the experiences I have had at other art galleries/museums. I agree with Barnes that we miss the whole point of a painting if we automatically assume it is a visual reproduction of a specific subject, or telling a certain story. The concept of arranging the paintings on the walls next to eachother so their content some how complements eachother is interesting although, as other people from class noted as well, it was very distracting. Dewey writes about recognition and perception. He defines recognition as making conscious connections from past knowledge to the present in effort to understand things. Dewey goes on to describe the idea of perception as expanding upon recognition. Perception requires the experiencer to "take in" and interact with the subject, as well as use past knowledge to "create his own experience". The way Barnes set up his gallery allows the observer to perceive. Instead of setting up plaques with the artist's name, short biography, and history of the painting, which gives the observer to recognize the painting and artist and a confirmation that what they had read the painting was about in a book, he provides the observer with the tools necessary to form an experience out of interacting with a painting. He encourages the viewers to examine a painting, use the works of art around it to supplement the content from the main painting, and put these things together, with prior knowledge to come up with his own feelings, form an opinion and thereby develop a perception and create an experience out of his interaction with a painting.
Hand in hand with Dewey's idea of perception is his idea of esthetic vs. artistic. These two ideas are very similar. The difference comes in the manner in which they are produced. Artistic and esthetic are both designed for "receptive perception" but artistic refers to the production of something and esthetic involves the person interaction with the artist's product. The Barnes gallery allows the artist and observer to interact with eachother through this esthetic quality. The artistic quality is formed through the production of the piece of art, whereby the artist creates the art to convey an idea, he/she provides a way of perceiving the world or an idea, and the esthetic quality overlaps with the artistic quality while the artist is trying to create a certain perception. It continues on when the observer experiences the painting and is possibly able to go through a similar thought process as the artist that made the painting, and to an extent have a similar perception to the artist. It is interesting how Dewey and Barnes compliment eachother in their philosophies.

Beauty at the Barnes
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-01-31 16:45:05
Link to this Comment: 12394

I would like to begin my responding to Professor Dalke’s question regarding beauty for the deaf, blind, or sense-deficient. Because there is a general consensus that beauty is derived from the experience or connection with the piece, the deaf and the blind most definitely experience beauty. When a person lacks one sense, his or her other senses tend to be above average. Therefore, although they are limited to the ways they can experience beauty, I believe that their experiences with beauty are heightened because of their heightened senses. Also, Barnes said that “Every art inevitably loses some of the values of the real world, because stone, paint, sound, or words can each represent or indicate only a portion of our concrete experience.” This goes to show that most of the time experiencing beauty is limited onto certain senses anyways. So, in a way, those with all of their senses are limited as well.

I personally think Dewey is way to abstract and general. He seems never to get to the point and just elaborates excessively on meaningless tangents. In particular, the chapter about having an experience was, to me, way too metaphoric and general. His language seemed to contradict itself and hinder the readers understanding of his argument. An example is when he stated that “Experience is emotional but there are no separate things called emotions in it.” I had to keep reminding myself what his point was.

I felt so ignorant entering the Barnes. I had limited knowledge of the “museum” itself, but was more apprehensive because I had never been to a museum and can probably count the number of artists I am familiar with on one hand. Although I was intrigued and stimulated by a number of pieces, I found myself wanting to know more about the artist or the piece. This need for some background information made me think of Elkin. I thought maybe his desire to experience a fresh piece without being influenced by previous research may have been caused by his need for a change. I, on the other hand, had no experience with art history and wanted to research the information. I found myself copying names of paintings and artists that interested me so that I could look them up later. (By the end of the tour, I had three pages of names.) The secretary of the English department approached me several times and was trying to help me determine how the artist created a certain effect by examining the forms, brush strokes, etc. It was stimulating. After reading Barnes’ theories, I totally agree. I feel that one must fully examine a piece in order to completely absorb its aesthetics, but the piece must also have “‘decoration,’ the immediate agreeableness of certain sensations and arrangements of sensations,” to incite that desire to take a closer look.

P.S I agree with Marrissa about the security man reprimanding us for stepping over the lines. At times, I was just drawn into a piece (i.e. having a beautiful experience) that I didn’t realize I had crossed the line, and the man would interrupt and ruin my moment by telling me to back up.

Back to the Barnes
Name: Lauren Swe
Date: 2005-01-31 16:47:35
Link to this Comment: 12395

I really enjoyed reading the comments of people for whom this was their first trip to the Barnes. It sort of put me back in my place. I have lived in the Philadelphia area my whole life and in highschool, my AP English teacher worked part-time as a dosant at the Barnes, so she arranged for us to go on field trips there ALL THE TIME. I literally think that I went there six times within my four years of highschool. It got to be a running joke at our school and I really think that it's a shame that I've become jaded about the place. I know that when I first went there as freshman I was completely in awe of the sheer value of all of those original paintings. To think that Dr. Barnes had enough money to privately fund the collection and the building of the gallery was absolutely amazing to me. As was the idea of commissioning Henri Matisse to create those paintings to fit perfectly into the vaulted ceilings of the main gallery. Who has that kind of money? And who chooses to spend that kind of money on art? My dad (a painter) would kill to know someone like that.

By my senior year, my classmates and I had had about all we could take of the Barnes Foundation and every time I saw a Renoir I just wanted to vomit, which I don't think is really fair. After a year of being away from the Barnes, this trip was more nostalgic than anything else. I felt that I really had a chance to try NOT to look at all of the Renoirs and instead discovered that I kept being attracted to Glackens's work, an artist I wouldn't have recognized before this past Saturday. I also wrote a paper on the Barnes Foundation for a history class last semester and kept thinking about all I had learned about the years of controversy that surrounded the place. I believe that the Barnes belongs in Merion and am upset that it is moving, but all of these factors were floating around in my subconcious and I really felt like I couldn't enjoy the art. I mean, I know that its beautiful, I just can't make myself learn anything from it by looking at it for a sustained period of time. I think I need a dosant; I want to learn about the art, but I want to know the stories behind it, I want someone to point out the flaws in the work and to tell me why something does or doesn't work visually. I can't be trusted to enjoy art on my own.

First Barnes Trip
Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-01-31 16:48:55
Link to this Comment: 12396

Seeing the Barnes was incredible, if only for the fact that by the end of our two hours there, I could recognize works from different artists. (Pastel, soft women are all Renoir, realistic fruit and slightly choppy landscapes are often Cezanne. And that about sums up my art history knowledge. But there were so many others, and so many patterns in the way they painted; this one made his eyes just so, this one made his noses like that. Given my very limited background knowledge, I think I had a pretty ideal art experience from Percy’s standpoint, except from my previous knowledge of the foundation and the power of the words “French Impressionism.” I had not read the pieces by Barnes before going, but a friend had told me about the foundation and its art last year.

The Renoirs were all very beautiful, and I liked the way they were spaced between rooms. There was one room that was filled with them, without any harsh early German church iconography to break the peach cheeks and soft smiling women, and it was overwhelming. I think I’d need several more trips to appreciate the reasoning of having certain paintings next to each other. But each room, while it didn’t have an overt theme, seemed to be meant to be put together in that way. I wonder if Barnes’s extreme, almost distracting dedication to symmetry plays a more substantial role in the way he organized things; does every single room have a unifying style or painting influence, or were some put together simply because he had things that had to fit somewhere? That’s not very clearly put, but I don’t know how else to say it. I was surprised to see people with guided listening tours, after hearing them equated with intellectual land creative death in class. Free of these, I made my own opinion on art; I realised that I don’t care for Modigliani. After I “learn to see” from scholars like Barnes and Dewey, and I learn about whatever Modigliani was trying to convey, will I think they’re beautiful?

There was a certain painting, Woman by the Well, by Pippin, that I loved. Really, really loved. The tow people in the foreground reminded me of children’s illustrated bible pictures because of their clothing, and the simplicity of their faces. But the sky...Oh god, the almost hot pink sky. And the dark foliage that I could see leaves and details in only if I turned a certain way. It was so gorgeous. And in the last ten minutes of the trip, my friend went down to the gift shop. We debated what was greater sacrilege, the wastebaskets with the Masterpieces with a capital M on the sides, or the stuffed Degas ballerina dolls. (We decided on the trash cans, because Degas’s dancers are so iconic and overblown already.) Anyhow, my point: I found the Pippin painting on a postcard, and...I didn’t feel like crying then, but looking back I almost do. At the time I only felt extreme disgust and hatred. The great expansive canvas was shrunk to a ridiculous size. That’s typical enough for an art museum gift shop. But the colors were muted, perverted. My sky was greyish and dull, and the plants couldn’t even be made out. I always liked gift shops before.

I want to go back, and see the Pippin again, so that I can forget the whoring of things that inspire me.

barnes response
Name: eugenia (e
Date: 2005-01-31 16:49:34
Link to this Comment: 12397

i dont know about the rest of you, but for me, art is foreign territory. i know absolutely nothing about art. i have nothing against museums, really. but when im asked to think of art in terms of beauty, i dont know where to start.

i read barnes ahead of time, and the one thing that stood out for me was where he said "[it] does not imply that art is photographic, a mere registration of fact, or a reality that can be recognized by the untrained observer". when i first saw some of the nude paintings, i wondered "how do cankles, or disproportioned bodies symbolize beauty?" of course, at this time i was only thinking of art as a primitive method of photography, but then i realized the expressions within the brush strokes and the painting through the eyes of the artist- the artist painted what he considered beautiful.

i cant exactly say i thought every artwork was beautiful (to me): from what i saw, the artworks at the barnes could be categorized into two sections- realism and what appeared to be expressionism. most of the works categorized under realism had religious connotations to them. i particularly found "annunciation" by peter paul rubens beautiful. with 39 lifelike figures in the painting, i kept on thinking of how long it took rubens to paint it all. all of the figures were proportional and beautiful- everyone had symmetrical eyes and 5 digits on their hands and feet; nothing was blurred (unlike some of the other works). it scared me for a moment when i realized the motivation and dedication behind this work was all religion. religion must have played an immense role in the lives of everyone prior to the renaissance to drive an artist to put that much love and hardwork into a single painting.

i also noticed how some artworks seemed like they could be mass produced- their colorings were similar to those seen in a coloring book, not much depth in it. but then again, there were also paintings by chirico and van gogh- works that could never be copied no matter how hard one tried. there are just some things, the imagination or the strong/firm brush strokes that cannot be imitated in any way.

i can relate my experience at the barnes back to the "having an experience" chapter. our experience (or at least mine) is composed into an experience because of all the "extraneous interuptions" of thought, gut feelings, and my blindness in regards to art. it was all a very new experience to me and i must say i enjoyed looking at beauty from a different point of view- it wasnt everything i found beautiful, but it was beautiful to someone else and it made me think outside of my bubble during our time at the barnes.

Barnes #1
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-01-31 16:52:37
Link to this Comment: 12398

I found myself completely captivated by the combination of art pieces in each room at the Barnes. Placing intricate, ancient ironwork next to oil paintings put both objects in a completely new, fascinating physical context. It made all the Cezanne’s and Renoir’s that I had seen reproduced in books so many times before, look new, but not just new, more beautiful and exciting. The collection is displayed in the very elite, traditional surroundings of a large mansion in a wealthy Main Line suburb, with amenities like coat rooms and gatekeepers. However, once inside the building, everything is so unexpected and not elite at all. For me, the actual building could be anywhere. That’s not important. What’s important is seeing (yes I really think I was seeing in Barnes’ sense of the word) a Monet hung above a particularly ornate chest of drawers. Or just seeing so many paintings together. The arrangement of the art pieces themselves is art. I saw so many connections in the Barnes that I would never see if all the paintings were behind glass, with scholarly blerbs neatly printed beside them.

It seems too late to bring back Barnes’ idea of a school. If it existed, I would certainly attend, but without him, it would be tough to reclaim his vision. But the idea of rearranging that collection from the building he intended for it, which literally has art painted on its walls, is sick. Glanton’s mismanagement aside, the horror story of the Johnson collection Kimball relates alone is to upsetting. The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes are two separate things. I love them both, but I don’t think that just because they are different, one has to envelope the other. The Barnes is accessible to anyone who has the motivation to call, make reservations and take a train.

Exposure and Beauty
Name: kat mccorm
Date: 2005-01-31 23:40:40
Link to this Comment: 12408

My thoughts on attending the Barnes Musem were largely occupied by the collection of female nudes- I had been thinking a lot about exposure anyway, because of the pay-per-article-of-clothing (aka Naked) party that I had helped to bounce the night before. The thing that really set me off was that no one had come to the naked party- out of a campus wide invitation, the party, at it's height, had perhaps thirty people. So, i wondered, is naked too little to ask? Or, more generally, what do people fear about exposure? And why do they also find it beautiful?

The only place where I've ever been or even heard of where a bunch of women hang out together naked is at Bryn Mawr in a certain fountain we all know. Yet this was the subject of so many paintings at the Barnes Museum- and while I thought this was beautiful, particularly because of that exposure and the skinnydipping associations I have with it, I also began to ponder the unreality of it all. Not only is it generally not done, it also illegal- And yet we find those Rembrandts to be a reflection of humanity and a cultural icon. I think something in us must crave exposure of self and other, as a basic part of human connection. Yet we also seem to fear it, or think that its wrong- why is that?

exposing what's inside
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-01 12:58:59
Link to this Comment: 12418

I'm very interested in this question, too, Kat--though less about the exposure of flesh than the exposure of what's inside it. I see this so much w/ the web-posting requirements in my classes: students' fear of being out there, vs. your desire to be; not wanting to call attention to yourself, vs. wanting to be distinctive--yet hoping to be able to control the sorts of attention you attract from others. I wrote about some of this on the Education and Technology page on Serendip; there was also some good discussion around how these issues play out in the classroom @ the recent diversity conversation on Making Nice @ a Woman's College. And certainly there's much more for us to experience together and think about in that regard. (I'm remembering Arielle's posting about privacy invasion: I want to keep what I find beautiful to myself rather than share with ...the worldwide web.) I'd be interested in knowing, as we go along, how it feels to you all to be "thinking out loud" in the way we have been over the past two weeks...

Speaking of (and the rest of the world) can now find your first set of papers on-line. Enjoy!

And while we're all thinking together...

here's the announcement for the talk this Thursday afternoon which sounds as if it's covering just the territory we were traversing this morning:

Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore Psychology Departments,
The Haverford Distinguished Visitors Fund, and
The Center for Ethnicities, Communities and Social Policy

The Frank Murphy Distinguished University Professor of
Law and Psychology, University of Michigan Law School

Thursday, February 3, 2005 @ 4:30 p.m.
Haverford College, Sharpless Auditorium

Barnes Foundation Visit 1/29
Name: Kathryn Mc
Date: 2005-02-01 17:26:51
Link to this Comment: 12422

I enjoyed the trip to the Barnes Institute. Many of the paintings, particularly the older, medieval ones, were quite fascinating to behold (which probably sets me apart from the majority of the class, who likely preferred the countless Renoir projects and the like). However, I cannot say that I was moved in the way that Barnes/Dewey would have expected me to be. For one thing, I have very little experience with classical painting. But I also feel that maybe Barnes and Dewey were looking too much into these paintings by focusing so much on their form and esoteric qualities; being the neophyte that I am, I could not shake the belief that, despite how pretty many of the paintings were, they were just paintings. Also, while exploring the exhibit in its entirety, I could not escape the small yet nagging idea that I was somehow being told (possibly by Barnes himself) which paintings I was supposed to like. Maybe I'm the only one, but I personally hated most of the Renoir paintings. I did like his use of bright, cheery colors; but most of his paintings appeared to me to be of obese, ugly, freakish nude women, and I was actually a little bit scared of them (they looked monster-like in my eyes). On the other hand, I loved the Bosch painting (which certainly contained its share of disturbing images) and some of the very creepy medieval paintings because they were most likely intended to be disturbing. My favorite painting of all, however, was the very small, probably ignored by most, Glackens piece full of bright colors and Hindu characters (entitled "Orient" something or other). I got the feeling that, by enjoying these paintings most, I was not conforming to Barnes' ideas of what his visitors should enjoy.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-02 07:53:34
Link to this Comment: 12431

As usual, the thinking I'm doing in one place bleeds over into another (yes, I have trouble w/ boundaries!): I brought to you all yesterday what I'd picked up in the Emergence Working Group last week; and last night I took to the Graduate Idea Forum what I learned from talking w/ you: thanks!

"aesthetic response lags behind"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-02 22:22:36
Link to this Comment: 12453

There was an article in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education which reminded me of Elkins' and Barnes' critical dismissal of academic understanding; I share it tonight to "inspire" you in your selection of "beautiful texts" (reminder: 3 suggestions due in class tomorrow). The article described "The Grand Dame of Poetry Criticism," Helen Vendler, of whom it was said,

"she appears unwilling to step out of the habits of mind that work so well in scholarly endeavors...the scholarly impulse to analyse and historicize often comes first for Ms. Vendlar, while aesthetic response lags behind....she has a bias in favor of poetry...reflecting upon a situation....Much contemporary poetry rejects that model of the 'well-made verse,' however...I don't think she is able to read with enthusiasm or understanding poetry that doesn't resolve itself on the level of the sentence....The inability to value the collage element in poetry--the more adventurous and fragmentary kinds of writing--has a really disastrous effect....She has a much more of moral view of literature than I do, says [Marjoire Perloff]. The literature she likes...she likes because it dramatizes suffering and teaches you certain moral lessons....But the sheer pleasure of the text--the sheer joy in all the different values of literature, fiction or poetry--these are the greatest things. The more you can learn about it, the better."

does "understanding" contribute to or take away fr
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-04 16:03:42
Link to this Comment: 12521

So, I was wondering after class on Thursday whether what Sharon told you and showed you (that colors are best understood not as "objects," but as "events") made them more or less beautiful to you?

Chemistry and Beauty
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-02-05 12:36:24
Link to this Comment: 12527

After class on Thursday and Sharon's discussion about color mixing, I was excited to find out HOW my mind perceives blue and yellow to make green, but on the screen it turned white! After all the scientific discussion about light and rods and cones, I started to grasp and it. But I did not doubt my vision. If I see white, then it is white. I leave it at that. My mind likes simplicity. Reading Ronald Hoffman's article, he states that we make up a story when there is a lack of simplicity. This is true, after Sharon's discussion I was slightly confused and found it hard to grasp HOW my EYES see certain color and not others, so I substituted her explanations with my own rendition of how this is possible- i.e. a story!
I found one point in Hoffmans article poignant- to make curious things like science interesting we have to make up a story about it. Chemists and other scientist NEED imagination and stories to keep their brains alive to search for answers.
In the earlier Hoffman article, he describes what drawing and writing chemistry is, and the descriptions were BEAUTIFUL= "the soultion of indigo...dull earths smelted into crust forming on mercury.." Even though I did not quite understand the chemical part of this, I found this description beautiful because of the words and colors being used. Relating this back to Anne's comment about colors being an "event" rather than object, I see Hoffmans descriptions as an event and I found it more beautiful than being objects. I relate objects to boring things like pencil, clock, phone but events are "the sharpening of a pencil, the tick tock of a clock, the reverberation of a phone". These sound more physically appeasing.

Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-02-05 16:12:41
Link to this Comment: 12531

What I found to be beautiful about both Sharon's presentation and the hoffman articles was the complexity and simplicity of science. In particular, during Sharon's presentation I was just wowed by the idea of all these complexities exisiting within ourselves that I am so unaware of, that i take for granted yet rely on so. I was really impressed by Hoffman's ideas about the power of stories and how " a world without stories is fundamentally inhuman." What struck me about this was a- this is a scientist writing that and b- the fact that he said elsewhere in his article, that as humans we need to make sense of the world, and find the beautiful in the world. He writes " Beauty is created out of the labor of human hands and minds" At first this rubbed me the wrong way, since I see so much beauty in the things of nature that which humans have no impact on. But, I came to understand him to mean that we create our idea of beauty within our minds. So no matter that magenta isn't "real". What matters is that we do see it, and many of us do find it beautiful. The whole reality is what you make it to be philosphy.

Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-02-05 17:26:45
Link to this Comment: 12535

I knew most of the biology behind how we see color and that color works differenly with light than wityh pigment mixing and what is commonly learned is pigment mixing. I did however find it exceptionally interesting to see that idea of the color of light mixing in the eye at a distance. I think I appreciated the effort that went into each work more after that. I mean did the artist have to step back after every stroke and ask how it looked or could he/she just see it for what it would be at a distance. I don't know if that really makes it more beautiful to me, but I do know that some part of me respects the artist more. It is a very different style from that which came before and I begin to wonder who the first person who thought to try that style was. He was an artistic genius to see the relationship and the power it has to make the colors pop. I have always appreciated the fact that Monets are just splotches of paint up close but at a distance they are almost real. I just never knew why that was. Now I do and am happy for it. II think that it is also wonderful to see scientific concepts applied in another field and in such an abstract manner. When we see science in literature, poetry or art it is so often used as blatant science (such as science fiction literature, that chemistry poem we read in class, etc.). Her science is used and most people wouldn't even realize, to me that's magical.

Beauty and science
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-02-05 17:49:32
Link to this Comment: 12536

I think the assignment of this article following Dr. B's presentation was well-timed. It explained why her presentation was so effective: it told a story. Even the humanitarians in the classroom enjoyed it, I think.
Hoffmann's primary argument, that story-telling beautifies science, suprised me, especially since this idea comes from a scientist's mouth. I am not completely convinced this is true. Hoffmann makes the conclusion that "beauty...gains in strength when it is shared with others." My personal experience has been sometimes contrary to this. Some things are beautiful because they are your secret. Some experiences of beauty are shattered by company, as I experienced at the Barnes. Also, as a chemistry major I have found pleasure in science without knowing the background to everything. I've found an aesthetic quality to the complexity of reaction mechanisms and to the application of math to science. I don't know who developed these math equations or these mechanisms, but they are beautiful without the story.
It was interesting to hear the reverberations of Dewey in Hoffmann. Both say beauty is the result of the resolution of tension or chaos.

What class am I reading for again?
Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-02-05 19:00:44
Link to this Comment: 12538

This is the Beauty/Chemistry forum and not the Stories/Evolution forum, right? :)

Anyway, fascinating readings, especially the second Hoffman. What interested me the most was this quote:
"Simplicity, symmetry, and order ride a straight ray into our souls... perhaps we have evolved a psychobiological predilection for the qualities of the world that rationalize our existence as locally contraentropic creatures that build molecules and poems."

First, I'm not so sure I agree with the assertion that for humans, beauty often equals simplicity, but I'll leave that alone for now. What interests me more is this idea that humans consider order/simplicity beautiful because we, as creatures, refute the second law of thermodynamics. It's *fascinating.* In my other CSEM (Stories/Evolution), we just finished a discussion about the second law of thermodynamics---the idea that everything in the universe inherently moves towards disorder... except life! Life is an unlikely process of order out of disorder. So when we find "order/simplicity" inherently beautiful, we're basically finding the entire process of life itself beautiful. We admire in miniature which we (maybe) lack the capacity to fully appreciate on a cosmic scale. Cool... if it's true. :)

Which leads me to another question: can beauty be "random"? Or must it be ordered, purposeful in some sense? I'm thinking specifically of poetry/literature here. Are words themselves, alone, beautiful, or do they require structure to be so? And does this structure necessarily have to make sense in human terms? Does it even have to be created by humans?

I ask this because last semester I took a course where one of the other students introduced us all to a site that generates random poetry via "evolution." You vote on a "poem" (random collection of words), and the poems that get the most votes survive and breed, randomly, with other survivors, to create new poetry. Which then gets voted on. It's pretty cool, and it's fascinating how some of the poems that come out of it *are* beautiful. Here's the link:

...I might post that link for the Evo/Stories course too...

Presentation of Color
Name: Marissa Pa
Date: 2005-02-06 12:51:09
Link to this Comment: 12551

I was really impressed by the presentation on Thursday. I do feel like it made the colors more beautiful, but not perhaps in the way that the question was posed at the beginning of the postings. I did not see it as an explaination or understanding of the color itself, but rather a description of how the brain and the eyes work to percieve color. As I wrote in my paper, it is the processes of our internal organs, especially the brain, that I find especially beautiful, so to understand how my eye takes blue and yellow and can make both white and green, depending, was incredibly interesting.
I also really liked learning about how different colors in a painting can be obvious up close, but then from far away, the blue, purple, orange, and green can combine to form a luminous skin color.
I was slightly perplexed at times by the reading. I understood how the author was saying that science could be beautiful when it was a story, but I did not fully grasp his examples and how they related to stories. Perhaps it is something I need to look into further or that was explained somewhere else.
I enjoyed his descriptions of what a story contains- temporality, causation, and human interest. I didnt think of stories especially in a scientific way, but this really made me understand that scientific processes can be stories and be beautiful in the same way that a fiction story can be.

Name: eebs
Date: 2005-02-06 15:02:41
Link to this Comment: 12561

ive never associated chemistry with beauty- like Hoffmann, i firmly believed that "beauty is built out of individual pleasure around an object or idea. it may be personal, but it gains in strength when it is shared with others". i suppose chemistry could be "shared" in the same manner by explaining to someone else how the structure of hemoglobin comes to be... but this kind of sharing usually isnt very personal, not like story telling or an artwork would be. but like john polanyi states, "the eye searches for a beginning, a middle and an end" which makes science similar to story telling. but it occured to me that stories/art(diagrams) are easier to remember; which is probably why we tend to use mnemonics "LEO says GER" to remember the inner workings of a redox reaction. after thinking about this, i got the impression that humans are bound to use their imaginations to create stories/art, some more practical than beautiful. like amy said above, there is a power to stories that people need to depend on to 'make sense of the world'.

once again, we come back to the idea of understanding something to make it (more) beautiful. the "deeper story" is more "delightful" according to hoffmann. i couldnt agree with him more; after dr. b's presentation on colors, i understood (sort of) how the stage lights worked with minimal use of colored lights :)

Our Perception of Color...Revealed!!
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-02-06 15:37:21
Link to this Comment: 12562

I enjoyed Dr. B's color presentation very much on Thursday...and even though I have watched another color presentation given by Dr. B for my inorganic chemistry class previously, it made me no less interested or excited about this one. The presentation refreshed my memory on some of the mysteries that I had already learned about color; however, it also taught me some new pieces of information (such as the fact that many insects can see UV light).

Having the mysteries of color revealed to me, learning what it is that we really "see" (or don't), has only made me appreciate color even more. Knowing more about color has made the colors that I see in my daily life even more beautiful to me. It intrigues me to think that the colors I see are my brain's interpretation of the world around me. For example, I look at a magenta colored sweater hanging in my closet. With one quick glance at the sweater's surface, I say to myself that the color of the sweater is magenta -- it is as simple as that...or so it deceptively seems...and then with a more scrutinizing look at the threads of the sweater, and armed with my color science knowledge, I say to myself that I am in reality looking at an intricate combination of red and blue -- the magenta is only in my brain. Not so simple now, is it?

The reality of color is actually quite complicated, not nearly as simple as they made it in grammar school. Back then, we were taught our reds and greens and yellows, and how to make an orange tiger, and that red, blue and yellow were the primary colors. Now, we learn that many of the colors that we "see" aren't really what we "see", and red, blue, and GREEN are the primary colors. This all relates to what Hoffmann was discussing in his essays about the failure of simplicity. Simplicity has failed us in terms of explaining color; however, this should make an object no less beautiful...Hoffmann mentions that beauty is found when simplicity contends with complexity, and vice-versa. I believe his statement to be true.

Another thing I liked about the color presentation: it made the complicated science of color a more easily digested and approachable topic to its diverse audience. Although there is a lot of chemistry, physics, and biology going on within the science of color, as well as psychology, not everyone in the audience studies those disciplines. The creative format of the presentation allowed everyone, no matter what their major, to enjoy the beauty and "reality" surrounding color.

Theory versus Emotion
Name: Nancy
Date: 2005-02-06 21:16:58
Link to this Comment: 12581

I had a difficult time in class last Tuesday. I was surprised by the content of the presentations by both Anne and Professor Burgmayer. The 'lectures' were very emotion-laden and surprisingly personal. My immediate reaction was to withdraw myself from the discussion and to question if/why what we were doing was useful. I realized I didn't want personal experience, I didn't want a recount of who thought what was beautiful. I wanted something substantial, something of academic credence that I could absorb and attempt to apply once I left the room. I want theory. But why?

I think academia insists upon the theoretical. A big part of why I college seminars work for first semester freshmen is because they quash the tendency to be anecdotal. It's as if we learn a new way of thinking where the impersonal is valorized. I know I've bought into it. I know I am desensitized to some things because I mentally screen everything I hear in class through the catalogue of what I've read trying to make connections that can be backed up by some author whose voice is more academically valid than my own.

My theory of beauty
Name: nancy
Date: 2005-02-06 21:28:12
Link to this Comment: 12582

At the Barnes, I was trying to find some rhyme or reason to what I found myself most drawn to. Why was it that I breezed through rooms upon rooms of Renoir, but lingered at one of the small and few Picasso's? Why was I not more open to looking at pieces by less familiar artists?

Recently, I learned something about information theory. The basic premise relies on the use of a spectrum. At one end, there is randomness at the other end redundency and in the middle where the two balance out there is information. In more concrete terms, if you hear "cat ball red standing olympics" (lots of randomness) it is meaningless. Concurrently, if you hear "red red red red red red" (repetition ad infinitum) it is also meaningless. But if you take a semi-random mix of words that are familiar, like "the cat with the red ball went to the olympics" it might not make sense logistically, but the pattern is recognizable and information is being passed along.

Long story short, at the Barnes I became tired of the Renoirs (redundent and not beautiful) irritated with that woman with the long nose who kept popping up everywhere (she went from unfamiliar to too familiar), I blocked out the completely foreign pieces and decided the works that were the most beautiful were those I had some prior knowledge of but were not being shoved at my face every time I turned around. So there's a bit of me theorizing my museum-going experience.

No more Renoir please
Name: Malorie
Date: 2005-02-07 00:30:05
Link to this Comment: 12588

What Nancy posted really rang true with me. I was sick last weekend and was unable to go to the Barnes with you all. I went on Friday with Jaya. One thing we were worried about was that having herd Prof Dalke and Dr B. talking we would be influenced by what they thought was beautiful. I did not find that I was forced to find the same things beautiful because of them- but we did take special note of them. I'd say to Jaya, "hey that’s the Renoir that Dr. B liked. I do see how the colors mix". I felt hearing their opinions did not "ruin" my experience. If anything it caused me to pay more attention to things I'd normally not look at to long.

But the strongest emotion I took from the Barnes is hate for Renoir. I neither loved nor hated him going in. And even now, I do like and think some of his pictures are beautiful, I was just so tired of seeing the same type of picture over and over and over and over again. I agree with Nancy- I was much more interested in the scattered Picasso, Van Gogh and painters I'd never herd of or seen than the endless stream of Renoir. To much repetition is mind numbing. As beautiful as the colors of skin are, I was so tired of seeing naked women bathing. It is interesting to me that the amount of Renoir for me is sickening and spectacular for Dr. B.

Date: 2005-02-07 11:41:41
Link to this Comment: 12594

My dad used to tell me that there was a difference between mixing colors as pigments rather than as lights, but I never really believed him until class on Thursday. It's amazing that all the lights together make white whereas (theoretically) if you were to mix all the paints in a box you would come up with black. It is also interesting that people say that white is not really a color, but the "abscence of color" when we just learned that the exact opposite is true.

I think that Sharon's description of color as an "event" is a lovely way of describing the true nature of their existence. Her demonstration proved to me that the perception of color is more of an optical illusion than anything else. This knowledge creates an interesting addendum to a question that I have always had about how people see color. How do we know that we are all seeing the same thing? What if the color that I see as blue is what someone else sees as orange? How can we know that our perceptions are in agreement without getting inside someone else's head? What if no one sees colors the same way as anyone else? What if we could see through someone else's eyes exactly as they see and realized that the view the world in the negative or in color opposites and the only reason colors look normal to us is because we have been seeing the world the same way our whole lives?

These questions, along with questions about the perception/creation/existence of time and other scientific mysteries of the universe are the kind of thing that drive me crazy and keep me up at night. I think that's a good thing (to some degree,) but that's also why I can never be a scientist. If I were studying these things all day, every day, I might never sleep again.

Name: Lauren Swe
Date: 2005-02-07 11:43:03
Link to this Comment: 12595

That last comment was mine, (Lauren) I just got a little excited and posted before identifying myself.

Simplicity in Beauty
Name: Muska
Date: 2005-02-07 12:35:17
Link to this Comment: 12598

"Beauty is created out of the labor of human hands and minds."

When I read that quote by Roald Hoffmann I immediately thought of the difference between the beauty which we perceive as a product of labor, and the beauty we perceive without the implication of labor. A few weeks ago when we were discussing our responses to the online survey I expressed my inability to find the statue of David beautiful. My reason for not finding beauty in the statue was because I recognized that although it was visually pleasing, it was only pleasing because the artist had spent so much time meticulously sculpting and defining each tiny detail. Although I appreciate the amount of intellect, talent and effort which must have gone into the creation of the David, I tend to find things more beautiful if they appear spontaneously in nature, without being strenuously worked on or cotemplated. Michelangelo once said, "If people knew how hard I have had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful."

In fact, I think that things appear more beautiful if there is no evidence of effort in the creation of the art at all. For example, if you are watching a movie and you are constantly reminded, either by the low-quality special effects or horrendous acting, that the movie is in fact a fiction, then the film is no longer interesting. It is only when we escape into the movie and forget that there are props, directors, screenwriters, actors, etc that we are left stunned by the beauty of the film. I think there is a certain kind of fascination associated with beauty which appears effortless. The word "appears" is important because it doesn't imply that beauty requires no effort, it's just that the effort must not be recognizable.

This implies that there is a certain level of dishonesty in beauty, since it must constantly display an aura of simplicity and ease. The obsession with the effortless appeal of beauty becomes dangerous, especially in terms of modern ideals of physical beauty. The models in magazines appear smiling and content, therefore the young girls who flip through the pages are unaware of the possible pain, starvation and even multiple amounts of plastic surgery that went into the creation of the happy, smiling image on the page.

This past summer I read a book by Colette Dowling that expresses the appeal of effortless beauty the best. The author is describing her experience watching a ballet dancer on stage. Dowling states the following:

"There my eyes would widen as I beheld a young dancer pursuing excellence, pushing her body up against the fierce, triumphant music of Stravinsky. Somehow I preferred to think of the dancer as magical. I could not reconcile the glory of her performance with the sweat dripping from her body or the contortions of her face when, during a pause in the dance, her back to the audience, I saw her gasp for air as recklessly and as hideously as some old flatfish cast up on the sand. Grounded, she seemed; vulnerable, exhausted by the effort of having fully extended herself. I did not want to see the connection between the magnificence of her art and the torturously hard work she had to do in order to accomplish it."

Date: 2005-02-07 13:52:31
Link to this Comment: 12604

“no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars. “
-Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Reading over the articles for this week and during presentation, I could not stop thinking about this line. When I read this quote, I was in a creative arts high school, in my second year in the creative writing program. I was so incredibly struck by the truth of this line. That was how I felt when I was trying to compose a strophe or fine tune a short story. I felt I had something in my head, but couldn't express it the way I wanted to. Once at Bryn Mawr and majoring in Physics, I felt the same way. Even if sometimes I thought I understood a theory, I would have difficulty applying it, or in lab, have more trouble expressing what I thought I learned. Both of the articles this week followed similar themes. What surprises me is how universal the struggle to express oneself is across all disciplines.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. B's presentation. But knowing more about light and color doesn't really alter my perception or thoughts on beauty. Appreciating a beautiful painting and appreciating the process that makes it beautiful are two wholly different experiences for me. And although I find it interesting to relate the two, they don't get in the way of each other.

Flaubert and Chemistry
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-02-07 13:53:40
Link to this Comment: 12605

that was me. sorry about that.

Understanding Beauty
Name: Kara Rosan
Date: 2005-02-07 14:28:24
Link to this Comment: 12606

I definitely am someone who is always looking for answers. I am always asking "why" and "how" things are, so for me, understanding is something that always enhances my appreciation of things. I enjoyed the class on Thursday because now when I look at something, I don't just say to myself, "That object is yellow;" I say to myself "While that looks yellow, there's a lot mre to what I'm seeing than that." The added complexity makes the object more interesting to me, and thus makes the experience a fresher one.
I strongly agreed with the opinions offered by Hoffman about aesthetics. He says that, "Beauty is built out of individual pleasure around an object or idea." In order for a person to experience the beauty of something, she must have some sort of connection with it. There must be something about the object that intrigues her and engages her. For that reason, when I looked at a simple color before Thursday's lecture, I could not appreciate its beauty. However, when I had some sort of connection with the color, having learned more about why I saw it the way I did and what it actually consisted of, I was then able to find it beautiful. For this reason, I think that understanding definitely promotes experiences of beauty because they give us reason to look closer at things, and to feel attached to them because we know something about them.
I think that was Hoffman's whole idea about science. It would be harder to find a non-scientist who found molecular structures beautiful than a scientist. The scientist has a stronger understanding of what the structure represents and how difficult it was to determine the structure, and so they have a preater appreciation for it. Similarly, I think a work of art seems more beautiful to an artist than a non-artist, because the knowledge of what went into creating the work enhances the experience of looking at it. When we understand things, we feel connected to them and appreciate them, making them seem more beautiful to us.

Post on Hoffman's Reading
Name: Rebecca Do
Date: 2005-02-07 14:34:45
Link to this Comment: 12607

I am kinda bummed that I was sick on Thursday and missed Dr. B's presentation on color.
However, I found the articles by Hoffman very interesting especially the narrative one. I am a science person and I have always found that the easiest way to learn and remember something is to put it into context which is essentially what stories do. They take a fact and tell the before and after and the why. For whatever reason this additional information if all put into context is actually simpler then just a straight fact.
Having read the posts and having some prior knowledge about light and colors I feel as though Dr. B's presentation is a wonderful way of illustrating Hoffman's article.

Science is More Beautiful
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-02-07 14:43:17
Link to this Comment: 12608

I do not find much beauty in the physical concepts (mathematical equations, models, etc) of science, but rather in the purpose of it. Science is beautiful because drawing connections and enlightenment is beautiful. It’s an awaking, and the more I understand the physical world around me, the closer I can connect with it and the more beautiful it is. Dr. B’s presentation on Thursday helped to re-experience this idea. Understanding how people see colors and the reasons that certain colors existed was truly fascinating to me. I honestly began to notice and appreciate the colors that made up things around me.

Hoffmann stated that “beauty is created out of the labor of human hands and minds.” However, I think it’d be more appropriate to say that beauty initially exists (created by God, Allah, or some other divine being), but human labor and hands are used to interpret and explain the beauty in all of those things in an attempt to recreate it.

In Hoffman’s narrative, he argues that we use narratives or stories, with broken down reasons and facts, in order to explain complicated matters simply. These stories appease the human “craving for simple answers.” I agree that we find pleasure in simplicity because we instinctively simplify matters. It helps us to comprehend ideas and make use of them. Answers lie in the foundation most of the time anyways. Also, I find stories a more interesting and presentable way to explain these complex ideas. It is more likely to prompt reactions in the audience because “continuing the story is the motive force for experimentation and the weaving of theories.”

I find a lot of overlap between studying art as beautiful and studying science as beautiful. Both stimulate the senses towards curiosity and a desire for analysis. However, science explains behaviors and causes, and can be used to predict future situations, while art analysis does not seem practical aside from interpreting the meaning of the specified piece. (I guess artists can learn how to improve their own paintings through analysis, but it still does not render as meaningful as science.) That’s why these articles seemed a lot more stimulating then the previous ones we had read.

Readings and in-class Presentation
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-02-07 14:48:19
Link to this Comment: 12609

I wasn't as impressed with the readings this week as I was with prior weeks' readings. I understood and related to some of the things that Hoffman (?) said about the chemistry being beautiful because of its complexity and simplicity and how scientific discoveries are beautiful in retrospect after long periods of dedicated work. I think this applies to many things outside the scientific sphere as well.

I really enjoyed Sharon's presentation on color. I learned about the way that we 'see' and interpret color last year in my biology class but it did not strike me as much as when I heard the info again during this class. The presentation made me question the way see and interact with our environments. I was also, once again, awed by the magnificent nature of the human body.

One last thing that struck me as interesting was the idea that the narrative of scientific discoveries lend to the beauty of the discovery. That just bare facts lack the beauty and/or intrigue that could hold people's attention.

Name: alice
Date: 2005-02-07 15:38:56
Link to this Comment: 12613

I found Dr. B's light presentation fascinating. I really enjoyed learning about why we see colors the way we do; I never knew the scientific explanation before. After seeing the presentation, it has really made me think about how I see color. I have been telling everyone I can that magenta is not a real color. That still baffles me. I think knowing how my eyes and brain "see" color enhances my experience, or at least makes me think about it more.

As for Hoffman's article, I do think that science is beautiful and part of the reason I think that is because I find it mysterious. I think discovery in science is beautiful because it helps us understand the way things work better. I think his comment that "we glean molecule beauty by taking it apart" is an interesting image. It seems to be the exact opposite of what Dewey and some of the other authore we have read would say. Hoffmann seems to say that having knowledge and breaking it apart makes something more beautiful, while some of the other authors we read would say that knowledge takes away from our capability of having a raw experience. Maybe these two ideas should not be compared because one is about art and one about science, but I think it is an interesting difference in their philosophies.

Color in a New Light
Name: Kat McCorm
Date: 2005-02-07 15:54:03
Link to this Comment: 12617

Applying our discussion of color to the larger context of beauty: many people in the forum were saying that that knowing more about the nature of light and color did not change the way they viewed it: information in this case does not change perception.

I foungd this a nice contrast to our earlier class thoughts on the nature of beauty being so intricately related to interpretation. Perhaps we don't want to be changed by new information, and so we pretend that we aren't. But can we truly not view color in a different light after a presentation that changes our perception of its very nature?

Alan Watts says this better than me
Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-02-07 16:19:52
Link to this Comment: 12619

I had already known about the separation between what exists and what I sense; hooray to spacey philosophy teachers in high school. It’s just a quirky but mundane fact for me. But I enjoyed the technical explanation of why this is so. I think this makes things like color more beautiful for me, because while I still feel just as happy sensing a beautiful color, whether I know that the color exists outside of me or not, and knowing gives the experience an added level of delight in knowing that I am creating it. It makes me more sympathetic to the sentiment that the universe is in me, and I am the world. (This is incredibly narcissistic, unless one qualifies that by saying all people and things are really one, as well.) I'm creating my universe! I’m afraid this is a rather spacey comment, but it’s what the discussion about color makes me think about. Of course science is beautiful; even learning about what we don't know, but the progress we may have made, and all that we can construct is inspiring to me.

By convention there is color

By convention sweetness

By convention bitterness

But in reality there are atoms and space.

---Democritus, about 400 BCE

week four comments
Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-02-07 16:26:32
Link to this Comment: 12621

I liked this week's readings. Hoffman's discussion of the drive to create a narrative was very interesting to me. By creating a narrative, there is something to build from--somewhere left to go. By taking the facts and the fragments of events and turning them into a more cohesive molecule of information actually in the end simplifies it. It is easier to follow the narrative than the fragments scattered around and the narrative also creates passages and openings for continuing the story. Hoffman says that a narrative is constructed to make up for the lack of simplicity. I was struck by the idea of a narrative in the context of science and how the human mind perceives and retreives information.

I also liked, as Cat mentioned, how people were saying that they still "trusted" their eyes even after learning how the eye actually "sees" color. I think that fundementally, even after learning the facts and learning what actually happens, human beings will trust themselves and their own judgement. If we actually remembered the scientific knowledge of how we see color, then we could never actually focus on what else is behind that fact. We would be too distracted. Maybe the mind has some natural mechanisms to forget in order to proceed.

Beauty and Color
Name: Catherine
Date: 2005-02-07 16:27:57
Link to this Comment: 12622

The brilliance color brings to the world has always enhanced my perception of the beauty of everything around me. I consciously realized that I have been taking color for granted. After thinking a bit about Dr B.'s presentation and I found myself torn. I enjoyed learning about how color is formed and found it interesting that color is really based on interaction between electromagnetic radiation and how it is dependant on a being's ability to perceive it.
I found myself searching for Maxwell's Triangle online and staring at it and thinking about it and retracing Dr. B's lecture, why yellow and blue make white... a fact I could not get passed even after looking at the triangle a few times. How? Why? I wanted more information. At the same time, I felt betrayed. Color is something that is there, that should always be there...strong...ever present. Color is, however, simple, and fragile. For some reason, and this may sound bizarre, learning about this color process made me feel like a little kid walking into an adult world. It was like learning that santa claus and the easter bunny dont really exist. This new knowledge did bother me, but I also appreciate more and find scientific processes more beautiful. In our discussion group a couple weeks ago, someone said one of the things they found beautiful was the ability of the human body to perform perfectly most of the time when the systems that function to keep us alive are so detailed and complex.
Dr. B started by showing us colors, she then picked them apart, starting with pictures as metapors and told us the story, (an idea Hoffman likes) of color. She taught along the lines of Hoffmann, "by thinking in almost circular ways, transgressing categories and logical definitions" about the creation of color... as it begins, waves of different energies, how they interact with receptors of light in our eyes to form color, and how we can sometimes see what doesnt really exist in the real world of color, and how there are colors of light human beings cannot see. I prefer the story, all the details of the perfect processes of the chemistry and physics of color to not knowing everything about it and being left with the depressing thought that color doesnt REALLY exist. I have proven Dewey and Barnes correct once again, that beauty is found through experience, and experience often times, requires change, a struggle, perception of something new.

Hoffman, Color Presentation, and The Barnes
Name: Jaya
Date: 2005-02-07 16:30:58
Link to this Comment: 12623

Hoffman's article, although very abstruse (a lot of the scientific jargon went RIGHT past my head) definitely made me see scientists in a whole new light; after reading the article i came to the realization that scientists themselves are storytellers, explaining the phenomena of the world through experimentation. Generally one would think of painters or writers as the 'creative minds' of society, but when it comes down to it scientists are at par with them- as Hoffman says, they "tell the story of scientific discovery," and in order to that it does take a great deal of creativity and imagination, not to mention a load of intelligence... in all honesty, it gives you a new kind of respect to Chemists out there.

As for the color presentation last week- although I was very familiar with the material that Dr. B presented about color (comes with being a science major), I still loved it nonetheless. The eye is truly an extremely powerful instrument.

I also was able to head over to the Barnes foundation last Friday with Malorie- I must agree with her that there was far too much Renoir for my liking (which is not to say that I don't like him as an artist). It's just that everywhere you turned there was a Renoir- and considering that each of the paintings were just varations of one another, his works got old fast. The Monet's, Cezanne's, and Greco's (ESPECIALLY the Grecos- I was floored by those paintings, absolutely amazing) were among my favorites.

I really went in thinking that the class discussion about the Barnes and Dr. B and Prof Dalke's explanations of their experiences would taint my experience (because I knew what to expect from the foundation) but this definitely very far from the case. Although at first Barne's format can be frustrating, towards the end of my trip I found myself agreeing with his methods, because I found myself appreciating the artist's amazing talent in conveying forms and ideas, rather than trying to figure out the historical significance of the piece (which is something I'd usually do at an art museum.) I even found myself shaking my head at the people who were taking the audio tour- the $7.00 they paid for the voice boxes definitely made them miss a great experience.

If anything, hearing everyone share their experience with the Barnes was beneficial in a way- Malorie and I definitely made sure to keep a very safe distance from the black tape.

A Muddle of Thoughts
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-02-07 16:53:31
Link to this Comment: 12624

I don't know precisely which direction to take this post, so I'll just respond in as near an organized fashion as I can muster.

In reaction to the class, I think I'm still in disbelief. A part of my mind is still rebelling against the concept that your eye is lying to you, that blue and yellow don't equal green, and so forth. The tiny chemist stuck deep within me is even now berating me for making this confession, but it's there, and I can't deny it. I just think that the sciencia, the facts, are not nearly romantic enough for my tastes.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to kindly disagree with my classmates who posted previously and say that I could have sat there for a few hours more as we picked apart the different pictures and tried to determine exactly how certain effects were achieved. The most fascinating aspect of the lecture, for me at least, was the Renoir and the way the impressionists created. I never knew quite why the skin was so illuminated in his pictures, why everyone seemed to glow.

As for the reading...the concept of science as a beauty didn't strike me as anything particularly dramatic or novel. Hoffman was simply reiterating what I've pretty much come to accept, although he buried the statements under a floor of molecule names. Perhaps it's because I have trouble holding up the barrier between science and art, having grown up with a scientist for a father and having been a science addict in high school.
I agree with what he's saying, though, or at least I think I do. Narrative, the way you convey your message, is what makes it beautiful. Science is beautiful. Molecules can be beautiful. Human ingeniuty is beautiful. Creativity is beautiful. Discovery is beyond beautiful.
It's just the significance of a quantity, your conditioning into what is culturally accepted as being 'beautiful', that makes it beautiful to you.

don't tell me what's beautiful!
Name: gwen budin
Date: 2005-02-07 17:07:20
Link to this Comment: 12627

I would say that Sharon's presentation made the experience of color neither more or less beautiful per se, however I did like that it drew my attention to the complexities and subtleties of the natural world that are so easily taken for granted. The experience of color is truly an enigmatic and... cool thing. Thank God for color!

On Sharon's powerpoint from the Beauty Symposium, I thought it was really interesting that our emeralds and rubies and sapphires are really just the result of a subtle impurity especially in light of what [someone, sorry I forget your name] said about purity - that the purity of a thing is what makes it beautiful to her. Are precious gems not beautiful to her I wonder, or do we need to redefine purity in this sense?

Also, Roald Hoffman in "Thoughts on the Aesthetics and Visualization in Chemistry" drew my attention to something important about my experience of beauty. He proclaimed his buckministerfullerene molecule "beautiful." And I found myself immediately resisting this assessment of it, not because I don't think a molecule can't be beautiful, but I think it may be in my nature to resist admiring something that is introduced with praise. For me, perhaps in order to have a beautiful experience I have to discover the beauty in the thing myself because I'm just rebellious like that.

Science in Beauty
Name: Megan Mona
Date: 2005-02-07 17:17:11
Link to this Comment: 12628

Unfortunately I wasn't feeling well last week and it seems I missed an interesting lecture, but it certainly gives me somthing to think about. It is hard for me to allow that science plays any part in what I find beautiful because I find science extremely structured and somewhat cold, whereas beauty is more viseral in my mind. Science pins thinsg down and defines them in ways that I don't care for when I think of beauty. I liked when Hoffmann stated, "Beauty does not reside in simplicity. Nor in complexity, per se." I like to think that my notion of beauty is ever changing and evolving and there is no way to predict of explain what I find beautiful and why. I think the mystery only enhances the beauty.

I Just Don't Know!
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-02-07 17:23:26
Link to this Comment: 12629

Sharon's presentation on Thursday confused me. Maybe it was all my years of being told that blue and yellow make green, not white! I was absolutely fascinated by what was taught and would love to learn more about it. If blue and yellow overlapping make white, but blue and yellow closely next to each other make green, why are we not taught this initially in school? While paint mixing is important to some, the distinction between mixing and placing colors text to each other are a knowledge that all should have.
I did a lot of art in high school until I was told I was too slow to continue with the classes at school. During one of the projects, we had to create a color wheel, artisticly. Each color had to be evenly mixed and there had to be twelve colors in order. The center of my wheel was a grey teapot which the outskirts of the wheel being cups and saucers in the wheel's colors. I also did spoons in the colors which were opposite from the matching cups. While it sounds like a simple project, it is one of my favorites I did. It was quite large and my mother has it framed in the kitchen. I think it was the colors that made it interesting. The relationship and the shades have always fascinated me. I love looking at colors in clothing, nature, even books. I was surprised about what I learned on Thursday.

Beautiful Light
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-02-07 17:26:50
Link to this Comment: 12630

I love light, and the way it works itself into color. I wish I had the eyes to see auras and angels and all the stuff we don't see. I have no problem believing it is there, whether I can see it or not.

I loved the demonstration of light in class the other day, and picking apart the art so that we learned what made some paintings glow. I find that kind of stuff fascinating. I would never have guessed that way back then they would have known how to do that. I must have a mental picture of people of those days just not having a whole lot of information about that kind of thing. But then, my picture seems to be askew.

But through the complexity of how Renoir painted, his paintings took on an extraordinary beauty. It was a path of complexity that led to a seemingly simple and beautiful type of art. As deceiving as light itself.

I do find that in science, the simpler something is, the more it is considered beautiful. That is true in my own life as well, but then I gain great joy in the complexity of things too, as long as I can surf on it and don't get overwhelmed. The joy of being overwhelmed by something's simplicity is wonderful. It is a different kind of overwhelm. Not as scary as being overwhelmed by complexity.

All of this is to say that I din't find the molecule in the reading all that beautiful. It was too simple to be complex, and too complex to be simple. It was just there, and not seeming beautiful to me. Maybe I didn't understand it well enough.

Colors and lights
Name: Kathryn Mc
Date: 2005-02-07 20:09:13
Link to this Comment: 12637

I learned the truth about light and colors in my 11th grade physics class. I was very frustrated at the time to learn that the primary colors that I had known all my life weren't as primary as I had been led to assume. It didn't make sense to me that green could be one of the "real" primary colors; it was completely over my head and this was made clear when I was tested over this material. That little rant aside, I don't think scientifically dissecting light and colors necessarily makes them less beautiful, although it is a tad too technical for my tastes. These phenomena are another aspect of the physical world, which is both beautiful and technical. The underlying technical and physical processes are unconscious, but the beauty of what we see, hear, but experience is a conscious activity that never ceases to delight and amaze. Without one there cannot be the other.

Whys and Narratives
Name: Alix Derme
Date: 2005-02-07 20:09:23
Link to this Comment: 12638

Unfortunately, i too was not in class on thursday for sharon's lecture, and i am sad about that after reading others' reactions to the color lecture. I first would like to comment on a discussion i believe we had in class last tuesday on the question of why someone finds something beautiful. For some reason at the time, i found that discussion to be somewhat frustrating for me because i frankly do not think that i have ever stopped to ask myself why i find something beautiful. I have always been satisfied and content with just acknowledging that i personally find one thing beautful or another thing ugly, without needing to understand why or the reason for my likes or dislikes. I believe that is a question that can never be truly answered and even if it can be, i do not think i would like to know why. I feel that having complete understanding of the psychology, science, or asthetics for my taste in beauty might actually cloud my perception of things and take away from the simple experience of beauty by being overanalytical.

I would also like to comment on the hoffman readings. I found them to be somewhat interesting but not life-changing. Hoffman did make me think about finding the beauty in the process of doing something as opposed to just the final product. I would agree that there are instances where my appreciation of the beauty can be enhanced by understanding the labor and human element that went into a finished product. While i did not directly connect to the readings in terms of seeing the beauty in the science that he talked about, i do think hoffman caused me to reflect on whether i can conceptually find something beautiful by understanding the process, or as he calls it, narrative of something - be it the discovery of a molecule or the painting of a work of art.

What does physics have to contribute to our unders
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-10 13:46:25
Link to this Comment: 12748

This week we're reading two chapters from Zee's Fearful Symmetry, Chang's essay on "What Makes an Equation Beautiful," and McAllister's meditation, "Is Beauty a Sign of Truth in Scientific Theories?" All this in preparation for Peter Beckmann's visit to class on Tuesday, when he'll engage us in a conversation about "where the real beauty emerges" for physicists (or @ least for this physicist!). In anticipation of that conversation, post here, please, your thoughts about symmetry, simplicity, and beauty as a sign of truth...

for those who want more
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2005-02-11 10:31:49
Link to this Comment: 12781

Below are some links for those who wanted more inofrmation and background on the chemistry experiences you had Thursday.

Structure of Prussion Blue and the iron compounds that generate it

Site with more cool flame tests

The Tollen's Test that produces a Silver Mirror

More on the butterfly molecule


Beauty, Simplicity, Truth...a Complicated Triangle
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-02-11 18:13:56
Link to this Comment: 12802

It's funny...I had never really thought that a physicist would equate beauty with symmetry, because I usually picture mathematicians (as well as artists) being obsessed with symmetry, and physicists being obsessed with equations that explain how the physical world works. The relationship between the concept of symmetry and physics took some getting used to upon reading the essay.

While I'm not sure I'm convinced that ALL physicists equate beauty with symmetry, I am convinced that humans in general do tend to have a preference towards more symmetrical things. For example, I recently watched and participated in a series of dances. Most of these dances, if not all, contained some sort of circular formations. I recall someone pointing out this observation aloud, to which the professor responded that we as humans tend to favor the use of the circle in choreography and dancing. I guess this should not be surprising, since the circle is a rather easy and simple shape to work with.

This leads me to ponder about our use of the circle in other areas of life...we use it without even thinking about it! We circle words or statements in our readings...we circle an important date on the calender...we stir cake batter in a circular motion...perhaps the doodles on the edges of our notebooks contain some sort of circle shape, etc. We seem to be strongly connected to the circle shape. Is this primarily due to its wonderful symmetry, the huge role it plays in our lives, or both?

In reference to Chang and McAllister: While I do agree that a simple-looking mathematical equation or scientific theory can be quite beautiful, I'm still very skeptical of making the connection between beauty and truth, regardless of the simplicity of the equation or theory. From my perspective, a "beautiful" looking theory/equation does not automatically imply truth. I feel that the connection with truth can only be made when that theory/equation has successfully passed experimental tests.

a sense of the mysterious...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-12 10:50:13
Link to this Comment: 12812

Here's a switch for you: Sharon filling in the technical details, while I evoke mystery....

Quite appropriately (for our purposes) The New York Times Book Review is this weekend (2/13/05) featuring a new collection of essays, A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit, by Alan Lightman, who was an astrophysicist before he became a novelist. The reviewer says that the best essay in the volume is "Metaphor in Science," which gives a "provocative and interesting...analysis of the aesthetics of mathematics, an account of how the subjective idea of beauty can affect the construction of a proof."

Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-02-12 11:34:29
Link to this Comment: 12813

I was shocked by the repition of themes of beauty that we had discussed in
class already, and how they came up in the unlikeliest of places (for me
anyways) the "Science" readings. I fundamentally saw all three articles as
dealing with themes of whether something is more beautiful when you have the
learning behind it, or if your gut reaction of if something was beautiful made
that beauty more worthy. I was also struck by the idea of order and chaos and
how they play into
the beauty of science. It seemed to me that Zee's article, in its emphasis on
symettery was constantly refering to an implicit and explicit order of the
universe. This almost blessing that everything is built like it is, and works
has it works. In fact, it felt like Zee was rejecting the idea of chaos as
within chaos he was saying physicits find the beauty, symmetry and design. I
liked his emphasis on the religious because it meshed two worlds that I before
assumed never meshed. I have always thought of science as a rigid, cold,
unsentimenal world which is many ways rejects religious notions of the
miraculous and the spiritual. Yet in Zee's article we see ideas of G-d's
design, and of religious feelings. (p.6) I was also shocked at how much I
related to the readings, Zee's and the article mainly- not the McAllister so
much. Being a staunch humanist who avoids math and science like the plague, I
surprised myself at how like the phyists, I am awed by the design and
symettery of G-d's hand. Reading the Science Times article, I could also
relate to idea of a math equation as beautiful. I loved the idea that math is
using symbols to represent something which with words would be far too
complex. And besides, I'd also found something awesomely simple in the
pythagorean therom and one plus one is two.
One more thought... to me it seemed almost self evident that when we find
something beautiful we immediately think of it as a truth. When McAllister was
discussing the idea that scientists have this innate wish that it'd be so much
nicer if one result to their experiment was true,(p.2), I related this idea
back to that instanteous reaction to things which make them jump out to us in
such an individual and personal way. The opposite of the coin of learned
beauty. It makes perfect sense that there would be such a strong connection
between scienctist and wanted result...

Thining Beauty
Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-02-12 13:22:40
Link to this Comment: 12815

I feel like we limit ourselves when we discuss how to find things beautiful or what is beautiful. Everything must be individual, we must know ourselves. No one should be so arrogant as to believe that they found the perfect way to see beauty or to think they found the truth in beauty. There is no universal method. There is no universal truth. This especially is true when it comes to science. Science cannot give us truth; it gives a possible explaination based on evidence. Therefore if beauty needs some element of truth science must be ugly for it can never provide truth. Yet I enjoy science, I would suppose you could say I find it beautiful. I do not, however, think that truth and beauty are really related in any definatble manner. Everything that a person views is tainted by her experiences and background. We can never escape from the trapping of our mind and see some universal truth. Perhaps it is out there but we cannot show it. If everyone were to see the "universal truth" the world would be incredibly boring. We would lose the individual perspectives that give unique perspectives and make us individuals. On the other hand people feel tricked when they do not see this so called truth and can find science ugly for not providing it. Once again the flaw of individual views comes into play.
I do not think that we can say that complexity or simplicity is beautiful for the simple fact that everything is simple and everything is complex based on tehe level that you look at it. A flower may appear simple but think of all the genetics that went into making, the biological processes it carries out, the atoms that make it up. Using different lenses we can see different things. it's like looking at the form of a picture and seeing simplicity versus looking at the subject and seeing complexity. I felt that way when we did the what is beautiful tests. Many times I worte that things were both simple and complex and was confused on how to answer the question.

Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-02-12 17:25:23
Link to this Comment: 12819

I was really interested by the pieces we read this weekend. I felt that, though they were focused on physics they were quite readable and understandable. I enjoyed the piece by Zee on symmetry. I liked the way that the author was able to point out different ideas about physics and present them in a way that was relatable to everyday occurances like a football game. I relate to the ideas presented, because I usually find symmetric objects as most beautiful. Also the thoughts written about large numbers- I have always been facinated with my own inability to grasp extremely large numbers abstractly. Especially once I'm up to the billions, trillions, or the mother of large numbers, infinity, I lose all grasp and am forced to resort to "a lot."
I liked that the McAllister article showed how different physicists thought, placing a name and a concept to the different theories about beauty as related to physics. It was also interesting to see how the scientists were at times "compelled to abandon their longstanding aesthetic preference for determinism and visualization" (8) and the effects this had on physics. These readings were a very interesting look into something I've never given much thought to, beauty in physics. I am looking forward to discussion on Tuesday relating to this.

Beauty vs. Truth
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-02-12 18:38:41
Link to this Comment: 12820

I found the argument that beauty in science does not equate to truth very compelling. After all, if an absolute definition of beauty can not be pinned down and agreed upon by all, and truth is agreed upon by all by definition, then the two can not possibly equate by any stretch of the imagination.
But what if truth can can be influenced by the imprint of our belief of it, much as quantum physics has determined that nothing can be observed without being changed by the act of observation? What if there is no absolute truth, but the one each individual holds as true? What if the truth is actually relative and not absolute?
As an example of this possibility, consider the simple auto accident. If there are three witnesses, the police officer will usually get three different accounts of what happened, and each will be true to the witness who believes it. What is the truth of what happened? Is there an absolute truth that none of them experienced? If none of them experienced it, would it be truth? Or could the belief of each witness have imprinted the truth and altered it slightly, thereby making it appear as something different to each one?
With truth defined thusly, beauty can equate with truth in the sciences as well as the rest of life. After all, who would want the truth if it meant giving up beauty? If they were mutually exclusive, which would you choose to experience? I would choose beauty, for truth without beauty would render life barren.
Fortunately, I have found in my own experience that my search for truth has led me to an ever increasingly beautiful world. I find that beauty is the deepest truth this life has to offer.

beauty and symmetry
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-02-12 20:01:17
Link to this Comment: 12822

Anyone who has taken a class in physics, chemistry, biology, or any other science cannot deny the beauty and surprise of nature's symmetry.
Nevertheless, I've read some about the theoretical physicists' goal of creating "The Theory of Everything," and am frankly stymied why we are trying to make a theory that cannot be empirically proved. The optimistic statement of Zee that we are perhaps getting close to finding a unifying theory, that can explain all the physical phenomenon of the universe, reminds me very much of the sentiments at the turn of the 20th century. And wow have we learned an enormous amount since then! I've read most of "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene that is mentioned in the readings, and string theory sounds very much like a fairy tale to my untrained ears. Shoudn't we finish calculations to unify the theory of QED with the strong force before we throw gravity into the mix and unify all the theories? I am, at heart, a scienist but even I don't believe everything can be bottled into one theory of symmetry and simplicity. There is a spirtuality to life that science is not capable of explaining.
I found the discussion by McAllister of the dilemma of a scienst to use his or her aesthetic judgement in assessing whether a theory is true very interesting. I think of aesthetics as a tool for creativity, but not a criterion for truth. To me, beauty has a place in science as a guide for inquiry but not as a label of certainty. The argument is made by McAllister that scientists' aesthetic preferences are culturally acquired. For me this was the fatal blow to the argument that beauty is scientific truth. Culture is dynamic. Aesthetic preferences change with the times; the laws of physics, if scientific evidence so far is right, are not.

Physics and Beauty
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-02-12 23:52:52
Link to this Comment: 12823

On Saturday I took a solo trip to the Barnes museum ( I was unable to go with the class before) and was blown away by the amount of art, the way it was displayed and how close BMC is to such a great place! I liked art, but got impatient when I visited museums and this time (maybe because I'm older) I sat down on the benches and just let the pieces form thoughts in my mind. After seeing so much Renoir, I love his depiction of women and families. I really liked Modigliani sp? painiting of faces, they are very slim and sharp. It was nice to be there by myself and take my own time in the museum. It was amazing to see these beautiful pieces mixed in with silver art hung on the walls, and that each room would lead into another and so on.
After visually experiencing beauty if was interesting to read these assignments and see how I think like a physicist. Although I deteste science, I definitely agree with Zee and that beauty is based on symmetry and reflections. All of Renoir's pieces were of faces and people who had perfect bodies (2 legs, 2 arms, 2 eyes, etc. all of equal size) and that would never change if I rotated them. I like the Lillies painting by Manet because there are an equal number of petals all around a common center.
However, this is my TRADITIONAL view of beauty. And who is to say that a something that is not symmetrical- is not traditional? I guess my symmetry obsession comes from society and things I read and movies I watch.
In the NYT article, I loved the last paragraph about the child's understanding of "1+1=2" being a beautiful equation. I would say that at that moment, the experience was beautiful. A small child grinning and holding up his small fingers to explain his thinking process.
In McAllister's article, I found it difficult to comphrehend how beauty makes a theory true and how asthetic judgement plays a role. Maybe someone can clarify this point in class for me?

"Real beauty has nothing to do with colorful pictu
Name: Katy McGin
Date: 2005-02-14 00:37:50
Link to this Comment: 12867

I totally disagree that real beauty has nothing to do with colorful pictures, of course, but I find the idea that one can find something beautiful in what is considered the hardest of all sciences--namely physics--interesting and intriguing. It was precisely the hardness of physics that caused me to hate it so much when I took the course as an eleventh grader. I can understand the beauty of chemistry--creating substances and reactions that can be beautiful in terms of sight, sound, etc. As a high schooler I far preferred chemistry to physics. But physics being beautiful? It seemed like an oxymoron and quite impossible until I read these articles. While I personally cannot see myself finding something inherently beautiful with physics, I also recognize that physics just isn't my thing. People for whom it is their thing may find something heartbreakingly beautiful about it. I think we all find something beautiful about the things that we are passionate about, and physicists are no exception. Just as the musician finds his guitar licks beautiful and the painter finds his mixture of colors aesthetically overwhelming, so too can the scientist find her newly discovered theory of motion something truly and inescapably beautiful.

Name: eebs
Date: 2005-02-14 11:17:12
Link to this Comment: 12875

i must admit, the first thing that popped into my mind during the reading was the title, "fearful symmetry". although i found the entire essay by Zee very interesting, i couldnt agree with him when he said that physics was beautiful.i understood the entire portion of the essay that talked about balance and symmetry being very simple yet beautiful in nature (for they exist in great numbers). when zee talked about the circle being the most aesthetically pleasing, i started to think if all cultures thought the same way. i started to think about flags, a symbol of one's country and how most flags are bands of color, or they posess some sort of rotational symmetry, just like the circle. maybe zee has a point, although some people may not see beauty in everything that is symmetrical, they probably feel some sort of aesthetical pleasure when they see that something is balanced.

in the article about equations, i thought of it also being a way of balancing things- one side balancing another in what we now call an equation. for those who dislike math, they dont find beauty in the equation, but they might find beauty in the concept of an equation since it represents balance. i personally have a love-hate relationship with equations; i am amazed by how the two seemingly unequal sides are equal, but then again, the thought of having to do math .. well, scares me a little.

im not a very religious person, but i do believe that there is some form of higher power that is in control of us and our surroundings. in nature, we see all sorts of mathematical sequences, patterns and ratios that makes everything beautiful- from all of natures' fibonacci sequences/paterns, to the golden ratio of the human face-- something that is geometrically or mathematically 'beautiful' is probably created like that on purpose.

science and beauty
Name: Alice
Date: 2005-02-14 14:08:01
Link to this Comment: 12877

I keep asking myself the question: do I think science is beautiful? After thinking about it, I think I can answer yes to that question now. I think the mystery and complexity of science is beautiful, and the fact scientists have found ways of understanding the mystery is amazing. I know some people have said they would rather have Dewey-esque experiences, without any outside knowledge, but I think science is one place that having background knowledge makes us appreciate the beauty more. I think I struggled with that question because I cannot look at an equation and think it beautiful because it is symmetrical, but I realized that what is beautiful is what it represents.

I think A. Zee poses an interesting idea that the "Ultimate Designer would only use beautiful equations in designing the universe." At first, I fouund it a little bit confusing that some scientists would choose something they found aesthetically pleasing as a truth rather than an ugly equation. However, when I read the clip about the most beautiful equations, it sort of made more sense to me. All of those equations are very simple. I guess those equations are beautiful to people because they take something so large and difficult to understand and put it in this small, simple equation. I think A. Zee makes a valid point that nature must have an "underlying design of beautiful simplicity." However, I am not a scientist, so it is easy for me to say that.

beautiful equations
Name: Malorie
Date: 2005-02-14 15:17:37
Link to this Comment: 12880

The article "What makes an Equation Beautiful" really spoke to me as the to be possibly math major that I am. I agree with the article, I love to see large things condensed into smaller ones. Part of it is laziness, someone once told me that Mathematicians were inherently lazy which is why they have sort hands for everything, but there is also the joy of saying that a bunch of words and symbols can be expressed in just one or two. I know that one equation that I have found beautiful and helpful over the last year is the equation sin^2 x + cos^2 x= 1. I love it when I'm working on a problem and I can see that I'm going to get sin^2 x + cos^2 x, or something similar that I can easily replace. When I think about it, I remember that I do often say thing as I work on math such as "that’s ugly" or I may exclaim "Beautiful!" when an equation works out. It just feel so good to solve a problem, its beautiful experience for me.

Another thing I wanted to mention is Fractals. I love Fractals. I think they are beautiful and cool. I'm not sure exactly what they are, I could not give you a definition, but I know that they are equations that can be represented physicals as pictures and, so I have herd, music. They are Series of numbers- where you perform the same operation over and over again, using the information you got previously to solve the next one. I just think it's so beautiful that you can explain something visual like that mathematically, just like how A. Zee finds the physicals laws of rain beautiful as he looks at a rainbow.

physics sculpture
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-02-14 15:29:43
Link to this Comment: 12881

When I graduate, I will have the choice between being the fourth generation scientist in my family or the fourth generation artist (artist meaning any discipline). These are the only two disciplines that really interested me. Growing up, I switched from training in one arts discipline to another, covering everything from accordion to stage fighting. Now, in college, I’ve settled down into physics, which seems, to my family, worlds away from my childhood. This situation causes me to think through many of this issues presented in these articles (having already read Zee) often. How do I know that physics is true and/or worthwhile? Why do I find these theories so beautiful? What is it about physics that makes me miss problem sets over the summer? And to explain it to much of my family, I have to phrase these answers without the luxury of Chang’s equations.

First of all, it doesn't surprise me anymore that the language of physics overlaps so much with the language of art. I feel like both disciplines are creating something. I'm sure other scientists in other disciplines may feel the same way, but I find physics more all-encompassing.

As for McCallister’s arguments, I think I agree with him that more than just empirical success causes a theory to be true and that beauty can have something to do with it. But just as we’ve discovered in class, finding what the beauty is is tricky, as he showed with examples from history. And I think that’s part of what intrigues me about physics. At any time, we could find something that doesn’t fit in the theories yet and then have to remodel everything to form a more perfect (and thus, more beautiful?) system.

I guess, to me, physics is beautiful because it’s sort of a huge mental sculpture of the world. It’s not an accurate replica of our world, but it models the world as best it can. And I think Peter’s correct. Pictures have little to do with it except maybe to help you see the sculpture a little better. And the equations have little to do with it. All the textbooks are just representing something bigger an infinitely beautiful.

Beauty in Math and Science
Name: Kara
Date: 2005-02-14 15:39:23
Link to this Comment: 12883

I loved the article on what makes equations beautiful. This, I'm sure, is not surprising since I'm a future math major, but equations for me sort of embody what beauty really is. You look at an equation, and its a summary of a very complicated idea compacted so that your mind can grasp it all at once. If you think about it, a beautiful painting is the same way. It is one picture that summarizes very complicated themes and emotions all at once. You look at a painting and you are overwhelmed by how many different ideas it can evoke. That is what a beautiful equation does for me. I can look at it as many times as I like, and each time I will see a different aspect of what it represents. And yet, it can be so simple and take up no more than a line on a page.
I especially loved the ending quote about Harrison's son and his reaction when "he saw that the tweo fingers, separated by his whole body, could be joined in a single concept in his mind." That is the other truly beautiful thing about equations, that they can summarize a relationship between two otherwise unconnected things. Anyone who sees beauty in relationships should be able to appreciate that.
I found the other two articles on beauty in science a little tedious. Both writers made the assumption that everyone sees beauty in symmetry and simplicity. This is definitely not always the case, and its also not always the case that beautiful natural phenomena are simple or symmetric. I was frustrated byt he first article because it kept referring to a more detailed explanation of what he was talking about in later chapters, which we were unable to read. The last article frustrated me because I couldn't understand why I should care whether truth and beauty are the same. I don't know how anyone could make the assumption that because something's beautiful that means it must be the truth, so I wasn't much interested in learning why this belief was false.

Feng Zee
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-02-14 16:11:33
Link to this Comment: 12885

I found Zee's argument to be very compelling. I'm not a philosopher or theologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I couldn't help but be reminded of the same concepts of the 'beauty of simplicity' in a lot of Eastern religions or ideologies, like Feng Shui. Get rid of the clutter, get rid fo the mess, try to see the beauty that's laid bare. Often times we get bogged down with trying to add to make beauty. But now, forget the chess and football and embrace the Go.

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." -- Hans Hofmann

And from the scientific point of view, from the physics point of view, some of the most beautiful equations are where science has managed to boil down years of observation into a single, simple, brief forumla. What makes these equations beautiful? According to Zee, it's because of some connection that the Creator or Nature, while filled with millions of different complex structures, was comprised of very simple rules. So when a scientist manages to find one of these simple rules to the Go game of life, there is not only a sense of pride but also a sense of beauty.

"Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity." -- Charles Mingus

But I really wonder if Nature is that simple. If you have so many different individual structures operating at the same time, whether atoms or photons or organisms, can they really be boiled down to a simple little forumula? Whatever happened to the chaos theory? The equations that scientists come up with are, in truth, based on extensive research. But what if there is one instance where the apple does not fall, but instead floats away? Where was gravity? What then happens to the forumla?
I think I'm swinging on a bit of a tangent here, but to push it further -- science is a belief system, nearly a religion. Why are these simple equations so beautiful? Because of the child's joy when he learns 1+1=2? Because of their history? Because of what they stand for, both in the realm of science but also in the realm of history? Or do we just learn that they are, indeed, beautiful things? I don't think that these equations would be as beautiful to a person from a society not so dependent on science.

But I digress. All in all, I agree with the premis of Zee. Nature is beautiful, for both its complexity but also its inherent simplicity. It's also beautiful to have a 'why' answered by a 'how'. I can't explain it, but there is something comforting, something enjoyable, something beautiful about knowing how a green leaf is green, and how a rainbow is formed. It doesn't matter if it's science, though -- I'd be just as content if you told me that the reason for a rainbow is because a giant bird streaked across the sky and those were it's tail feathers. Perspective is everything.

Comments to Reading
Name: Jaya
Date: 2005-02-14 16:15:10
Link to this Comment: 12886

At first I was a little bothered by the excerpts from Zee's book. He talked about how real beauty can be found in the fundamental laws that govern life, that the underlying design would reveal why a certain something is so beautiful. My question for him is, if you ever do find the real underlying design, would the object still be beautiful? It made me think of the idea that we've discussed in class over and over how knowledge taints someone's vision of beauty. Personally, I find beauty in NOT knowing the underlying design because it makes you appreciate the unanswered complexities of life even more; I'd just rather leave them alone.

But after reading the New York Times article, I had a better appreciation for his excerpt. The idea that a jargon of symbols, numbers, and equations can explain the universe in such a simple way is truly a magnificent thing, and something that I didn't think about before. The same applies to mathematicians, chemists, physicists etc. line of work- discovering ways of making sense of the world must be a very beautiful thing to them.

However, I did not like how Zee or McAllister made beauty seem like an obvious thing, especially McAllister, when he said "it is not difficult to assess how beautiful an object is." I got irritated by reading this statement- beauty is far more complex than symmetry, simplicity, scientific theory, etc.... if it really was this simple, then I wouldn't be in this class right now, now would I?

Sure, it's pretty, but does it exist?
Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-02-14 16:16:04
Link to this Comment: 12887

The articles raised some concerns I have for the “truth” in physics. Because there is an active choice in what physicists call true, and that’s simply if the math looks prettier (Peter Beckmann may say as much tomorrow, since I’m pretty much directly quoting him). Other explanations for phenomena may work just fine, but certain equations and concepts are much less messy to work out. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the universe is designed to be mathematically simple and tidy. This isn’t a big problem for me; after all, as children we’re taught that life is seldom fair. But it does create a problem if we want to know fundamental truth, which is, some would say, the point of physics. This method of picking the neater equations for explaining the universe virtually guarantees that we can’t get to any fundamental truths; we can only get a rough, sketchy kind of idea, based on concepts that most phenomena agree with. It’s impressive that we’ve made progress (well, new ideas that fit phenomena better) at all. There’s a sort of doomed romanticism about it all.

Something like 'Sisyphus' may be a harsh, overly simplistic analogy, but the Sisyphus was beautiful too. My perspectives may change if I can learn all the math that goes along with physics. But right now, my ignorance creates a nice, comfortable barrier between what I'm a little scared of and what I believe–these equations weren’t chosen at random, and they certainly weren’t picked because they’re more beautiful. Look at all those imaginary numbers and partial differentiations! That’s just ugly. There has to be a reason that this works, it must be true. If I learn all the math, it might start looking prettier, and then there’s more room to doubt.

I have is an even bigger problem, though. Can we start with basic axioms to prove something? Can we pick any starting point and say “this is real, this is true?” I know that physics now starts with experimental data, but how do we know that the data we collect isn’t affected by us? Logic puzzles are very beautiful to me, and math (that I have the resources to understand) is as well; I just can’t say that they prove a truth to me.

Name: Catherine
Date: 2005-02-14 16:17:40
Link to this Comment: 12888

In the section called Spring Redux, Lee reminded me of the idea we have been discussing in class about whether knowing about something makes it more or less beautiful. Lee write how beauty is found in simplicity...and that there are many types of symmetry. He claims physics to be the most reductionistic science and tells the story of protons and electrons. Instead of explaining to a child the whole process of why leaves are so green in the spring, it suffices to explain how electrons and protons interact with eachother. Also, in talking about nature's beauty, and how people find more beauty in symmetry, it just so happens that the interaction between electrons and protons is "completely fixed by a symmetry principle". Cool.
Although I do enjoy science and math - to an extent - I find physics overwhelming. However, I appreciate how it can either be very complex or very simple and that, as Chang mentioned in his article, very complex life processes can be explained using one equation. At the same time, I dont like the idea of reducing beauty to equations or theories. I dont think beauty can be constrained by science. Sometimes knowing the simple process or reaction behind a rainbow may make it more beautiful. Sometimes just appreciating the colors plain and simple are just as beautiful, if not more beautiful.Im curious to know how we perceive symmetry and if what we find beautiful individually happens to be similar in symmetry.

Physics and Beauty
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-02-14 16:22:45
Link to this Comment: 12889

I thought that the readings this week tie in nicely with what we have been discussing in class and also brings focus to where many people probably don't look to find beauty...mathematics and science. All of the articles seemed to note simplicity and truth as basis for something being beautiful. This ties in with all the discussions we've had in class about whether or not knowledge plays a role in what we find beautiful. It also goes along nicely with last week's readings where simplicity and complexity in relation to beauty were also discussed as well as how the narrative and the journey to the 'answer' lends beauty to science. I thought the emphasis placed on symmetry in regards to beauty was also very interesting. I know that the articles meant it mostly in regards to equations and physics but I kept thinking back to a show I saw on tv about what makes a person beautiful. If I recall correctly, people with more asymmetrical faces were deemed as less attractive than people who's faces showed more symmetry. I think it's awesome how the ideas of symmetry, simplicity, and truth can account for beauty across so many different areas (science, paintings, music, mathematical equations). I also thought that the idea that something beautiful seems more truthful was interesting. I experience this sometimes in science and mathematics classes where the equations that look more simple or more 'beautiful' seem more truthful to me. It's just a gut feeling I have. It also ties in to some studies I've seen where the findings indicate that more attractive people (along with youthful looking people)will be viewed more often as telling the truth than a less attractive or young counterpart who is telling the same lie. I really think that this overlapping explanation for why people find certain things beautiful is amazing.

Natural Beauty
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-02-14 16:28:09
Link to this Comment: 12890

Fundamentalist physicists apparently claim, "Let us worry about beauty first, and truth will take care of itself!" Physicists are driven not only by precision but by aesthetics and have learned that "Nature, at the fundamental level, is beautifully designed." The author of "In Search of Beauty" writes about the beauty of the perfect spiral of a chambered nautilus. There's the beauty of waves caused by physics as well as the beauty of a single snowflake. Natural beauty is found in our "designer universe." Physicists study this so that the rest of us can understand.
We are told that symmetry is beautiful. A baby is said to stare longer at a symmetrical ("beautiful") face than an assymetrical ("ugly") face. That natural urge to find beauty in daily life can be met by equations, such as the physicists, or by just emotions that stem from the beauty. The equations have proved that symmetry is beautiful. Despite this, I wonder, why a number of "beautiful" women have slighttly assymetrical characteristics. Cindy Crawford has a mole and some models have crooked teeth. Does the simple distraction of the exact symmetry make something even more beautiful? Or does it just make it more interesting?
The simplicity of symmetry is what is thought to be beautiful. Physicists see this in nature. "Nature's rules are simple, but also intricate: Different rules are subtly related to each other. The intricate relations between the rules produce interesting effects in many physical situations." These rules can be applied throughout the universe. Aesthetics really does influece more than we think.

Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-02-14 16:52:56
Link to this Comment: 12891

I thought that the readings for this week were very interesting but not compelling at all. I was initially and probably quite unfairly turned off the Zee essays mostly because of her writing style. I found it to be oddly pretensious like in her metaphor using the opera when she is trying to describe in her writing about the fundemental simplicity in nature and the broad design of the world. What is a libretto? I also was immediately skeptical of her authority or believability because she said that when she looks at two equations, she automatically goes for the one that appeals to her aesthetic sense rather than trying to figure out which equation would be most appropriate and correct. I do not believe that you can "worry about the beauty thing first, and the truth will take care of itself" especially in science fields. Those were the initial things that turned me off intially and though I do admit I did not find her writing style all that simple in terms of being able to follow her train of thought I do agree with the fundemental principle that she is arguing for: nature can be beautiful in its simplicity, which gives rise to a more complex matrix of order. I think that nature can be very simple in its design and I liked her use of the famous japanese painting of the waves and the micro picture of a snowflake. THe comparison showed the micro and macro levels of looking at fundementally the same thing or substance. I am not saying that I completely disagree with everything that Zee and Chang had to say in their writing, but I am definitely not a convert to their way of thinking.

I liked it when McAllister said that it is not difficult to assess how beautiful and object is because we can make that judgment and their is no danger of "subsequent discoveries" overturning the verdict. I liked the value and trust placed upon individual judgment of the aesthetic However, I still cannot quite believe that we could use our aesthetic senses to find out how close scientific theories are to the truth. This simply does not seem reliable to me. I know that if it were up to me, I would have discounted every Calculus problem and theorem in my senior year of high school. I would have proven them to be untrue in my head. But that is not the way that we function and it is not the way that we think. I do like McAllister's argument the most because it does allow for some loopholes like that the truth and undeniable repeated empirical success can over time make something more beautiful. This is what stood out in my mind as true. Perhaps it is not beauty then truth, but rather, beauty follows truth. We see beauty in things that we can KNOW to be true. Truth first, and beauty will ultimately follow.

Beauty in Math and Science
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-02-14 17:00:31
Link to this Comment: 12892

James McAllister appeared to begin with one argument, but after attempting to support it, his train of thoughts ended up at a conclusion that seemed to disprove his argument. However, he slyly readjusts some of his ideas to make it appear as though he indeed is still claiming the same argument. He started off arguing that beauty is a verifying factor for scientific theory and can be advantageous when empirical data cannot be attained or when empirical analysis proves inconclusive. Then he attempts to prove his theory by using “empirical” means. “All such statements presuppose that beauty is indeed a sign of truth in scientific theories. But what is the evidence for this proposition? ” (2). He tries defining aesthetic properties using “empirical tests” (3), but this proves inconclusive so he takes another approach: assuming “aesthetic properties that are a sign of truth in theories are those exhibited by the world itself.” This too proved inconclusive, because he thought that theories with aesthetic value are what make us deem the phenomenon they are describing as beautiful in the first place. A third attempt to define aesthetic qualities led him to the path that disclaimed his initial argument. He states that theories that “built up their impressive empirical track record…came gradually to be seen as aesthetically pleasing.” So he’s saying that we should use beauty instead of experimental information to determine the validity of theories, but that theory is not deemed beautiful until it has experimental backing. Therefore, beauty does not really give you information about the truth of the theory, it is just what you call a theory that has been proved true by experimentation.

Now, after being a little critical, I will comment on how I was pleased with the article by A. Zee and the article on the beauty of equations. I really like how Zee took a firm standpoint when stating that it is the symmetrical and simple interpretations that tend to explain nature and natural events. I agree, and I love the quote he inserted from Einstein: “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this and that element. I want to know his thoughts, the rest are details.” I feel like that is a great way to attempt to explain scientific phenomenons in nature. Most things in nature have proved to be harmonious, interdependent, and dichotomous. Someone created everything so that it could all fit together with purpose. The questions I would ask myself would be “What was God’s purpose when making this or that?” For example, if I was to create a world that needed to run as efficiently as possible, and needed to meet certain criteria, how would I do it? Simplicity, balance, and the perfection of symmetry tend to be reasonable characteristics of that world.

The article on equations was cute. I love looking over my math homework after I finish because I find it to be the most beautiful homework I turn in (This sounds weird, so I’ll probably bring in a sample HW to prove how beautiful it is). It possesses graphs, equations explaining those graphs, and very few words - which I find to be the most beautiful aspect. I found all of the responses to why certain equations were beautiful justifiable. However, personally I find equations in general beautiful because they tell us so much about the behavior of different variables in the real world, and they can be easily manipulated to help you find whatever information you want.

Last Tuesday's Class
Name: Rebecca Do
Date: 2005-02-14 21:14:46
Link to this Comment: 12897

While sitting in class last TUesday I was disturbed by the conversation going on. We were discussing Dr' B's presentation on light and colors. Many people did not know that the way colors of light are created is diffent then the way colors of pigment are created. I didn't find that outrageous becuase different schools and teachers all hvae their own unique curriculum. However, what I did find upsetting was the fact that certain people felt upset or betrayed when they acquired this new knowledge.
It is not that this new knowledge contradicted what they alrady knew but in my opinion it enhanced it and broadened it and that I find to be beautiful. It seemed as though in feeling betrayed by this new information that they were closing themselves off. All through out our education and even after we are constantly learning that things are not as we once thought. To feel betrayed and to possibly refuse to accept new knowledge seems like an unnecassary and kinda sad loss. After all it seems as though the majority of our education calls us to see things in ways we haven't seen them before and that in turn makes for more well-rounded individuals.

Name: Brittany P
Date: 2005-02-15 01:09:23
Link to this Comment: 12905

In McAllister's essay, he writes that "scientists' aesthetic preferences respond inductively to the empirical performance of theories... scientists attach aesthetic value to an aesthetic property roughtly in proportion to the degree of emprirical success scored by the set of theories that exhibit the property. If a property is exhibited by a set of empirically very successful theories, scientists attatch great aesthetic value to it, and thus see theories that exhibit that property as beautiful."

What strikes me about this statement is how universal it is. It seems to me that McAllister's just pointing out the human tendency to initially resist new ideals of beauty before gradually accepting them. For a random example (pulled from the book I have closest to me), when the Symbolist movement started in 1880s Paris, lots of critics (and poets!) had hissy fits. But then everyone settled down and accepted the movement, and eventually its principals came to embody the new vogue of "beautiful poetry," (and some of its poets got so famous that unfortunate movies starring Leonadro DiCaprio were made about their lives). Same goes for painting. Didn't a lot of art critics initially scoff at Picasso? And according to McAllister, same goes for science. Quantum theory was considered hideously ugly... until it started working, and came "gradually to be seen as aesthetically pleasing."

So maybe it's less that "beauty is truth, truth beauty" and more just "truth is beautiful." Truth, or stuff that's empirically "proven" to be true, exhibits an attractive quality to scientists. Maybe there is no inherent "quality" of beauty in the realities of the universe. Maybe humans just think it's cool when Stuff Works and We Know Why, and it's the clarity that our own intellects apply to the universe's physical properties, not those properties *themselves*, that is truly beautiful.

Revised Assignments for Next Week
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-17 13:19:20
Link to this Comment: 12967

Revised Assignments for Next Week

No forum postings due this Monday (because papers are due Wednesday!)

For Tuesday, 2/22 read Philip Fisher's "The Rainbow and Cartesian Wonder" and "Wonder and the Steps of Thought."

Give yourself the gift of 1 1/2 undirected hours on Tuesday morning of "being hyperaware" of the world: go wandering (not seeking) and see what you can find.

By 5 p.m. Wed, 2/23, post on-line your second 5-pp. paper, on "Seeing Beauty as a Scientist." Then spend an hour or two, Wednesday evening, reading through some of your classmates' posted papers, which will be available @ Web Papers 2 Forum. Please also bring a hard copy of your own essay to your small group session on Thursday morning (submitted in a folder which includes your first marked essay).

"Seeing like a scientist" can take the shape of a number of different sorts of papers:

designing matter(s)
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-17 17:36:26
Link to this Comment: 12980

Sharon and I have a colleague in the Chemistry Department @ UVA, Cassandra Fraser, who is coordinating a university-wide collaborative course on Designing Matter that--on a far larger scale--has some interesting resonances w/ our class on "Beauty." Cassandra just called my attention to what she did on the web this week w/ The Gates, as well as to a quotation about the metaphoric quality of writing, and the creative act of discerning patterns within it, that might help inspire your writing assignment for this coming week.

"A Lot of Knowledge Is Dangerous, Too"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-21 22:46:58
Link to this Comment: 13092

This was the title for a review article in the New York Times this weekend (2/20/05):

Where is the ideal synthesis between knowing next to nothing in advance about a work of art, and hence appreciating it fresh, "on its own terms," and so overpreparing that all kinds of inappropriate criteria distort one's perceptions?....There are compelling arguments for appreciating an artwork on its own terms....but the sedimentary texture of knowledge, the layerings of appreciation, can provide pleasure on a first encounter, set of perceptions does not, cannot, invalidate another....Perhaps the trick is not to know nothing but to know as much as possible and then, somehow, to set that knowledge aside, encounter the work afresh and finally bring knowledge back to bear on what we have seen and heard and felt.

Is this bothering anyone else???
Name: Kat McCorm
Date: 2005-02-23 14:09:41
Link to this Comment: 13163

I am a biologist. As such, I find paintings beautiful. The way I see beauty as a scientist is not separated from the way that I see beauty as a human. There is no ÒlensÓ that I need to adapt, or that I would suggest to others, that causes me to see beauty of what I do biologically any more than I need a special ÒlensÓ to appreciate a beautiful sunset. Why then, with all our academic obsession with so-called Òinterdisciplinary coursesÓ are we still apparently DETERMINED to find a difference in the way scientists and humanists view the world? I thought the point of interdisciplinary work was to build across the schism rather than to further stereotype the divide. Anne, in particular, seems relentless in looking for Òthe difference between art and scienceÓ, and will invent one if none is apparent. I find myself wishing that none of us had identified ourselves according to discipline, that I spend most of my time trying to fight off the expectations that come with my major.
I also think that there are so many other divisions of beauty that we are not addressing because of the concentration along disciplinary lines- differences in beauty culturally, historically, ect.

diversifying the field
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-23 19:23:38
Link to this Comment: 13187

Let's work together on this "crack" in the lens that Kat's identified: perhaps the question of how science and humanities see the world differently has served its function/outlived its usefulness, and we'll uncover new territory if we try looking for other divisions (or lack thereof?), differentiating, for example, among varieties of cultural and historical experiences of beauty. The texts that you will be reading together in your small groups over the next week will be an excellent way into these varieties....We look forward to hearing reports, here, about what you are discovering.

It Bothers Me too
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-02-23 19:53:12
Link to this Comment: 13189

Kat, I can't agree with you more, and thank you for speaking up about it.
Anne, I noticed that in your response to Kat you said perhaps we could move on to "differentiating" some other views of beauty. I apologize that I don't have the exact quote. But how about not differentiating at all?
How about we find our common ground?
I guess this is important to me because in our world today, we are all so conscious and vocal about out differences, and our shared aspects go largely unnoticed, at least not vocalized.
I am much more interested in what we share than what we don't share. The "we" can be applied to me and whomever I am speaking with at the time.
I would love it if we used our classtime to learn to bridge gaps rather than exaserbate them. And I think it to be a life-skill that would be much more beneficial to all of us to have.
Anyone can tear apart. But skilled is the one who can bring together such that no one knows it was done.

not determined
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2005-02-23 20:13:12
Link to this Comment: 13190


i'm not sure what the reasons are that cause you to feel that we're "still apparently DETERMINED to find a difference in the way scientists and humanists view the world", but i'll add here my thoughts.

i agree with you, as a biologist or chemist or physicist or linguist or art historian, none of us can look at anything in the world—beautiful or not—without bringing those perspectives with us. to do so would not only be false to ourselves, it would probably be unhealthy to require such a splintering of ourselves. if it seems that the discussions and readings do seem to encourage or promote a sense of "this is how scientists (should) see beauty", i guess i'd defend the choices this way. our goal for the course is to widen everyone's awareness of beauty, including realms where they may have never explored. (for example, beauty in psychoanalysis that comes later). the beauty in science segment, then, was intended to be an opening for folks who have never tread there (unlike you) to hear about and participate in what some scientists see as beautiful. the goal is broadened experience, NOT labeling it, and certainly not labeling it in only one way.

as for your concern that "other divisions of beauty that we are not addressing because of the concentration along disciplinary lines- differences in beauty culturally, historically, etc.", hang in there! they are (at least some) yet to come!

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-24 21:46:13
Link to this Comment: 13216

We had such an interesting conversation "upstairs" today--beginning with descriptions of what folks learned in writing their papers, including a realization shared among a number of us that scientists and humanists turn out to be "not that different" in their responses to and appreciation of the world, not "another species" after all....

This led us into a discussion of why those differences have historically been highlighted in the academy, and perpetuated among ourselves; we acknowledged a possible psychological function of doing so: that disciplinary divisions enable us to comfortably "shut off" certain areas of experience/areas of learning that don't come easily to us, and still feel competent in a smaller compass....

This led into a conversation about the differences between the realms of science and religion, and the possible overlap between them (if religion could be less dogmatic, and science more expansive, might the two areas overlap entirely...?) I talked about the website Science and Spirit which Sharon and I created two years ago as a demonstration of our shared conviction that

the exploratory seeking that Quakers call "continuing revelation," the process of constantly "testing" in a social context, against what others know, what one knows oneself, against new experience and new information...are activities that, ideally, can be practiced in both the religious and the intellectual realms.

But where things got even MORE interesting this morning (to me, anyway) was when we started to explore the possibility that beauty is a "deceit." This is an idea we'll be returning to in late March/early April, when we talk about the Paradigms and Consequences and Misuses of Beauty; but what was by far the most striking aspect to me in today's conversation was something that Sharon and I hadn't anticipated in our design of the course: the notion that not only the work of making ourselves up, but the simplicity of a mathematical equation (for example) is an "illusion." These questions about the artifice of all scientific and artistic work were also discussed in last Friday's brown bag session led by Hiroshi Iwasaki, in which it was argued that

There is more room for play in the illusions of art than in those of science, but scientific narratives are just as much illusions or (in the language of postmodernism) constructions. There are multiple negotiations within each lab, whereby a fact becomes a fact (whereby it is agreed upon that an illusion is a fact, that we have decided to call something "truth").

This notion of the "deceitful" nature of beauty (directly contrary, of course, to Keats' "Beauty is Truth...") is finely imaged on Serendip's page of Ambiguous Figures :

emotion in music
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-25 23:01:21
Link to this Comment: 13232

Seemed relevant. All invited:

Bryn Mawr College Department of Philosophy
presents a lecture by
Jenefer Robinson
University of Cincinnati
"Emotion in Music"
Thomas Hall 224
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
7:30 pm
Jenefer Robinson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. She teaches and writes on topics in aesthetics and philosophical psychology, especially the theory of emotion. Robinson is the author of Deeper than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music and Art, published by Oxford University Press. Her views on emotion cast doubt on currently fashionable 'judgment' theories, and draws on psychological theories that stress the physiological aspects of emotion. Robinson applies this model of emotion to problems in aesthetics, such as the expression of emotion in art and the emotional experience of art by readers and audiences.

Refreshments will be served
Free and open to the public

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-02-26 13:26:38
Link to this Comment: 13235

It didn't strike me until I sat down to read them how similar my group's two beautiful texts are. We selected Primo Levi's "The Periodic Table" and Antoine de Saint Exupery's "The Little Prince." At first the two seem wholly different: "The Periodic Table" relies heavily on sometimes-obscure analogies/metaphors with chemical elements to add meaning to every chapter. "The Little Prince" is written as a children's story, written very simply and straight-forwardly. On the surface level, I think these two texts are a good demonstration of the fact that "beauty" does not have to be either simple or complicated.

But then, on a deeper level, I'm not so sure. One of the most important passages in "The Little Prince" reads: "It's only with the heart that one can see clearly; what's essential is invisible to the eye." The more I read Primo Levi, the more I see the same sort of thing going on. After all, doesn't the periodic table itself record the most "essential" building blocks of life? And aren't most of these structures normally invisible to an untrained eye? Furthermore, Levi "characterizes" each element with a specific human trait (for example, iron is personal/physical strength, as represented by a mountain-climber and dissident named Sandro). Like the molecule iron itself, Sandro's strength is outwardly invisible; yet it's what's most essential about his character. And in a way, the most essential aspect is also the most simple: it's the heart of things, the base, the sum, the root. On the surface, Levi's book is just a collection of stories that are, in some way, niftily tied to chemical elements. But on this "essential" level it's something much more... just as "The Little Prince" is outwardly a children's story about a kid from another planet, but essentially it's deep and beautiful and, I sometimes think, crucial reading for adults. In any case, in both books, the "invisible" aspect is simultaneously the most essential and the most beautiful.

Science and Humanities in Beauty
Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-02-26 17:10:05
Link to this Comment: 13239

I feel as though maybe the difference between the two forms of beauty is not in science vs. humanities/religion but perhaps in somethng related to each. What I mean is, scientists and scientific writers tend to be creatively analytical about concrete things, whereas humanists tend to be creative in a different sense more towards the realm of the less concrete. It feels different to me is all that there is. However, perhaps the reason that we find this huge difference and division is not because there is a divide in the theories but because those who gravitate towards science perhaps are more analytically minded. When interdiscplimary events occur, often the analytical nature of the scientist enters into the creative work. Renaissance painters included huge amounts of science and math in their paintings. The way they thought out the geomateric patterns shows the analytical painting style of a scientist. I don't really know where I'm headed. I think I just feel that people who like concrete analytical will enter that into everything that they do and will tend to gravivtate towards the use of science and math, and humanists are perhaps have a slightly different way of thinking, that causes them to gravitate that way and this causes a small natural divide. This natural divide is then further enhanced by society's requirement for specialization in a field, and the divide that has been constructed due to fights between science and religion or other social event.

fights between science and religion/not
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-02-26 20:12:08
Link to this Comment: 13243

Stepping off from Liz's mention of fights between science and religion ....

I just came across a review, in this week's (March 10, 2005) New York Review of Books, of Pankay Mishra's An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World, which describes

the Buddha's almost scientific program of self-discovery....Einstein called Buddhism the religion of the future (since it was compatible with science, refusing to hold to what could not be empirically proved)....Buddhism, for Nietzsche," has the heritage of a cool and objective posing of problems...."

Bridging the gap
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-02-27 10:51:29
Link to this Comment: 13250

It has always frustrated me that society portrays science and religion/spirituality as incompatible. For example, there seems to be an element of spirituality in pursuing a theory because it is symmetrical or beautiful. Isn't the scientist trusting something within himself, believing there is an inherent, inner truth that is guiding him whenever he invents something or pursues an idea that academia has not accepted or discovered?
My belief in the compatibility of science and spirituality is one of the reasons I thought Primo Levi's Periodic Table was a perfect read for this class. The chemist Levi is a Jew, and by my standards, a poet. He feels almost spiritual about chemistry: "For me chemistry represented an indefinite cloud of future potentialities which enveloped my life to come in black volutes torn by fiery flashes, like those which had hidden Mount Sinai. Like Moses, from that cloud I expected my law, the principle of order in me, around me, and in the world."
I know some in the class are frustrated with the way the class has evolved: we seem to be making stark contrasts between scientific and humanistic beauty. But in a way it's the only place to start. We have been asked all our life by society to make a distinction. Our cultural habits can't be broken in an instant: I'm struggling with it myself. I think the class has been structured this way in order to each give us something to relate to and to be exposed to things we never have before, as Dr. B suggested. I think the texts, like Primo Levi's book, will be a way of bridging the gap between scientific and humanistic beauty.

Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-02-27 17:33:04
Link to this Comment: 13265

After Thursday's discussion about science and humanity, religion and beauty, I was left with a confused mind and needed to find some answers. For the past couple of months I have been reading books by a foundation called Osho that promotes "awareness, simplicity and detachment from materialistic things." Other authors along this type of philosophy are, Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle who all think "things are utterly the way they are, they are beautiful and I am immersed in them."
While reading some of Osho's work this weekend I went online to the website and found some answers.

First- the divide in religions and science is an ever pressing problem. Science explores the objective world, trying to come up with rational answers. Religion explores the subjective world. I agree with Osho, who says that there should be two types of sciences that can take over the phrase religion-objective science and subjective science. Why does science have to be related to things like chemistry, biology, physics but more about 'awareness, positive thinking, and enlightenment'?

Second- I think by talking about the interconnectedness between the science in religion we can dispel the notion that they are NOT connected. As a human, my heart and emotions will try to tell me what is true and beautiful but it will never give me the truth. The truth is in my conscience, and by using my head and heart while thinking about beauty and what is really beautiful i can develop a better understanding of it. Hence, I have to that whatever I think is beautiful IS beautiful and that should be my criterion of beauty.

Third- I started to read the beautiful texts this weekend (now I question are they really beautiful or is my heart fooling me). In The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, it was a poignant beginning where she is extremely descriptive and weaves the story of hatred, anger, discrimination into a beautiful tale. BUT- althought I find how she wrote to be beautiful, I dont agree with the idea of her story. I am drawn back to Osho and why I found this author's writing beautiful- these girls are unique in their own way. They will ALWAYS be different from the white girl with blond ringlets on the coffee cup and the candy wrapper. By recognizing Frieda and Pecola's (the black children) differences I comprehend why and how society makes them feel different, when their differences are natural. Each person has differences, why does there need to be a comparison of their differences? This only leads to self-doubt, aloneness and bigger ego's.

Reading My Group's "Beautiful" Texts
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-02-27 23:15:18
Link to this Comment: 13281

The texts that my group decided on were The Wild Iris (book of poems), Kassandra and the Wolf (book), and Lost in Translation (movie). Here is what I have learned so far in trying to look at each of these:

Lost in Translation will have to wait a seems to be a very popular movie at BMC and HC, and I'm the second person to place a hold on it at BMC...if that takes too long I will either find someone who owns the movie or rent it...

I recently finished reading Kassandra and the Wolf. I honestly did not find anything beautiful about that book -- when we get into our groups on Tuesday I will have to ask why one of my group members found the book to be beautiful -- because whatever beauty may have been in it I could not find. The book tells the story of various life events through the eyes of a six year old named Kassandra. This may seem innocent enough, but upon reading the book one finds that her perspective on the world is a bit "darker" than expected. She's from a wealthy family, but from what I understood, her family relatives tend to neglect her -- leaving her in the care of governesses who aren't very nice to her at times, and a butler who apparently is molesting the little girl. Kassandra locks a playmate in a cupboard for three days at one point in the story. There is also another part where Kassandra demands a kitten from her Grandmother. The Grandmother won't buy Kassandra her own kitten, but instead lends a kitten from someone else and lets Kassandra borrow it for the week. Kassandra plays with the kitten, but when it comes time to give it back, she kills it instead. This did not sit too well with me, an avid animal lover. I do not find beauty in killing.

I am currently reading the poems in The Wild Iris. The poetry can be a bit complicated at times, but Louise Gluck's words are very beautiful, no less. Many of her poems revolve around the natural world (especially flowers), as well as human relationships and growth. I love reading about these types of topics, and Gluck's poems are infused with them. I start to read them and their beauty instantly draws me into the pages. Sometimes the poems evoke good memories about past events in my life, and that is one reason I find them beautiful. Another reason is just the style in which the poems are written: the words flow harmoniously, and I am able to envision the scene which the author describes in the poem. The poems are comforting and soothing to me, and I don't mind reading them again and again. That in itself is beautiful.

all connected
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2005-02-27 23:35:46
Link to this Comment: 13282

The above postings bear witness to a lot of powerful musings going on as a result of ‘beautiful’ class discussions. I thought I’d weigh in on several of them.

The putative conflict of science and religion (or more generally, spirituality) surfaced only briefly in our group, I think because most of the group did not in fact see why a conflict was necessary at all. Indeed, I would point out (this is my independent voice now) that there is no fight, no conflict between science and religion, there is only conflict between people, some who may hold to the (their) scientific “doctrine” as more worthy than a religious doctrine, or vice versa. I daresay that these folks do not even represent a majority. There’s been lots and lots of books written on this “conflict” (some listed here), some whose goal is to find the science/spirituality connections and some who maintain that the realms wherein operate science and the spiritual are separate. My own position embraces both and I can offer two examples from you, members of the class. Rachel U. reported “The chemist Levi is a Jew, and by my standards, a poet. He feels almost spiritual about chemistry.” Just so: the same internal experiences one brings to one’s religion or spiritual life can also appear in the context of doing science. There is not, need not be, some internal door one shuts and opens to separate one’s being as spiritual from one’s being as scientist. In another context, Annabella offered what is my current favorite metaphor to illustrate the separate science and spiritual realms. She compares the entirety of life, “reality” out there, to a movie, say on a DVD. And science is like the trailers, all those little pieces that explain how the movie was made. But the movie—the world of being and experience—is so much more than those trailers describe. You only have to see it (the movie), live it (reality) to know neither trailers nor science can produce the whole experience. What “else” is out there, each of us has to determine for ourselves. Hopefully beauty will follow us along the way.

Our group did not however veer onto a path whereby we contrasted and separated beauty seen from a scientific view from beauty seen from a humanistic one. (Correct me if you felt otherwise, beautiful folks!) We did discover along the way that a pervasive quality that showed up in our beauty experiences which crossed all kinds of categorical divides was this: beauty was very often the result of making connections. Connections between mental constructs, between mental constructs and something “real” out there, connections (of course) between people, and memories and something “real” out there and … well, you get the idea. “Connections” rather shocks me as a not-very-beautiful descriptor, but it really does summarize for me lots of my experiences. Try it on: does it work for you too?

Name: Muska
Date: 2005-02-28 09:16:28
Link to this Comment: 13292

My group picked two very different books as representatives of "beautiful texts." The first book, "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison is a book with a very serious tone. The plot is of a young black girl by the name of Pecola Breedlove who has become obsessed with the white ideal of beauty. She idolizes Shirley Temple and is constantly aware of how different her appearance is in comparison. The most tragic part of tale is Pecola's intense desire for blue eyes. Pecola believes that blue eyes are the ticket to beauty, and therefore will grant her the love and attention which she never received from her family, or from society. The tone is very serious, and often times forces the reader to reevaluate her/his own ideals of beauty. The second book is "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris. David Sedaris is known for his clever wit and humor. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is written in vinettes of different humors episodes in his life. Sedaris has a way of expressing some very important issues in a way in which brings to light the humor behind the pain. Tragedy and comedy have always been linked together as a form of entertainment, and has also given people an avenue to take life less seriously, even in the advent of some very serious events. Humor is particularly beautiful to me because of the way in which it unites people together. Often times I feel as if comedic writing does not get the credit it deserves, while some of the best writing and most efficient records of social struggles comes through in humor. Reading these two texts in relation to one another is a very exciting experience because I get to see beauty from opposite sides of the spectrum and perhaps see how the two perspectives intersect.

Lost In Translation
Name: enewbury a
Date: 2005-02-28 16:13:23
Link to this Comment: 13297

One of the 'texts' we had to 'read' for our small group was the movie, Lost In Translation, starring Bill Murray. I had never seen this film prior to this class, and I still don't think it will qualify as my favorite movie of all time. It is one of the most beautiful movies I've seen, though, both cinemagraphically and from the stand point of the message in it.

With an effort not to ruin the plot for anyone else, it follows a man and a woman who are in Tokyo. Strangers, there for completely different purposes, who find a connection with each other and go around exploring the city. It doesn't have a fairy tale ending, which I think it what disappointed me.

The scenary is absolutely breathtaking. This is not to say it was all sweeping landscapes, but rather little nuggets of life, involving aspects of a culture that is fairly different from my own. There are scenes in a karoke bar, there are scenes in an arcade -- and all I could think is how interesting this was, to see the commonalities between Japan and the life I know, to see that yes, it is different. Foreign, strange, the film almost had a texture to you could feel. But instead of smacking you with just the differences, the film maker seemed to be trying to show you a door that you could use to relate to what you were seeing.

I think the beauty, beyond the aesthetics, is that it is a meshing of two worlds, to entirely different ways of seeing life. The girl is an idealist, and the man is a realist. And yet, despite this, despite the fact that they come from different worlds, different ways of thinking, and different age groups (the girls is much, much younger then the character Bill plays), they find a connection. They can get past their differences and have a good time, and even grow to respect and care for one another. And I think this is beautiful, this connection, this ability to see commonality in a sea of differences.

Beautiful text
Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-02-28 16:14:19
Link to this Comment: 13298

I'm in Muska's group, and I also read The Bluest Eye. I haven't read the David Sedaris book yet (there are hours between now and class!)

I found this book to be very beautiful. The events that take place are terrible, but it's written so well, and the issues brought up are so important. I know this sounds narrow, if not outright stupid, but I didn't think that young African American girls would idolize white actors just like white children. Maybe that's because I'm living after the "black is beautiful" movement, at a time when there are many African American actors/people in the media, and books in my elementary school had children with brown skin. But the most obvious reason I didn't realize this is that I'm white.

The book is incredibly poignant, makes me see a new side of the effects of popular culture, and written in a beautiful way.

Beautiful Texts
Name: Beatrice
Date: 2005-02-28 16:33:02
Link to this Comment: 13299

My group had decided to read J.D. Salinger's "Franny and Zooey" and a film entitled "Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance."

This is the first time I am reading Franny and Zooey - or any Salinger book for that matter - and I'm really enjoying it. It's interesting observing family dynamics and the connection between these two youngest siblings. I'll probably post more on it later once I've finished it.

As far as Koyaanisqatsi, I'm not sure I'm getting the message I'm supposed to be. This film had been my recommendation because I had heard about in passing one day, and did a little bit of reading up on it. What I enjoyed about it is the fact that it seems to allow the viewer to interpret it in any way he or she may choose. I had read reviews a long time ago that suggested that the purpose of the film was to criticize the way in which man's technology has been altering/destroying nature. I'm not sure I could really agree with that assessment. I liked the opening shots of nature; some scenes shown in time-lapse imagery, and others in slow motion. Of course, some shots of the industrial world were not as appealing, but I could not help but stare in awe at the constant movement of the world arround us. It was amazing. There were also some slow motion shots of individual people, and I found that to be interesting as well - almost as if they were meant to showcase how unique each one of us is.

I guess this film is a bit difficult to describe to someone who has not seen it. It is unlike anything I have seen before. There is no speech, no dialogue, only music (sometimes fast, sometimes slow). The viewer is shown one image after another, thus there is no obvious plot. And, although some of the images of industrialization and technology don't make me feel as good as the scenes in nature do, there is something to be said for man's ability to build and create.

Name: Catherine
Date: 2005-02-28 16:50:52
Link to this Comment: 13301

One of the books my group is reading is Survival of the Prettiest by Nancy Etcoff which explores the effect of society's conception of physical beauty on beautiful and ugly people. The book discusses the evolution of beauty and how the human ideal has changed. I found it interesting that the emphasis on the importance of beauty has gone down over time. The book quotes Keats, "Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty" - which we have read more about and discussed in class, and may be true on some level. Sappho, "what is beautiful is good and what is good will soon be beautiful"- while modern perception of beauty is more relative... beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Etcoff investigates the changes in the human ideal of beauty and its effects by noting the influence of fashion trends on beauty, and the effect of horomones on ones conception of beauty, and how personal beauty affects happiness, success, etc. As the human ideal of personal beauty is ever changing, all areas of science and the humanities are constantly changing. As we discussed in class, a theory that is known to be true today, may be obselete in a few decades. Similarly, at that time, new art and literary forms will have been developed and common words may no longer be used in every day discourse. Every area of study is dependant on the next. I like to think of our liberal arts education (and this class for that matter) as a flower. Some of us will look at the flower and see the photosynthetic process, etc, that allow the flower to grow and become colorful. Others will look at the flower and try to paint it. And others yet will think of how to say flower in several different languages, or think of a poem about a flower. You get my point. What makes different areas of study commonly viewed as different is a result of the different way of perceiving the world.

"When did you forget you were a flower?"
Name: Malorie Ga
Date: 2005-02-28 17:01:28
Link to this Comment: 13302

One of the text my group is reading is the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. I’m not that big of a poetry fan, but I love Ginsbergs poems. There is something about them that just speaks to me. I’m not sure if I can explain what it is or why, but his poems move me like Dickinson or Yates just doesn’t for me. Part of the reason may be that my high school teacher had recordings of him reading his poems. The way he read them just was just so beautiful. I am excited to talk about his poems with everyone in my group!

The quote in my title is from a poem of his called Sunflower Sutra. I first heard this quote this time last year during hell week, and it made me cry.

Not Finding the Beauty
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-02-28 18:44:18
Link to this Comment: 13305

Our group is reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude." I have heard this is a great book, and it came highly recommended, so I chose this group. I have as yet not been able to connect with the beauty of this book. Maybe because it is so different from my expectations and I haven't melted into what it is rather than what I wanted it to be.
From the title I thought is would be a book about deep introspection and reflection of one's motives and desires and drives. I love that inner stuff. But it is a book of action and people and activity, with little time given to heart matters. As I write this I am thinking more and more that it is me not seeing what must surely be there.
But for whatever reason, I have not found the beauty here. I am still working through the book, and am hopeful that the ending will justify all the time I have spent reading it. It is a long book.
People I have talked to about it say it is worth sticking with, so I am.
I find that it is actually a little irritating for me to read because the author uses a very stilted style of writing, and all the characters have three names, but two of those three names are the same as someone else's three names, so I have to spend a lot of time looking everyone up to keep up with who is who. I feel like I should have been taking notes or something!
Our other book is "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and I have read it before. I absolutely loved it. So I am saving reading it until after I finish this one, using it as a reward for my efforts.

Date: 2005-02-28 19:27:18
Link to this Comment: 13307

Our group picked 3 books as our beautiful texts in order to get a feel for everyone's idea of beauty (we only have 3 people in our group): Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty (the book I haven't gotten to yet), Interpreter of Maladies: Stories (my personal choice), and The Great Gatsby.

Although I haven't read Survival of the Prettiest, it really seems to be promising: the book is a collection of scientific studies that talks about the biological basis for beauty, and the author even makes an argument about how looking good has some survival value to it (linking back to natural selection.) Although the book talks about beauty, it'll be dealing with mostly scientific facts- I'm not sure if I'm going to personally find this book beautiful.
The Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of different types of stories of Indians throughout the world/in different settings. Although all of the stories are melancholy and there really aren't happy endings to speak of, the simple language Lahri uses to convey these stories and the manner in which she explains them is absolutely beautiful. I also think this book hits a personal note, being a member of the Indian diaspora- so at times I felt like the stories were a perfect reflection of people I know or people I've seen back in India. Stories like "the interpreter of maladies" (the short story of the taxi driver) also makes you wonder what kind of stories a stranger in a subway has to tell.
The final book, the Great Gatsby, is a great book but one that I don't personally find beautiful. Fitzgerald is a good author and I do love his use of color throughout the book, I definitely didn't feel like the book hit a string with me like Interpreter or other books on my favorites list have. I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's discussion session- even though we all picked what beautiful texts we wanted to read, we never really explained why we each found them so beautiful... and now I'm interested to find out what their reasons were.

Group readings
Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-02-28 19:29:14
Link to this Comment: 13309

I am really having a wonderful time with the books my group has chosen. Our first choice, The Great Gatsby, was one I have always wanted to read and I never got around to it. Though I don't understand why it is is a particularly amazing piece of literature that most people read during high school, I really liked the story the interconnectedness of the characters.
I am halfway through with my own contribution, Survival of the Prettiest: The search for beauty. I am finding this book very interesting. It showcases different traits (such as skin and hair characteristics) and things (such as babies) that are often thought of as beautiful, but the author adds intercultural, historic, and even evolutionary perspectives to her descriptions of each trait.
The third book we read was a selection of short stories called Interpreter of Maladies. While I am not a huge fan of short stories often, I think that this was one of the best books I have ever read and I actually have a waiting list to read it in my dorm. I would highly reccomend it to everyone!

Beautiful Texts?
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-02-28 23:33:47
Link to this Comment: 13319

First, to adress the controversy of religion and science, I feel that both are accurate representations or explanations of the world. They tell the same exact stories but in different perspectives. Neither are true but both are valid based on how much faith we have in them. It's like the faith we have in the value of money. Technically it is not backed with gold and therefore has no value, but our faith in the currency system is what gives the dollar its value.

Now, Yes Anabella! I totally agree with you. I feel it's hard for me to dive into this book (One Hundred Years of Solitude) because I am constantly having to look up names, questioning whether the author is decieving me, etc. Before I began reading I asked a couple of my friends who had read it, what it was all about and not one of them could actually give me a plot summary. They all responded by saying that it was eloquently written, but it was confusing so they could not remember what it was specifically about. It reminds me a lot of another book I have read before called Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. Oh, it also reminds me of the movie "Big Fish." It also seems way too dense in terms of literary aspects. There are too many literary devices compacted into one piece that it prevents flow. It guess that aspect of it makes it gaudy and not beautiful to me.

I am too looking forward to beginning Mya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." I find it beautiful because of her writing style and the fact that it is a true story; I find her struggle and life admirable and motivating, making her story beautiful. It's been a while and I feel it will too be sweet icing on a bad cake.

PS - This may be a little off topic, but because "One Hundred Years of Solitude" made Oprah's Book Club, I find it a bit relavent. Anyways, I do not care much for Oprah's taste in literature, but I still love her show :)

Deceptive beauty...
Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-03-01 21:34:30
Link to this Comment: 13332

Had to post this, even though it's sort of off-topic now. So I'm reading "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard for another class. Flat-out beautiful book. Definitely going to give it a good re-read when I don't have to analyze it for class. Anyway, the last chapter of the book contains this fascinating tidbit (Dillard is reflecting on an article she read):

"In a winter famine, desperate Algonquian Indians 'ate broth made of smoke, snow, and buckskin, and the rash of pellagra appeared like tattooed flowers on their emaciated bodies--the roses of starvation, in a French physician's description; and those who starved died covered with roses.' Is this beauty, these gratuitous roses, or a mere display of force?
"Or is beauty itself an intricately fashioned lure, the cruelest hoax of all?"

This "roses of starvation" makes me think... I mean, reading it, I imagine literally a body covered in rose tattoos, not the ugly rashes I'm sure pellagra actually creates. But to keep to that initial thought for a second: what seems to make beauty such a repulsive "hoax" for Dillard is the fact that these beautiful fever-roses actually stand for something spiritually ugly (starvation). They're "covering" the fever in a sense because the two are inextricably connected; the one signals the other. But my question here is: do the fever-roses *have* to be deceptive? ugly at heart? What forbids us from looking at these roses---the cloak, the hoax---as beautiful in and of themselves? Must we necessarily make the connection to the sickness they signal, or are we allowed to regard them as separate manifestations of beauty?

To transplant this idea onto an example frequently brought up in class, the "perfect" bodies of magazine girls. We don't like them because they're deceptive. At least, as a description of reality, they're misleading and even dangerous to our own self-perception. But... does that make them any less beautiful for what they are? Does beauty (especially sensual beauty) have to adhere to a moral standard for it to be "truly" beautiful? For that matter, does (should?) beauty have a code of ethics at all? I've seen pictures of Nagasaki after the bomb, and in some sense the desolation is beautiful---and I'm sickened and horrified and embarrassed at myself for thinking so. Does my emotional response invalidate my aesthetic reaction?

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-03-01 21:50:45
Link to this Comment: 13333

I should keep reading before I leap up and post stuff.

So two paragraphs down Dillard writes:

"No, I've gone through this a million times, beauty is not a hoax--how many days have I learned not to stare at the back of my hand when I could look out at the creek? Come on, I say to the creek, surprise me; and it does, with each new drop. Beauty is real. I would never deny it; the appalling thing is that I forget it."

I wish I weren't so impressionable... now I don't know where I stand on this question. I think, though, deep-down, I really want to agree with Dillard here. I *know* I'm a hopeless incurable romantic, and I actually felt relieved reading Dillard's next paragraph. But the questions in my last post still apply... haha. I'm such a waffler; good thing I'll never run for President. :)

Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-03-02 12:36:30
Link to this Comment: 13341

I didn't know we had to post for Monday so here is my attempt at posting...
At first I clearly defined how I felt about our two books-
The Little Prince was a beautiful text- in its simplicity and its message. I literally sobbed at certain parts. It's cheesy but true.
The Periodic Table- although it had some parts that affected me or caused me to have an aha moment was clearly not a beautiful text...its words didnt move me in the same way those of the little prince did.
Yet, after our group meeting in class we had to go back and re read certain chapters of the Periodic Table in preparation for our presentation. After going back and after the discussion with my group I suddenly found the text and ideas of those chapters so much more inherently beautiful than I had before. But again, I do agree with everyone else I felt like I was searching to find something that could fit the word beauty when my appreciation of the periodic table and certain parts of the little prince had little to do with the vague valufe of beauty.

Keeping the Course Beautiful
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-02 17:34:16
Link to this Comment: 13349

To the beautiful--

A couple of course-keeping matters:

1. We will need to schedule four presentations for the Tuesday after break, and three for Thursday; please let me and Sharon know tomorrow when your small group would prefer to present, and we'll get a schedule up by the end of the day.

2.We've been discussing the possibility of creating another beauty survey, to supplement the one with which the course began. We see two problems: if I take pictures of your beautiful objects w/ my digital camera, we are likely to be dissatisfied w/ the aesthetic results; if you provide us w/ images you've found on the web, we will need to attend to matters of copyright: You'll have to verify that there are no copyright restrictions on the image you select, and then--if there are none--to be sure and provide us w/ a link to the site where you found it. Let us know, also tomorrow, what you think about our pursuing this project as a class.

3. Check, before leaving campus for spring break, that you are up-to-date on your postings (six required so far).

4. Folks in my group also please check in w/ me about getting your papers returned.

Starless Galaxy
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-03-03 01:09:39
Link to this Comment: 13370

Since we are discussing, vaguely, beauty in science, I thought I'd share this article I found:

Scientists Discovery A New Galaxy

The catch is the galaxy doesn't appear to have any stars in it, and is comprised primarily of dark matter. Which, because this contradicts so many scientific theories, I find to be quite beautiful.

Name: Lauren Swe
Date: 2005-03-03 01:22:53
Link to this Comment: 13371

I just realized that I forgot to post on Monday, so in a flailing, desperate attempt to stay afloat in this week's conversation, here I go:
After rereading "The Little Prince" for this class I have discovered that there are certain elements of it which are so relevent to what we have been talking about as what constitutes beauty, particularly in regard to the sciences. The simplicity of the novel, the way things are phrased and symbols are used are perfect examples of the beauty of simplicity (and also Muska's now-famous "deceptive quality") of simplicity which stands for complexity. The prince's philosophical principals are some of the most profound (in my opinion) but presented in the way that only a child would see them. But then again, I have always beena sucker for all that "out of the mouths of babes" stuff. I really believe that children can teach us a thing or two about what's really beautiful because they have a method of seeing with a certain clarity which we cannot help but lose with age. Its a result of socialization and our common culture and for the most part, it cannot be helped.

Beautiful Poetry
Name: Katy McGin
Date: 2005-03-03 09:47:52
Link to this Comment: 13376

I find poetry and song lyrics far more beautiful than text, personally. A poem is succinct, and it delivers its message in just so many words while also allowing for imagery and other such literary wonders. My group is doing Allen Ginsberg, and my favorite of his poems is probably either "Sunflower Sutra" or "136 Syllables at the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center." The imagery in both poems is stunning, and I love the fact that both titles contain allusions to Eastern philosophy (which is far wiser than the West could ever be). I just love all the Beat poets (I thought about including Charles Bukowski but decided that his stuff was probably pushing the boundaries for this class), and I also love Dylan Thomas. I can easily see the beauty emanating from certain types of poetry. Seeing the beauty of a larger text is a task that is proving more difficult for me.

more keeping the course beautiful....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-03 17:58:07
Link to this Comment: 13389

To you Beautiful Ones--

3 more course-keeping matters before you head off for break.

1. The schedule for presentations is

Tuesday, March 15:
Group 1 (Liz P, Lauren, Amy, Rachel, Brittany)
Group 2 (Alice S, Amanda, Annabella, Kara, Tanya)
Group 4 (Eebs, Maloire, Katy, Krystal, Mo)
Group 6 (Nancy, Meera, Alice K, Muska, Gwen)

Thursday, March 17:
Group 3 (Marissa, Jaya, Catie)
Group 7 (Bea, Alix, Rebecca, Megan)
Group 5 (Kat, Flora, Liz N, Alanna)

2. A reminder to keep free the first Saturday morning after break (3/19) when we will make our second group trip to the Barnes--where you will be making observations for your third paper in this course, "on reading a picture."

3. We continue to extend the invitation for all of us to produce a new "beauty survey" as an excellent archive/product of this course. You might be looking, over break, for items/images you would like to contribute; alternatively, if you're not interested in doing this project, please let us know.

Anne and Sharon

Random tidbit
Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-03-03 22:52:09
Link to this Comment: 13399

This is utterly moronic and showcases my nerdiness, but...

So I was watching Jeaopardy tonight. (cue laugh track here)

One of the categories was "Paintings at the Barnes." Guess who got every question right? Haha!

What I found interesting, though, was that the questions were all artist-identifications. Considering how Barnes put the artists' names in tiny typeface at the bottom of the paintings (and wanted to de-emphasize the "museum-type framework" of which artists' names are a part), I thought it was pretty ironic how all of the questions were a picture of a painting and a "This artist blah blah."

But it was nice that they had a question about the ceiling mural that Matisse did for the main viewing room.

6th entry!
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-03-04 12:52:39
Link to this Comment: 13413

After having our small group discussions of our literary texts, our group came to a unique conculsion, as a class why have we not discussed the physical appearances of human beauty? When I first signed up to take this class, I assumed that would be one of the first things we would be talking about: body image, societal views of beauty, makeup and plastic surgery and why women are so subjected to non-traditional ideals. Our group chose to read The Bluest Eye, which deals with a young black girl who desires to be the white girl with blond hair and blue eyes. She is constantly unhappy because she thinks a new skin color can make her happy. I particulary could not find this book beautiful because it tells a story of something that occurs to women of color throughout their life, and even though Toni Morrison does a fantastic job writing I understand what this young girl is experiencing. Muska said in our group, "I find beauty in such a sad tale" (the gist of her quote) and I am the opposite, I find beauty in happy tale. Finally, I wish that some our class time can be devoted to talking about why and how the ideals of beauty are placed on women are so strong but not as strong on men? For example, why are there so many magazines like Cosmo, Glamour that have skinny women and when they choose to have normal looking women they manage to only have a couple? And why are the races featured generally lighter looking (the black women are so light skinned they don't look black)? Our discussion led us to another point, are the prettiest women really insecure because they have to prove themselves as not JUST being pretty but diverse in talents also?
Have a great break!

discussiof beautiful texts
Name: Alice S
Date: 2005-03-04 14:53:09
Link to this Comment: 13416

Our group has had some interesting discussions regarding magical realism and 100 Years of Solitude. Half of the people in our group thought the book was beautiful and half did not. I confess I was surprised because I enjoyed the book so much that I assumed the everyone wouuld love it. But I realize that we all get something different out of the book because we are all looking for something different from a novel.

One of the interesting things we discussed in our group is the way that the characters in 100 Years of Solitude do not go through a moral or spiritual journey. I think this may have been the distinction between the those who enjoyed it and those who did not. I felt that I can still connect with the characters, but some said that they could not connect or sympathize with the characters because of this. I enjoyed the book immensely despite the fact that some characters fail and never succeed, and I still walk away from that book with a very profound message. For me, a beautiful text does not have to have some kind of lesson that I can apply to my own life. I think this story is beautiful despite the fact that it is sad and that the characters suffer. I also believe that this book does not have a negative tone despite its sadness. I was discussing this book with someone and she described how the book made me feel in a way that I could not articulate; she said it left her "breathless." She also said that both during and after she read it, she found herself "trying to get my mind back into the real world." It is complete escapism; the beautiful language and captivating stories literally carry me away to a dream world. And I love that feeling.

Date: 2005-03-05 17:07:02
Link to this Comment: 13429

I think that literature is able to vocalize feelings that perhaps otherwise would not be articulated. This is not to say that all feelings must be "translated" or transmitted through the use of words but that sometimes performing through the act of either reading or writing can be powerful.

Poetry to me also has as particular quality that makes it powerful for me. The gaps, the careful choice of words, and the space in poems allows for more room for interpretation.

Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-03-10 12:00:30
Link to this Comment: 13448

This is a little off-topic, yet it was so beautiful I felt that I needed to share it. While studying for my chemistry midterm, I read a section that would not be on the test, but ended up being the most interesting part of the text- the section regarding Micelles. Every single aspect of the section expanded upon their beauty. They are ambiophilic molecules, meaning they have both polar and nonpolar regions. This duality makes them almost like a super-molecule. They are represented as lolipop structures with a squiggly stems, and in order to maximize their dissolution in water, they form a sphere with their squiggly stems (nonpolar region) pointing towards the center and the lolipop heads (polar region) as the perimeter. It looks like those flowers that when you blow on them and they scatter and float away. The last aspect that made them so beautiful were their uses. Micelles are in soaps and detergents to remove oil or other dirtying agents. The nonpolar stems cling to the dirty stuff and form the sphere to encapsulate them. Then they can dissolve in the water and be removed with the water. (Oil and the other substances otherwise do not dissolve in water). The most important use of the micelles are cell membranes in organisms. Rather than forming spheres, micelles form a sandwich-like structure with the nonpolar stems facing the center of the sandwich and the lolipop head on the outside. These sandwich structures bend to form a sphere with water enclosed within them. These are how our cells form. These molecues were amazing because I found their physical representations flower-like and gorgeous, their dual nature very fascinating, and their purposes very significant. Understanding how various things in the world work makes it all a little more beautiful.

Beautiful Literature
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-03-14 16:30:19
Link to this Comment: 13491

I am in the group that read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". I was one of the people who when we had to write down three beautiful texts wrote the title "One Hundred Years..." but now as I think back on that decision I realize that I would probably pick something else. My initial three texts were "The Red Tent", "Romeo and Juliet", and "One Hundred Years..." I find "The Red Tent" beautiful in not only its literary makeup but the story it tells. Also, I find it empowering for women. It is something that I sugggest all women read at least once, whether or not you are interested in biblical tales. "Romeo and Juliet" I find tragically beautiful and again I think it's a text that everyone should read, and everyone usually does in high school English. When I read it in class though, in high school, when looking for the themes and at the "English terms" I hated it. But, reading it for pleasure I found it a literary beauty.
I initially read "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" by Gabriel García Marquez in high school. I loved the writing style of the book so much that I read "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "One Hundred Years..." I think that the reason "One Hundred Years..." jumped into my head as a beautiful text is the popularity of it. On the other hand, now that I think back, "Chronicle" is probably my favorite of the three books. It is García Marquez's style that draws me to his work: "There were new gympsies, young men and women who knew only their own language, handsome specimens with oily skins and intelligent hands, whose dances and music sowed a panic of uproarious joy through the streets, with parrots painted all colors reciting Italian arias, and a hen who laid a hundred golden eggs to the sound of a tambourine, and a trained monkey who read minds, and the multiple-use machine that could be used at the same time to sew on buttons or reduce fevers, and the apparatus to make a person forget his bad memories, and a poultice to lose time, and a thousand more inventions so ingenious and unusual that José Arcadio Buendía must have wanted to invent a memory machine so that he could remember them all. In an instant they transformed the village" (One Hundred 17). The pictures that García Marquez paints with his words drew me in.

literary text and beauty
Name: eebs
Date: 2005-03-14 21:00:47
Link to this Comment: 13497

for the past several weeks, we discussed in class how beauty comes in the form of aesthetical pleasure, and also in understanding 'the works'. i dont know if it is just me or whatnot, but i can always recall a beautiful text or an idea, but not a beautiful artwork. this is not to say that i dislike art; i love art (i was actually planning on majoring in studio arts when i applied to bmc)... but there seems to be something MORE in a thought or a text that makes it more memorable and beautiful to me. perhaps the "MORE" that exists (for me) in text is the personal connection the artist/author has with his writing; it has a more 'detectable' meaning compared to an expressive artwork. we say a piece of art is "expressive" but we dont or cant usually explain HOW it is expressive. in text, the notions of theme, symbolism, is not limited to shapes and colors.. but also to ideas and emotions. i think most eveyrone can agree that emotions can be shared, mostly the happy emotions. the more depressing emotions cannot be shared unless you have experienced it also. the beauty behind writing is that the author enables you to share the same emotions by taking you through the experience he created/had. this is particularly true for one of the texts we are reading in our groups, Angela's Ashes. for the most of us, the only way we can experience a poor-irish-catholic childhood is through words. to me, words are powerful in that they give you an opportunity to learn from and experience another person's through their words.

Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-03-15 00:14:14
Link to this Comment: 13502

My mom sent me this reading in an email- I think its very appropriate and gives a different perspective on interpreting beauty. Perfect for our trip to the Barnes on Saturday.

When I look carefully, I see the nazunia blooming by the hedge! Basho

Now, there seems to be nothing of great poetry in it. But let us go into it with more sympathy, because Basho is being translated into English; in his own language it has a totally different texture and flavor.

The nazunia is a very common flower  grows by itself by the side of the road, a grass flower. It is so common that nobody ever looks at it. It is not a precious rose; it is not a rare lotus. It is easy to see the beauty of a rare lotus floating on a lake, a blue lotus  how can you avoid seeing it? For a moment you are bound to be caught by its beauty. Or a beautiful rose dancing in the wind, in the sun...for a split second it possesses you. It is stunning. But a nazunia is a very ordinary, common flower; it needs no gardening, no gardener, it grows by itself anywhere. To see a nazunia carefully a meditator is needed, a very delicate consciousness is needed; otherwise you will bypass it. It has no apparent beauty, its beauty is deep. Its beauty is that of the very ordinary, but the very ordinary contains the extraordinary in it, because all is full of Godeven the nazunia flower. Unless you penetrate it with a sympathetic heart you will miss it.

When for the first time you read Basho you start thinking, What is there so tremendously important to say about a nazunia blooming by the hedge?

In Bashos poem the last syllable, kana, in Japanese  is translated by an exclamation point because we dont have any other way to translate it. But kana means, I am amazed! Now, from where is the beauty coming? Is it coming from the nazunia?because thousands of people may have passed by the side of the hedge and nobody may have even looked at this small flower. And Basho is possessed by its beauty, is transported into another world. What has happened? It is not really the nazunia; otherwise it would have caught everybodys eye. It is Bashos insight, his open heart, his sympathetic vision, his meditativeness. Meditation is alchemy: it can transform the base metal into gold; it can transform a nazunia flower into a lotus.

When I look carefully.... And the word carefully means attentively, with awareness, mindfully, meditatively, with love, with caring. One can just look without caring at all, then one will miss the whole point. That word carefully has to be remembered in all its meanings, but the root meaning is meditatively. And what does it mean when you see something meditatively? It means without mind, looking without the mind, no clouds of thought in the sky of your consciousness, no memories passing by, no desires...nothing at all, utter emptiness.

When in such a state of no-mind you look, even a nazunia flower is transported into another world. It becomes a lotus of the paradise, it is no longer part of the earth; the extraordinary has been found in the ordinary. And this is the way of Buddha: to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, to find all in the now, to find the whole in this  Buddha calls it tathata.

Bashos haiku is a haiku of tathata: this nazunia, looked at lovingly, caringly through the heart, unclouded consciousness, in a state of no-mind...and one is amazed, one is in awe. A great wonder arises, How is it possible? This nazunia  and if a nazunia is possible then everything is possible. If a nazunia can be so beautiful, Basho can be a buddha. If a nazunia can contain such poetry, then each stone can become a sermon.

When I look carefully, I see the nazunia blooming by the hedge! Kana.... I am amazed. I am dumb. I cannot say anything about its beauty  I can only hint at it.

A haiku simply hints. The poetry describes, the haiku only indicates, and in a very indirect way.

judgment call=aesthetic judgment?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-15 12:33:35
Link to this Comment: 13510

I want to say something about the judgment call I made today, to keep each of the presentations to the 15-minute time limit Sharon and I had asked you all to respect. I felt divided: on the one hand, I was impressed w/ the richness of all your thinking, and wanted to hear more; on the other, I was conscious of wanting to assure that each group would have equal time. Apologies if you felt cut off (reminder also, when you are giving a presentation, to set up ahead of time, and to rehearse).

Know what? I think my own aesthetic (of the pared, the trimmed down, the shaped) was also in play this morning: I expect that a good deal of the "beauty" I see in, and pleasure I derive from, academic work has to do w/ this sort of selection and ordering, the making of necessary distinctions between what is essential, what not, then highlighting the former, and letting the latter fall away....

In other words, in asking you to stop w/in the time allotment, I was also asking you to acede to my aesthetic. Necessary, perhaps; problematic, certainly.

Anyhow, I learned a lot this morning, and want to thank you all for your good thinking. A number of ideas I hope we can return to in future discussions:

"The Beauty Inside"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-15 12:37:55
Link to this Comment: 13511

some of you go, find out what you can find out?
Join WOMENS WAY on Wednesday, March 23rd, 7 PM at InterAct Theatre, located at 2030 Sansom Street in Philadelphia, for the world premiere of Catherine Filloux's "The Beauty Inside".
Directed by Kay Matschullat, this drama follows a promising young attorney who passes up a lucrative offer at a large American firm to defend the survivor of an attempted honor killing in her native Turkey. She undergoes a life-changing journey of social activism and self-discovery, while developing a bond of sisterhood with her visionary client.
Our special performance will be followed by a "Coffee Conversation," at which company artists will join us for an informal discussion about the production.
Tickets are only $22 and may be reserved by calling InterAct Theatre directly at 215-568-8079 or visiting its box office at 2030 Sansom Street in Center City. Simply say that you are with WOMENS WAY. 20% of the proceeds from this night's performance will directly benefit WOMENS WAY.

Beautiful and WRONG (?)
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-15 12:40:40
Link to this Comment: 13512

One more opportunity, then I'll quit. Tomorrow's Visual Cultures talk (Wed March 16, Thomas 224, 12:30-1:45), by Heather Love of the Penn English Department, is entitled "Beautiful and Wrong: Funeral Splendor in Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now. Perhaps another useful extension of the ideas we were talking about today....?

Beautiful Texts?
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-03-15 14:41:14
Link to this Comment: 13519

You'll find Group 2 (Alice S, Amanda, Annabella, Kara and Tanya)'s contribution now available on-line as a powerpoint presentation: Beautiful Texts?

Dressing up the Subject Matter
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-03-15 15:32:10
Link to this Comment: 13523

I was thinking about the connection between language and content and their contribution to beautiful literature. The analogy that I found best describes my feelings is this: the subject of a piece is a woman and the language is make-up. Some people are beautiful naturally and do not need make-up and even tend to look worse with make-up. This describes Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes.” The book is beautiful without dressy language, because his life is beautifully expressed in his natural voice. Long descriptions and lyrical passages would definitely take away from the piece’s beauty. It would seem unnatural. Some people, however, look better with make-up on because they are not that great looking naturally. That is how I felt about “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” The story line was a little dreary and what I did appreciate as beautiful was his language and descriptions. Then there are those who look decent, but pound on the make-up to look like Mimi on the Drew Carey show. I’m not sure if this is true for “The Bluest Eye”, but I find most of Tony Morrison’s novels way to descriptive and decorated. It comes off gaudy and although the storylines are interesting, the long, continuous elaborations and descriptions slow the book down and cause me to dislike them and under-appreciate their beauty. Just my thoughts.

Group 1's presentation
Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-03-15 16:16:27
Link to this Comment: 13528

Hey all! For those of you that are interested, here's the link to group 1's presentation.

Wild Iris
Name: kat
Date: 2005-03-16 21:27:24
Link to this Comment: 13558

I know it is way past the time we are supposed to comment on this, but one of the texts my group choose as beautiful, Wild Iris by Louise Gluck I just had to comment on as separate from beauty. The Wild Iris has a strong theme present throughout the book of creator speaking with created. At times the narrator seems to be angry with God for things ( one of the most humorous I find is for giving the narrator hope of growing tomato plants, and then making the weather impossible to grow tomatos in). Other times, the narrator is speaking from what seems to be the voice of God, and is speaking to the things which He created. All of this is tied to the flowers that Gluck uses for analogies and imagery. I just thought it was incredible, and wanted to recommend it to anyone else...Also, When I went to New Orleans for spring break, one of the day trips we took was to the swamps just outside the city- and there, surprisingly, were many Wild Iris just about to bloom. Amazing!

Wild Iris
Name: kat
Date: 2005-03-16 21:27:46
Link to this Comment: 13559

I know it is way past the time we are supposed to comment on this, but one of the texts my group choose as beautiful, Wild Iris by Louise Gluck I just had to comment on as separate from beauty. The Wild Iris has a strong theme present throughout the book of creator speaking with created. At times the narrator seems to be angry with God for things ( one of the most humorous I find is for giving the narrator hope of growing tomato plants, and then making the weather impossible to grow tomatos in). Other times, the narrator is speaking from what seems to be the voice of God, and is speaking to the things which He created. All of this is tied to the flowers that Gluck uses for analogies and imagery. I just thought it was incredible, and wanted to recommend it to anyone else...Also, When I went to New Orleans for spring break, one of the day trips we took was to the swamps just outside the city- and there, surprisingly, were many Wild Iris just about to bloom. Amazing!

Name: Katy
Date: 2005-03-16 22:50:44
Link to this Comment: 13566

I was intrigued by people's choices of beautiful texts. Personally, I found very little actual beauty per se in one of my group's choices ("Angela's Ashes"). I prefer more flowery language and imagery, which is partly why I enjoy poetry more than regular prose, I think. Some people find beauty in the content of writing, while others find it in the style of writing. Others appreciate both aspects. I like to think that I fall into the last group, but I often find myself appreciating style over substance when it comes to text. It might just be that I'm not exactly a big reader. However, I'd be interested in checking out some of the texts that other groups reported on. "100 Years of Solitude" sounded especially interesting to me. I'm already a huge fan of David Sedaris. It was interesting, though, to see such an obvious split in preferences among many of the groups regarding literary style as opposed to literary substance. The choices of texts really highlighted this (such as my group's "Angela's Ashes" on one side of the spectrum and "Sunflower Sutra" on the other).

By the way, here is "Sunflower Sutra:"
" I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and
sat down under the huge shade of a Southern
Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the
box house hills and cry.
Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron
pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts
of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, sur-
rounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of
The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun
sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that
stream, no hermit in those mounts, just our-
selves rheumy-eyed and hungover like old bums
on the riverbank, tired and wily.
Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray
shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting
dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust--
--I rushed up enchanted--it was my first sunflower,
memories of Blake--my visions--Harlem
and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes
Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black
treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the
poem of the riverbank, condoms pots, steel
knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck
and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the
and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset,
crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog
and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye--
corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like
a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face,
soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sun-
rays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried
wire spiderweb,
leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures
from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster
fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,
Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O
my soul, I loved you then!
The grime was no man's grime but death and human
all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad
skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black
mis'ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuber-
ance of artificial worse-than-dirt--industrial--
modern--all that civilization spotting your
crazy golden crown--
and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless
eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the
home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar
bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards
of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely
tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what
more could I name, the smoked ashes of some
cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the
milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs
sphincters of dynamos--all these
entangled in your mummied roots--and you there
standing before me in the sunset, all your glory
in your form!
A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent
lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye
to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited
grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden
monthly breeze!
How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your
grime, while you cursed the heavens of the rail-
road and your flower soul?
Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a
flower? when did you look at your skin and
decide you were an impotent dirty old locomo-
tive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and
shade of a once powerful mad American locomo-
You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a
And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me
So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck
it at my side like a scepter,
and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack's soul
too, and anyone who'll listen,
--We're not our skin of grime, we're not our dread
bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we're all
beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we're bles-
sed by our own seed golden hairy naked ac-
complishment-bodies growing into mad black
formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our
eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive
riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sit-
down vision."

i didn't mean superficial
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2005-03-16 23:23:58
Link to this Comment: 13569

In Tuesday's end-of-class discussion, I attempted to point out what I found to be a provocative difference among the presenters that day: that some of you spoke about how the words in a text, how they sounded, how their rhythms moved, were the source of your beauty sensation. Others reacted to — or wished to have been affected by— the content and/or meaning of the text.
Of the former response, I used the descriptor "superficial"...and thinking about this since, I realized that's really NOT the word I wanted. "Superficial" carries a negative connotation which I did not intend to bestow on those of you who felt that aesthetic for the texts. Rather, I was struck by how some of you reacted with an immediacy to the words, at a level above where meaning is pierced. After further thought, these two responses seem the same as when I have an immediate response to perceived visual beauty—say of a natural beauty—which might be followed by an awareness and appreciation of it's underlying structure or raison d'etre. My curiosity was about the differences between those people who have an immediate beauty response to words and text and those people who desire a meaning in order for the text to acquire beauty. Is this completely parallel to beauty immediately perceived in the physical world, a beauty which can be enhanced when explained—given meaning— by physical science? Or, for some of us, do words seem to insist on being "taken seriuosly", where they demand to have meaning before we can allow them a beauty status?

Beauty Presentations
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-03-17 11:52:43
Link to this Comment: 13580

With the WIDE range of beautiful texts (I now have a really long list of books I want to read) it was obvious to me that people chose the beautiful texts based on the way it related to their life. For example- Jaya liked Interpreter of Maladies because she felt privileged to understand what a second generation Indian is and Muska enjoyed The Bluest Eye, because when she was young she identified with the main character who wanted blue eyes. Beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. I am glad our group went into the direction it did, to discuss the aesthetics of human beauty and what makes someone beauty and someone ugly. Although Amy Sedaris' tv show "Strangers with Candy" was not one of our beautiful texts, we used her show to exemplify the differences between societal beauty standards. Pecola Breedlove's life is in shambles and she will never consider herself beautiful because society at that period in history liked blue eyes and blond hair, but today I think a huge shift has been made. Although advertising has a huge impact on what people think is beautiful, Amy Sedaris portrays how pointless it is to believe what society thinks is beautiful but rather find a personality/soul more intriguing. But I think she is capable of doing this, because she FITS the mold of beauty defined by society. Could someone different do the same thing or would they be mocked? I think this will be a good introduction to the physical appearances of beauty- what makes a person beautiful and does that determine how successful, intelligent, nice, character traits that person has?

Beautiful Texts Presentations...and a Side Discuss
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-03-17 12:24:07
Link to this Comment: 13581

Wow! We had some really interesting presentations this week! Not only have I gained many different perspectives from which to look at beauty, but I also have a new list of books that I want to read!

I was glad to be able to hear and see the students' different interpretations on beauty -- what they found to be beautiful or not so beautiful in the texts that they chose. The presentation on AMy Sedaris really stands out in my mind...I liked how the group creatively presented the two versions of beauty and ugly in the same person. However, what troubles me are some of the responses that I heard from the class to the presenters' questions (recall that we had been asked if we thought the pretty Amy Sedaris was intelligent, would we hire her for a job, etc. versus the "ugly" Amy Sedaris). The overall responses tended to say that they would hire the ugly Amy for the job and that she was intelligent, whereas the beautiful Amy was not intelligent and would not be hired for a job (try to forget about that weird apron dress that she was wearing -- this is serious). The responses that I heard from the class seemed to indicate to me that we don't associate beauty with intelligence; in other words, a woman cannot be both beautiful and intelligent at the same time -- that she must choose one trait or the other -- which is utter NONSENSE. Does a woman have to make herself "ugly" or "plain" in order for society to recognize her intelligence? Does a woman's beauty detract from her intelligence? Does a woman's beauty automatically make people think that she must not be intelligent? Does the media provoke this stereotype in society, that women's beauty and intelligence cannot go hand in hand? How often do we see "beautiful" women portrayed in intelligent roles on TV and in the movies?

What Is Beauty?
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-03-17 16:11:34
Link to this Comment: 13584

You'll find Group 6 (Nancy, Meera, Alice K, Muska and Gwen)'s contribution now available on-line as a powerpoint presentation: What Is Beauty?

As promised....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-17 16:55:59
Link to this Comment: 13597

Here are the course-keeping details we discussed this morning:

And while I'm here...

And while I'm here...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-17 17:03:28
Link to this Comment: 13598

These are (a few of the many) questions I had after today's three presentations (for which thanks): I saw a

I expect that's enough questions for today... :)

Visuals From Our Presentation
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-03-17 18:49:37
Link to this Comment: 13608

For anyone who is interested, here is the link to the nice website that Liz made for our group presentation (Liz N., Flora S., Alanna A., Kat M.):

Ooops! Second Try on Link...
Name: Alanna
Date: 2005-03-17 19:02:07
Link to this Comment: 13610

Let's try that link one more time:

Sorry, I don't know how to type it in so that it automatically connects you to the website...if anyone could explain that to me I would greatly appreciate it.

Is Psychoanalysis Helpful?
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-03-17 21:08:05
Link to this Comment: 13611

Upon reading “Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts” I am left with the feeling that it is all very interesting, but ineffective at achieving happiness on the part of the client. And if that is the goal of psychoanalysis, then psychoanalysis is valueless except for its entertainment value. If the goal of psychoanalysis is to help the client become a functioning member of society regardless of their “joi de vivre” then it can be of value, for many people have enhanced their capacity to participate in society through this treatment. But happy people are extremely effective at not only functioning in society, but contributing in a positive way to society.

Having subjected myself to a few years of psychoanalysis, I am very familiar with its effects on the patient. And I know that while in that process I began to feel that I must be totally psychotic, for my analyst and I found numerous reasons that justified the behaviors that got me on the couch in the first place. Feeling justified in having those feelings, it was easy for me to lapse into them with increasing frequency, and feel very intelligent as I explained to any friends who would listen just why I felt that way. But it helped me find neither peace nor happiness in my life. In fact it had the opposite effect. I began to feel that I was a hopeless case. I felt that the situations in my childhood could not be altered, and therefore the problems they caused in my adult life would be with me forever.

Not until I met someone who studied solutions to unhappiness issues did I begin to feel relief. And the solutions lie in a whole different realm than that of psychoanalysis. Through the study of the source of joy and profound peace I began to feel them in my life, and thereby became able to offer them in society in inexplicable and indefinable ways.

I have often heard that what we concentrate on grows in our lives. And my experience speaks to the truth of this adage. When I focused my time, energy, thoughts, (and money) on the problems, they became very big in my life. When I concentrated on joy and peace, they became very big in my life.

I am not saying that anything that I read in the handout was inaccurate. It is probably totally accurate. My feeling is that it has been painstakingly researched. I just find it of little healing value for the client and therefore for society. I would like to see more time and energy dedicated to the study of joy and profound peace, and more articles on those studies distributed to our young adults.

One reason I took this class was in order to focus more of my time on what I find beautiful, and I have not been disappointed. Though little has changed in my life since last semester, I have noticed much more beauty this semester. And I have heard from a few of my classmates that since taking this class, they are seeing more beauty all around them as well. So without analyzing anything other than beauty we are helping each other live more beautiful lives.

And isn’t that the primary goal of psychoanalysis?

...sorry for the length.
Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-03-17 23:33:18
Link to this Comment: 13615

Happy St. Patrick's Day! And three cheers for a double excuse to quote from my favorite poet:
"O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?"

A running thread I found in Susan Levine's article was that of psychoanalytic beauty as a *process* as opposed to a finished product. She writes, "the process of making meaning as the aesthetic object rather than simply the meaning itself... movement in the direction of truth, rather than truth itself (which may be unknowable) that constitutes the beauty I find in the psychoanalytic process."

I found this concept absolutely fascinating. I recall some of our other readings (Barnes? that's a shot in the dark, though) highlighting the fact that conventional art derives its beauty from the meaning imposed on it alternately a) by the artist, and b) by the viewer, not some inherent, universal quality in itself. It seemed that the "real" beauty eventually had to settle itself into a fixed location---the mind of the person contemplating and/or creating it. What Levine's article suggests is that the location of the aesthetic experience falls somewhere between the artistic object and the viewer. Beauty isn't affixed to one or the other; it's neither a quality of (for example) a painting or a quality of the eye viewing it; it's the interchange between the two (even though one is mute[?]) in creating the meaning which ultimately (in the case of art, anyway) must "settle" in the viewer's mind.

This brings up two questions for me. Firstly, if beauty is communication---something by nature fleeting and indefinite---what *is* that final "impression" of a painting, or a psychoanalysis session, that settles into the mind of the viewer/analyst? If the beauty is truly in "movement in the direction of truth," what happens when you reach that truth? What happens when the dancer stops dancing?
Say we admit that it's the process of psychoanalysis that's really beautiful. Does this mean that after the work stops, the beauty stops as well? Or is the memory of such a movement a legitimate record of its beauty, preserving it in the same way an LP preserves a great song, or a book of poetry a great poem? Furthermore, would that memory/record then truly be capturing the *process* (the proposed "beautiful bit") or the *result* of the process---the meaning/truth at which the session eventually arrived (and, by Levine's definition, the "not quite as beautiful bit"?)

Secondly, and somewhat squirrel-ier: if beauty is communication, then are aesthetic experiences which involve a true interchange between two conscious individuals (like psychoanalysis) more "legitimate" than those which involve a single individual and a painting? To whip out a cheesy metaphor, let's say that beauty-as-process is a tennis match, no net. The real moment of beauty is when the ball is in the air. Now: which type of game has more meaning/beauty, one in which two players bat the ball back and forth (psychoanalysis), or one where a single player whaps the ball against a wall (something static, like a painting or poem)?

Or, to make this post even longer, is it a false assumption that things like paintings/poems can't participate in a "conversation"? From what(very very little) I understood of what (very very little) I've read of Derrida, I'm being biased, and texts *can* participate in conversation as readily as psychoanalysts (because texts are extensions of the artist's mind, so reading them is like conversing with the artist). So "communication" (and hence beauty) is the stuff that takes place in this space between the reader and the printed page: tennis-wise, it's the ball's *position* in the air, regardless of who's tossing it, that constitutes interchange. Which would make a psychoanalytic session and me camping out in front of the Barnes's big Monet the same thing. And mean I'm sort of "conversing" with Monet when I do so. Weird.

Date: 2005-03-18 14:49:45
Link to this Comment: 13626

Ginsberg/McCourt powerpoint

Powerpoint Again
Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-03-18 15:02:32
Link to this Comment: 13627

Ginsberg/McCourt again

Giving up on technology
Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-03-18 15:10:23
Link to this Comment: 13628

Allen Ginsberg & Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes

Poetry and Prose

•There are specific attributes of poetry that make it distinct from prose, which is one reason why we chose to read some poetry and then a novel.

Poetry: The Good and the Bad


Artistic and Lyrical

Some consider more beautifully written than prose


Hard to understand

Hard to read

“School Structure”—forced to over analyze poetry

Allen Ginsberg

• Allen Ginsberg was a beat poet

• Beat poetry has it’s own rhythm

• Anti-pop culture

• Humorous

• Words and subject resonate with you-Beautiful when read aloud:

“The Sunflower Sutra”

• “Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? When did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!”

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Genre: The Memoir

• What is a memoir? A memoir is a piece of autobiographical writing, usually shorter in nature than a comprehensive autobiography. The memoir, especially as it is being used in publishing today, often tries to capture certain highlights or meaningful moments in one's past, often including a contemplation of the meaning of that event at the time of the writing of the memoir. The memoir may be more emotional and concerned with capturing particular scenes, or a series of events, rather than documenting every fact of a person's life

Memoir: Expectations

• The intimacy of the memoir immediately gives the reader a sense or an expectation of a narrative of human experience and emotion.

• More than just facts strung together, a reader expects a memoir to portray emotional events and personally significant experiences

Angela’s Ashes: Synopsis

• Frank McCourt’s memoir, “Angela’s Ashes,” tells his story of growing up surrounded by poverty and despair in the slums of Ireland. The death of his siblings, his father’s abandonment, and abuse from family and neighbors are some of what plagues McCourt’s childhood. McCourt, however, manages to recount such things without waxing poetic. The poverty, the hunger…the constant abysmal conditions that McCourt endures as he grows up are all described in a simple, straightforward manner that allows the reader to feel sadness but also appreciate the humor and humanity in much of what he endures. The spark of hope in times of despair, the humor during times of tragedy, and the idea that it is possible to persevere which are seen in “Angela’s Ashes” are woven together to help in creating part of the book’s beauty. The beauty of “Angela’s Ashes” also stems not only from McCourt’s style of writing but rather from the reader being able to relate to what McCourt narrates. Whether it’s the realistic imperfection of characters (McCourt’s father, Malachy, for example, can be a good father to his children but he’s also an irresponsible drunk), off-beat family, or memories of sexual awakening, there’s something to which readers can relate.


• Not the writing itself, but rather, what the style creates:

• The style of the book is not necessarily what creates the beautiful experience in that it is not the writing in particular what we found appealing. Rather it is the style that allows the reader to become immediately connected with the human experience, the honesty and the rawness attached to the narrative. The absence of superfluous or extravagantly constructed prose lent the writing a certain bareness that allowed for the seemingly real and honest emotion and experience shine through the writing. In this book, it was not the beautiful passages of prose that created beauty in the writing, but it was the accessibility of the actual experience and emotion created by the stark and bare bones writing style that connected the reader to the intense human experience and emotion in the narrative. Ultimately it is this connectivity and access that makes the reading/experiencing of the text beautiful.

Excerpts from Angela’s Ashes

• “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years. Above all- we were wet." (McCourt 11)

• "I know Oliver is dead and Malachy knows Oliver is dead but Eugene is too small to know anything. When he wakes up in the morning he says, Ollie, Ollie, and toddles around the room looking under the beds or he climbs up on the bed by the window and points to children on the street, especially children with fair hair like him and Oliver. Ollie, Ollie, he says, and Mam picks him up, sobs, hugs him. He struggles to get down because he doesn't want to be picked up and hugged. He wants to find Oliver. .. Malachy and I play with him. We try to make him laugh...He doesn't say Ollie anymore. He only points. Dad says Eugene is lucky to have brothers like Malachy and me because we help him forget and soon, with God's help, he'll have no memory of Oliver at all. He died anyway." (McCourt 82)

• "[Uncle Pat] says there's no food in the house, not a scrap of bread, and when he falls asleep I take the greasy newspaper [that held Uncle Pat's fish and chips] from the floor. I lick the front page, which is all advertisements for films and dances in the city. I lick the headlines. I lick the great attacks of Patton and Montgomery in France and Germany. I lick the war in the Pacific. I lick the obituaries and the sad memorial poems, the sport pages, the market prices of eggs butter and bacon. I suck the paper till there isn't a smidgen of grease. I wonder what I'll do tomorrow." (McCourt 296)

Excerpt and explanation

• “You might as well.” (McCourt 150)

• When the boys ask to go out and play, the mother simply states “You might as well” and without having to explain with unnecessary prose the sense of defeat or despair felt, McCourt is able to convey all of the emotion and the struggle with four simple words spoken by the mother.

• Throughout the novel, McCourt does not even use quotation marks, adding even more to the sense of a “bare” writing style that is not weighed down by anything other than the simplest and most direct methods to convey the emotion and honest experience


• Though Ginsberg and McCourt have different and distinct styles of writing, both are able to give a sense of beauty or an experience of beauty.

Ginsberg and McCourt
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-18 17:48:11
Link to this Comment: 13630

(With a little help from Anne):
HERE's the powerpoint presentation on Ginsberg and McCourt,
by Eebs, Malorie, Katy, Krystal and Mo.

HTML tricks
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-18 17:58:39
Link to this Comment: 13631

The trick, Alanna, is explained @ the top of the posting page.
If you type this,

<a href= > Lost in Beauty </a>

you'll get this:

Lost in Beauty

(If you wish to learn more about using HTML tags, see info on advanced posting).

Reminder to post....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-18 18:37:55
Link to this Comment: 13633

In preparation for our second visitor next week, Susan Levine, who will join us on Thursday 3/24, please read her essay, "Beauty Treatment: The Aesthetics of the Psychoanalytic Process" (which you'll find in the course packet), along w/ the handout of "Psychoananalytic Terms and Concepts" which was distributed in class (extras are available for pick-up in the box outside my office).

Please post your reflections on Susan's essay, along w/ any questions you have for her, in this forum by 5 P.M. on TUESDAY 3/22, so Susan will have some time to mull over her responses to your responses...

psychoanaylsis thoughts
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-03-19 23:15:45
Link to this Comment: 13649

I have never read anything about psychoanalysis before, and did not fully understand everything I read, but these are my thoughts.
Is the beauty of psychoanaylsis the "tension" point where the order of the anaylst clashes with the chaos of the analysand? This has been a common theme throughout the semester, and I think it applies well here. Does this clash of chaos and order produce creativity in reasoning which is considered beautiful?
It seems to me that the beauty of psychoanaylsis is very much like Peter Beckman's message about why physics is beautiful. The scientist does everything in his power to find a model that fits. The proposed model is not necessarily "correct" in the sense of absolute truth, but rather useful. It is predictive. Is this the same thread that makes psychoanalysis beautiful? Is it a way of modeling the patients behavior so it is useful to the patient and even predictive of future behavior? I don't know. I've never been a patient.
Another thought. Is psychoanaylsis beautiful because it generalizes? It has been argued in class that a mathematical formula is beautiful because it condenses information into a universally understood language. Is this why psychoanaylsis is beautiful? It generalizes and condenses behavior into a "formula?"
Finally, who must the pyschoanaylsis help in order to be beautiful. Must the sessions but fulfilling for the anaylst or helpful to the patient in order to be beautiful? Would "the process" still be beautiful if unproductive?
People in class found the myth about the chariot pulling the sun beautiful even though it was not scientifically predictive. Yet the scientist finds the more generalized, predictive model more beautiful. Where does psychoanaylsis fall in this spectrum?

Name: Amy
Date: 2005-03-20 10:31:15
Link to this Comment: 13653

I saw many of the themes of the idea of beauty that we have previously spoken about in class present in Levine's article. As she writes " I came to define the pleasure as aesthetic because it seemed to have to do with form, complexity, elegance..."(p.6)Like in science, Levine's idea of the beauty in pyschoanalysis has so much to do with finding a clarity or simplicity in a sea of complex mush. I found it fascinating that again we are returning to the idea of compacting the complex into the the beauty of the math equation. Additionally, Levine discusses the idea of the process rather than the end result as the beauty in the analyzing. That was interesting because in life experiences that we find beautiful - the relationships that most everyone discussed in their papers- there is no end result, its our continuing connections with one another that are beautiful- there can be no finishing point. On the other hand, I wonder if some of the other aspects of life it was the end result that we found most beautiful...For example the rainbow can be seen as an end result of the period of time after rain fall etc. or we can choose to see it as a process that is continual/ cyclical but for which a visual result is only seen sometimes. I wonder if we appreciate the process more will we see the beauty more? One other aspect that really stuck with me from Levine's article was the idea of needing the bad or ugly hours of pyschoanalysis - needing the tension to have the release of tension. The idea of the impurities are being useful to understand our relation to the whole allows us to accept and find the beauty within the ugly. Then I got to thinking does this idea relate to our discussions of the beautiful in the horrific, but I haven't come to any conclusion from there.

Gatsby Malady Survival
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2005-03-20 19:46:38
Link to this Comment: 13686

Finally for your viewing pleasure, here is the powerpoint presentation on The Great Gatsby, Interpreter of Maladies and Survival of the Fittest,

by Marissa Patterson, Jaya Vasudevan and Catie Davidson.

Seeing in a different way?
Date: 2005-03-20 21:20:30
Link to this Comment: 13695

seeing in a different way?
Name: nancy
Date: 2005-03-20 21:40:33
Link to this Comment: 13697

I don't know if it was a mixture of my sense of what is academic or just my own stubbornness, but I have been sure throughout this course, that the way I saw the world was not being affected. I told Anne in our conference that I "didn't know what I was supposed to be thinking about" and even though she hit me over the head with a stack of papers, I still wasn't sure. I posted before about how I don't see what place emotional matters have in an academic setting. I don't know what the importance is of talking about how someone feels when it is so individualized and specific. I felt alienated from this aspect of the course because sharing those types of thoughts out loud to strangers is foreign to me. It is no mark of my intelligence or my ability to comprehend information. Even with our beautiful texts, we weren't formally instructed to analyze anything to do with the books and that was uncomfortable.

I think this discomfort and admustment to a kind of learning I don't know I've ever encountered before left me feeling like I wasn't learning anything at all. But I had my first "beautiful experience" yesterday, and it was even one I felt pretty comfortable with. I was leaving one of the dining halls and I saw a flyer posted to the door that asked "Is your government going here?". The flyer as the creator of the poster probably intended, was supposed to be a visual of the phrase 'down the toilet'. To illustrate this, the creator used a reproduction I recognized as a Marcel Duchamp's 1914 found-art piece. The work, entitled 'Fountain' is indeed a ceramic urinal with the words 'R Mutt' scrawled on the side, but I found myself annoyed. "This is not a toilet, this is art!" I thought. But why is Duchamp's art any more beautiful than any other ceramic urinal? How do some things, like the nebulous idea of art come loaded with presuppositions of beauty? Does anything we put in a museum instantly become art and is art always beautiful? If you take the art out of the museum, leave the ready-made as the toilet it once was, you are not changing any of the essence of the piece you are just taking away the affirmation of its beauty. This makes me wonder if all beauty is constructed and applied to things that would otherwise be unbeautiful.

Susan Levine's "Beauty Treatment"
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-03-20 21:47:58
Link to this Comment: 13698

Wow! Quite an interesting paper, on a difficult topic (I've never really studied psychoanalytic process before, so it was a LOT of new concepts to take in all at once). Susan describes how she herself finds the beauty in the psychoanalytic process; she finds it in the actual process! The analytic process seems to be, does that imply that the beauty is continual? Is beauty constant to the analyst throughout the up and down process of the analysis, or is it only present during the "up moments?" Does beauty share any place in the "down moments" as well?

I like how Susan made the point of saying how some of the beauty in psychoanalysis comes from the attempt to relieve the suffering of a patient, as well as the attempt "to create beauty where it may have been lacking." I understand the relief of suffering related to beauty, but the idea of "beauty found or already existing" being related to "beauty not there" is especially intriguing to me. Can beauty be found in anything we don't immediately perceive as beautiful, if we really try to hunt and search for it? Can beauty be found in something that causes us continual discomfort or pain in some way? If yes, will beauty ALWAYS be found in that situation or circumstance -- in other words, is the beauty always there, but it's up to us whether or not we choose to see the beauty? (This is in reference to the story about the patient named Eliza, as well as other types of situations that fit this category).

the kitten
Name: nancy
Date: 2005-03-20 22:12:47
Link to this Comment: 13699

Also been thinking about Flora's choice of a beautiful text. I think hers was probably the most thought provoking of any of our choices because it is purposefully questioning the notion that beauty always has to be good. I think we would like to believe that everything beautiful is inherently morally just and good, but it's just not the case. What I mean by this is I can imagine most people thinking the innocent and very organic love a child feels for an animal is a beautiful thing. Throughout the two short pages of the story Flora gave to us, we see this beautiful thing-- love-- create something awful. The essence of what causes the torture and death of the kitten doesn't change, it is still motivated by love (and free from many of the socially constructed norms that adults operate under) yet the love causes something unbeautiful to happen. I think this suggests that beauty and ugliness or pain or immorality can be coexisting.

Don't put me in a box
Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-03-21 10:22:38
Link to this Comment: 13743

The whole time I read the paper I felt like someone was trying to convince me that there was an element of truth to the psychoanalysis. Perhaps noone else felt that way. All I could think of was that what psychoanalysis is, perhaps more clearly than any other science, is building a story to explain why people act the way they act. However, I felt like she way trying to convince me that this story was correct or lead to some beautiful revelation or something like that. All I could think of was how wrong I felt this to be. I think when we try to box what we or why we do it, we try so hard to fit it into some prescribed pattern or notion, we ignore evidence that suggests something contrary to our theory until the theory collapses. I find the human mind beautiful, however, I find psychoanalysis a sometimes necessary perversion. Yes, arguably there are clear cases of OCD, depression, etc; however, not everything fits so easily into a box and even in those cases there is gross misdiagnosis. In any event, I'm feeling frustrated with these notions of trying to understand my mind. What's the point, why bother? Why should I want to attempt to understand everything I do? Am I trying to change something within myself? I don't want to do that, I like me as bitter and cynical and jaded as I am, I do not wish to change it. If you think its beautiful to try to create boxes then go ahead and try to box me in, but I can almost guarentee you that you'll be wrong. Perhaps sometimes I enjoy that keyword that aids me in knowing myself a little better but too many words become gross oversimlifications. I enjoy living in my own complex little world, its an indescribible feeling that I can make you feel but only by making you see it. I've gotten on a tangent. I know I should be analyzing what she had to say about the beauty but I think that descriptive adjectives are beautiful because they do not limit you or oversimplify they merely describe one piece of the complex self, thery can be contradictory to other pieces, and imply nothing or everything. Too often, speaking to pyschiatrists, or reading the works of Frued make me want to smash my fist into the wall and scream about how wrong they are. I don't find understanding ugly, I find limitation ugly, my mind should be free and you have no right to take that away or to expect me to take it away.

Distance of Beauty
Name: Muska
Date: 2005-03-21 11:34:13
Link to this Comment: 13748

"There is beauty in the violence of a volcano's eruption as long as one observes it from a position of safety; being able to keep the "as-if" quality present even during the intensity of the moment, when it is all too real to the patient, allows the analyst this safety of distance."

I found this statement striking because it establishes a new twist to the idea of aesthetic pleasure and beauty. Distance, and the observer's ability to distinguish his/her position in relation to the position of the object which is being classified as beautiful, is an important component to the aesthetic experience. Therefore, the beauty in the psycholanalytic process is not necessarily the ability to transcend one's own mind and indulge into the mind of another, but rather in the ability to retreat back into your own mind after journeying into another person's psyche.

I wonder if this notion of "distance" also ties into the idea of "suspending disbelief." Levine states that "We immerse ourselvs in fiction or drama by pretending that it is real, but at the same time preserving the understanding that this is not really happening."

I have been very interested in the notion of deception in the definition of beauty, and it appears as if what is beautiful in the psycholanalytical process still reveals a level of deception. The deception is in the notion of "distance."

Although there is a distance between the analyst and the patient, the process is set up in such a way that both the analyst and the patient must pretend as if there is no if the analyst is completely within the mind of the patient. However, the analyst has the ability to retreat back into his/her own mind which therefore implies a necessary distance between the two.

so, it's all art after all
Name: Flo
Date: 2005-03-21 13:16:09
Link to this Comment: 13757

Reading Levine's article, I was amused by the similarity of her description of beauty through psychoanalysis and many of the descriptions of beauty we have discussed throughout this course. Levine wrote: "In the analytic process, just as in music, painting, architecture, literature, and other fine arts, the beauty we find is in large part based on our understanding of how this object relates to other similar objects." (pg 2)

This interpretation of the fine arts sounds very similar to the general consensus of what we said "scientists" found beutiful about the world. Does all beauty then boil down to these relations between things? It seemed that Levine felt that finding the coherent narrative, a collection of relations between time, place and action, is a main source of the beauty of her discipline. I feel that that description can be widely applied to all intellectual pursuits: isn't a good film criticsm and a good scientific theory just a coherent narrative of unrelated object, after all?

I still agree with Peter Beckman, that everyone is just trying to tell a story. I think each person finds beauty in his/her own type of story. I personally find the idea of psychoanalysis very beautiful because it really can help so many people. But, like Levine says, there are many factors that cause successful psychoanalysis to be very complex. When, despite this complexity, the factors combine to help someone and even give pleasure or understanding to the analyst, I find it very beautiful.

"the poor tortured drowned kitten"
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-03-21 14:09:47
Link to this Comment: 13763

Thanks, Nancy! I was sorta afraid people thought I was this crazy kitten killer.

I find that beauty and ugliness or pain certainly do coexist, and sometimes almost rely on each other. When I chose Kassandra as an example of a beautiful text and decided to focus on the kitten passage especially, it was because I find this aspect of beauty most interesting and we hadn't touched on it much in class. Of course, I wasn't expecting everyone else to agree with me and was fully prepared for people to hate it. But I was surprised by some of the reactions to the piece. Yes, what was portrayed in the scene was "horrible", but I would say that there are equally horrible things in many of the texts that were presented. Parts of Maya Angelou's life were anything but rosy, Garcia Marquez tells of some nasty human relations, Fitzgerald has a character get shot, and the children in Angela's Ashes and the Bluest Eye often encounter situations that made me cringe.

So what was it about Karapanou's work that made some people see it as horrible instead of beautiful, even though it contained some of the same horrible content as other beautiful texts? I'm not trying to be defensive, I'm just interested.

I think one important aspect of beauty is context. I talked to a friend who also loved the book and she had forgotten all about the kitten scene. She thought the book as a whole was beautiful, and the individual kitten piece was necessary to complete that whole. So, just like I need the knowledge of physical principle to appreciate the beauty of a tennis ball's flight, do I also need the knowledge of the rest of the book to appreciate a passage?

Is it that we are socialized to find animal cruelty "wrong" and thus, don't allow ourselves to view the piece objectively? I wouldn't describe child abuse or rape as beautiful, but what is it about these subjects that allows novels about them to be put in categories of beauty, while this scene was, as one person put it, "gross"?

Is it just because the other stories are based in real life? I would not enjoy Kassandra nearly as much if I thought these stories were true. It's the fact that Karapanou is using a literary medium to explore taboo subjects that I find interesting. If this were a real girl, I would grab the kitten away from her before she could even start.

Is it because the other stories are seen as "inspirational"? A triumph over the ugliness of the world? Part of what I like about Kassandra is that her life is not black and white. Sometimes she likes the bad and sometimes she likes the good, but mostly she's too young to tell what's what.

I don't really have any answers. All I know is I still find books with what could be considered horrible content beautiful, as do, I think, many members of the class. I find beauty in the way the content is portrayed. If anyone wants to borrow my copy of Kassandra to see for themselves (it's really short), feel free to email me.

Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-03-21 15:36:29
Link to this Comment: 13780

I found the article on psychoanalysis very interesting. This topic isn't one I had ever thought about as being beautiful but through my reading I could really see how the communication with and "fixing of" a patient could be incredibly beautiful.
The two case studies really made me think. I felt that the authors beauty was found in her affection for Dorothy as opposed to her indifference towards Eliza. I can see that this most likely comes from the greater progress Dorothy is making, but it seems that there is some sort of separation between the author and Eliza perhaps not permitting a close communicative relationship.
I was also very struck by the phrase "the aesthetic quality is in the experiencing and the meaning rather than in the object itself." (9). Dewey, anyone? Since psychoanalysis IS an experience and not, for instance, a painting, I can see where it must be the experiencing, the process that the patient and doctor undergo that would be what is beautiful.
I can't wait to see the presentation and learn more about this type of beauty!

Levine & Kirchwey
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-03-21 16:28:12
Link to this Comment: 13793

I thought the Levine article was interesting in the way that it tied in so many of the various theories on beauty that we have already learned in class. For example, she brings up how analysis is aesthetically pleasing due in some part to the meaning making, love, and communication. I found that this was interesting after so many people in class have stated things that they find ‘beautiful’ which falls into these categories. The importance that understanding how an object relates to other things in finding beauty was also brought up again. I thought it was interesting how Levine discussed how both science and art are beautiful in their own ways although there is often debate over which is more so. The relations between art, science, and beauty came to mind again when later in her article Levine is comparing psychoanalysis to art in the way that it addresses ‘the degree of unity of a work…the degree of complexity of a work…and…the intensity of the work” (8). After reading this part I was thinking ‘Hey! She forgot to mention science too!’ because in my opinion science also addresses some of these things in judging what is beautiful. Levine also spends time talking about the importance of narrative which also made me think of some of the earlier articles we read on science, beauty, and the role that narrative, or a good story, plays.

I thought that Kirchwey’s poem was also brought up some themes that were discussed in class. For instance, the part “Beauty, a transcendent virtue, does not thereby push other virtues out…” reminded me of the article on the beauty of equations. Just because an equation is beautiful does not necessarily mean that it is the truth or best equation to use. The part of the poem that struck me the most was the “Though we have learned to mistrust perfection, we must not lose it in the old collage of borrowed forms” part. This made me think about how imperfections are sometimes found beautiful. For example, gems and jewels are brilliant colors and beautiful because of their imperfections just as human faces or bodies are beautiful because of imperfections. This line of the poem also made me thinking about one of my favorite parts from the movie “Flirting”. The protagonist is admiring the beauty of a girl that he has fallen in love with and he says something to the effect that she was so beautiful and perfect that it was almost difficult for her to seem real. He then says that he takes comfort from looking at the bruises on her ankles from the tight elastic of her socks which reminds him that she is indeed real; this also seems to increase her beauty in some ways to him.

The Beauty is in the Pain
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-03-21 19:51:18
Link to this Comment: 13814

Levine's report on the aesthetic beauty of psychoanalysis was interesting and I found myself glad that she and so many others find beauty in the process. I like it when I hear that beauty is experienced. And what a benefit that her analysands can find relief from suffering through the execution of a beautiful process. For these reasons I like knowing that psychoanalysis is ongoing, and will continue for years to come.
But I stand by what I said in my last posting, that if it is results that we are after, the days of psychoanalysis are numbered.
Psychoanalysis usually is a process spanning a year or more for each analysand, sometimes in excess of 10 years, with varying degrees of success at relief of suffering. Fortunately for those who don't want to spend that long finding relief, there are much more effective methods of understanding ourselves which afford in mere hours the relief of suffering equal to that afforded by years of psychoanalysis.
Does that mean that psychoanalysis will be replaced someday with these more effective methods? Not totally. Some people are process oriented to such a degree that they would rather take years than hours to achieve results. And there are secondary benefits to spending years on a psychoanalyst's couch. For one thing, you get a lot of credit for dealing with such difficult issues that require so much time, energy and money in order to achieve relief. Additionally, you get a relationship with an understanding person who will let you talk endlessly, never mind that you have to pay them to do that. It is still comforting to know they are there for you.
And there is a lot of entertainment value in trying to sort out all the intricate details involved with psychotherapy, not to mention a wonderful sense of acheivement when you think you have finally unravelled a puzzling knot from the past.
No, psychotherapy will be with us for a long time to come. But fortunately for those of us who are not interested in pitching our tent in the valley of the shadow of our problems, we no longer have to depend on psychotherapy to unravel them.
Maybe now psychotherapy will be chosen as one's path to relief because of the aesthetic beauty of the process rather than endured as the slow, painful, expensive path it was when it was all we had.

Maybe I'm just different...
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-03-21 20:56:49
Link to this Comment: 13827

So discussing psychoanalysis and reading about Susan Levine made me agree with her when she said, "the process of analysis-we find things beautiful if they can relate to our life." When Levine talked about psychoanalysis and how a analyst sits on a couch facing away from the analysand, I thought how psychoanalysis can be like a real life event too, like sitting and talking on the phone with a friend. So what makes the psychoanalyis situation different than any other "counseling" session with friends and pint of Ben and Jerry's? Is it because of the state of awareness? In the beginning Levine says, "it is essential for the analyst to be as AWARE as possible of what his or her stake in the process may be" Does the state of awareness make the process of psychoanalyis beautiful? because you have to be aware you are helping someone to find that beautiful.
But then again, I feel that alot of times the people who go and see psychoanalysts are not being aware and lose touch and when being aware you tend to see more beautiful things and have beautiful experiences. The awareness state can help you figure out how you got that point and what needs to be done, and with that help from the psychoanalyst both parties are more likely to benefit and therefore are in a "beautiful state".

I really believe that things can only be beautiful and you can only experience beautiful things by being in a state of awareness and being in the present. We miss beautiful things because we are caught up in so many different things, and Susan took a step back to examine how her presentness affects the patients in a positive or negative way.

Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-03-21 21:12:52
Link to this Comment: 13829

I forgot to add my questions for Susan Levine:
1) Let's say the analysand and the psychoanalyst don't make any real progress to finding out the problems, would the experience even if it was momentary not be beautiful?
2) As a psychoanalyst are there moments of hatred and pity that you reflect on later to be beautiful becuase it opened the doors for love and new growth?
3) There must be times when you are sitting and listening to a patient with an open mind, but somehow a thought passes through your head and influences your non judging character and might affect the beauty of the session. How do you get back to that beautiful moment without ruining the dynamics of the session?

response to susan levine's essay
Name: eebs
Date: 2005-03-21 23:21:27
Link to this Comment: 13841

although i understand the beauty that a psychoanalyst may experience while helping the patient understand herself/her past, i dont understand how a beauty from "connecting" with a "patient" could be achieved when there are distinct divisions between them. my understanding of susan levine's experience with Dorothy is that there was some connection between the two of them that helped both of them 'grow' and 'learn' in a sense. however, i doubt that a psychoanalysis could resemble the care and experiences "resembling parenthood, of loving, holding, admiring, and letting go" (p11). i think that the relationship between the patient and the psychoanalyst could never be more than temporary.. i understand the patient may feel closer to the psychoanalyst, but in reality, it seems that the ear that the psychoanalyst provides is what the patient desires most. so in that sense, a relationship could not really exist; the psychoanalyst is only giving what the patient/customer wants. i guess what im saying is that i dont understand how the connection is felt when the two people are at total opposite sides.

but i do feel the role of the psychoanalyst, or any doctor for that matter, to be beautiful because of their ability and talent to "relieve suffering". that seems like the one gift that is truly beautiful and gracious. though levine claims that tastebuds are different, im sure there are some things that can be shared between patient and psychoanalyst.. perhaps that is where the connection comes to play...

Name: Katy
Date: 2005-03-21 23:54:16
Link to this Comment: 13844

As a psychology major, I am intrigued by Levine's ability to find aesthetics in the process of psychoanalysis. I myself have been in psychodynamic therapy in the past, and although this is not quite the same as full-blown psychoanalysis, there are definitely similarities. For me,what is beautiful about such processes is, first and foremost, their capacity for helping a patient begin the journey of recovery and rediscovery of happiness. Nothing is quite as beautiful as happiness, so anything that could lead to it must have some inherent beauty. There is something indescribably empowering about being able to finally realize, with the help of a therapist but mostly on one's own, and identify what is bringing one down; being able to pinpoint a symptom and giving it a name is half of what's involved in finally recovering from the damn thing. This sort of self-awareness and subsequent empowerment are highly aesthetic states of mind. After all, is there not something beautiful--however broadly defined--about taking charge of one's own life and discovering happiness once again?

Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-03-22 12:20:37
Link to this Comment: 13865

Wow, everyone else was so prompt and thoughtful in their responses. My comments are based on the textbook reading, and not the essay, as I haven't finished the latter. I felt that I was being given an arguement (or more rudely, 'fed a line') that psychoanalysis is real and valid. But that arguement is probably being projected by me, because I don't already believe everything in psychoanalysis. I realize that psychoanalysis has helped people, but the disparities in power between analyst and patient, however necessary analysis feel they are, make me really uncomfortable. I prefer more interactive forms of psychotherapy. From the handout of definitions, it just seemed that it would be so easy to take advantage of a patient's fears/problems. (Periods of sensory deprivation, i.e., the analyst not replying? How can a patient tell when this is appropriate, or if the analyst just isn't involved?) I'm probably being oversensitive because of my hatred of Freud. His scientific methods were terrible, and his theories contain logical fallacies and flat out unsubstantiated claims. I'm therefore wary of a discipline that is derived from Freud, and hasn't branched away from his methods. Some terms and theories are helpful in psychology, and some may be true, but... what about biological and neurological causes?

Beauty From All Sides
Name: Liz Newbur
Date: 2005-03-22 12:41:36
Link to this Comment: 13868

You ever get that feeling where you're lost in the middle of an ocean, and trying to fashion up a lifeboat out of toothpicks? Well, that's me right now, drowning in a sea of beauty and trying to build a lifeboat out of the little snippets of understanding I have gleaned from the presentation of the theater, the poem, and psychoanalysis. They're all muddy in my mind at the moment, but I'll give it my best shot.

"One of the goals in an analysis is for the patient to be able to develop a more or less coherent narrative of how she came to be the way she is."

This phrase stood out to me because it seemed, and I could be wrong, that Susan derived a lot of aesthetic pleasure when she could coax her clients into distancing themselves for a simple chronological or 'realistic' account of their day, and actually probe deeper into the reasons behind their actions, how their past intertwined with the present, and so forth. It was almost the journey as well as the outcome that was beautiful to her. I almost can envision the psychologist being a parent (of a sort) to their client, trying to help them learn to help themselves. I could be entirely wrong on this account, however.

But I think I agree with what Annabelle said, and that to make a patient focus their problems could be detrimental to their mental health. Is this universally true? Or is it these people who do not benefit simply got scared at the beginning of the journey, and could not continue it through to where the beauty lies? I guess what I'm trying to say is that psychoanalysis sounds like a painful process. Is the beauty in confronting your inner demons and winning?

Personally I'm a bit of an escapist, and I would much rather watch TV as opposed to wallow in trying to reason out my problems. Like Annabelle, I'd much rather spend my time trying to focus on the things that make me happy. I'm not saying I never confront my demons -- you can't run away forever. But when I know it's not a good time for me to obsess over them, I feel much better when I put my focus on something that isn't as large an issue. And the question that leaps to my mind now, and ties this back to class, is this: is life more beautiful when you understand (such as through psychoanalysis) why you find something beautiful, or are things more beautiful when they are simply experienced?

Relating this back to Mark Lord's presentation, I would have to say that there were a great many points he made that I agreed with, and many I didn't. For instance, he brought up the point that we are dragged, as children, to a play and told that 'This. This you -will- find beautiful.' It's a universal act, the old teaching the young cultural norms, and I think that this act of teaching aesthetic qualities to the young does not simply bind the younger generations to a definition of beauty. I think it sets the bar, saying 'This is what we find beautiful today. This is the history of beauty. Now what will you make of beauty?' With this challenge in place, it provides us with a stepping stone. To know where we come from, to know the history, we can, as Mark Lord has done, push the envelope for what beauty is.

"If I have seen [a little] further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

Breaking Boudaries
Name: Catherine
Date: 2005-03-22 13:45:56
Link to this Comment: 13873

I found Susan Lavine's persepective on defining beauty fun! The process of psychoanalysis, and I can relate the experiences she describes with her patients to way I feel when I observe some of Matisse's paintings that I, for the most part...find extraordinarly beautiful. Matisse often times provides a definite, but rough outline to his subjects, but only enough so the observer can identify what the subject is. He then colors the paintings often times with unnatural, vibrant hues, and the subjects in his paintings sometimes sit in odd positions and locations. When Lavine works with a patient she has a definite process that involves many steps (that Lavine calls session) that she wants to work with to come up with a desired outcome. When she does not feel like this process is achieving a desirable end she feels unsuccessful. Susan writes that a beautiful process to her involves achieving an end and within this beautiful process there is a tension in the relationship between the analyst and patient, similar to that experience between mother-child, husband-wife, etc. Lavine describes a process with a patient she finds frustrating and i find it interesting that she shares these experiences of limitation. The author then describes struggles within herself to try and find another way, that may break the conventional process she is used to using in order to help this patient. And that this "destructive" tension is necessary to achieve a positive outcome.

I see this same process in interpreting Matisse's work. It is up to the observer to adapt to the tension of the unnatural form of his paintings, and work through this tension to understand what is there. It is not like a work of Renoir or Monet where life is laid down perfectly before you. Interpreting Matisse and achieving a positive process in psychoanalysis involves conflict, creativity, acceptance and understanding of each aspect involved in the creation of the painting process and possibly movement away from the pre-defined boundaries.

I find the presence in some sort of tension in the process of achieving appreciation through understanding or familiarity equates for many, to a feeling of aesthetic pleasure, whether in science, or art/theather, humanities, etc. The process of tearing down, and rebuilding, a sort of transition, the struggle with an idea, its rejection, and the use of this rejection to formulate another idea that completes a certain satisfaction, fills an emptiness.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Analyst
Name: Lauren Swe
Date: 2005-03-22 14:25:35
Link to this Comment: 13875

I honestly don't see any difference in considering the aesthetics of psychoanalysis compared with the aesthetics of any practice, and am suprised by the responses that my classmates have posted upon this topic. For our purposes, (and fundamentally,) what is the difference between psychoanalysis and any other form of healing? Is not the creation of a different mode of thinking and seeing a beautiful process in any sense? This changing of perceptions and the difference between individuals visions are exactly what we have been talking about thoughout the course of this class. Just because this sense of "altering perceptions" (in terms of the patient's changing views of his/herself on the path to recovery) is in a controlled and very self-aware sense shouldn't be so striking to us. The experience of beauty, for me, is as Mark Lord said, "very cerebral" and it seems to me that a discussion of how perceptions of beauty are constructed would be severely lacking if it did not pay attention to psychoanalysis and the study of the development of the human mind as a whole.

Sexual Biases in Psychoanalysis?
Name: Katy
Date: 2005-03-22 14:48:24
Link to this Comment: 13876

Psychoanalysis is one of the oldest forms of psychotherapy in the Western world (even though it's only been really practiced for a little over a century). Much of the thrust of psychoanalysis in the past has been heavily shaded by patriarchal, male points of view. Implicit in the famous cases of Freud and Breuer (i.e. "Anna O.," "Dora," etc.)are the ideas of traditional gender roles. I know that forms of psychoanalysis have been updated over the years, with such practices as psychodynamic therapy (which I have participated in). Psychoanalysis itself still seems to me to be heavily enmeshed with the early views prevalent in the practice. With this (true or false) association in my head of psychoanalysis, I can't help but wonder if the beauty that can be found in the process and results of psychoanalysis don't in some way or another have to do with traditional gender roles and ideas. I am curius how Levine might address this idea.

Susan Levine's essay
Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-03-22 15:31:44
Link to this Comment: 13879

There were several things that stood out to me while reading the essay. First, that beauty in psychoanalysis is understood and experienced as a process. Second, the relationship between the patient and the analyst can enhance both people's experience of beauty and in some cases (Eliza) one person's approach or method can strongly affect the other person's experience. This is to say that in psychoanalysis, having an aesthetic experience is not one that is done independently. Lastly, I was struck by the coupling of opposites that seem to construct the argument.

Levine constantly referred to psychoanalysis as a process and that it was this complete process rather than the finished product, a successful session or even a healthy patient that gave satisfaction and gratification to both parties (though she did concentrate on the analyst's experience moreso than the patient). Her discussion about the process also leads into my next point. Levine shows that in the process of psychoanalysis, there are two people involved and directly linked and affecting the other's sense of beauty or gratification from the process. Levine uses the example of Eliza and how her slow progress frustrated and diminished the beautiful or aesthetic part of her experience as an analyst. I thought that it was interesting how much emphasis she seems to place on the experience of the analyst when I normally view psychoanalysis as a process to please the patient. I have rarely thought about what should/would please the analyst because I figured it was their job/duty rather than a source of personal pleasure or gratification. I was surprised to see the impact that two different patients in their own progress could make on the analyst's own progress. IT seems as though in the process of analyzing the patient, there is also a lot of self-analysis done by the analyst.

Lastly, I was most interested in the pairings of what I felt were opposites. With Eliza, Levine expresses a sense of frustration with Eliza's inability to detach herself from reality which she believes makes it "virtually impervious to interpretation." However, she believes that what kept Eliza from progressing if her refusal to make the analyst into a "significant object." It seemed as though Levine wanted her to suspend reality, or the cold facts, so as to be open to interpretation, yet the only way to do so would have been to make Levine a significant object in that reality, or in the discourse or dialogue going on in her mind, in her reality. Beres also mentions how like in art, in psychoanalysis there is a need for a suspension of disbelief. "We immerse outselves in fiction or drama by pretending that it is real, but at the same time preserving the understanding that this is not really happening." Also, Levine says that she derives pleasure from the affective and the intellectual. The two seem to me to be two opposite sides: the affective is the more creative and appreciative of the creativity involved whereas the intellectual side derives "from the way of a theory or set of theories."

I was also fascinated by the idea of "making meaning" and how people can interpret things to create a completely different experience out of the same string of events.

I also liked Beres's statement about the analyst needed to have "lived through a creative experience in his own analysis" in order to participate more actively in the process.

Beautiful yet Troubling
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-03-22 16:09:10
Link to this Comment: 13880

I really enjoyed the article because I felt that the arguments were clearly explained and held a lot of truth. I have always felt there to be beauty in human-to-human interaction (verbal, physical, sharing of ideas, etc), taking pride in your usefulness, and discovering solutions to anything whether it be a math problem or a psychological problem in a patient. I like the way she approached her arguments by describing analysis analogous to writing, painting or any other artistic expression. It made the arguments a lot easier to follow and I could see the aesthetic characteristics in all of the analysis aspects she described. What I found most interesting was probably the beauty she found in episodes where she was “the target of a patient’s rage.” She explains that “Experiences of satisfaction are defined…. by the unit of tension and release of tension. When what has misfired can be righted…”(9).

What I found a little questionable was the effectiveness of psychoanalysis itself. After reading the episode with Dorothy, I felt like if that what goes on in analysis session, a lot of people can be analysts too. The profession seems that one does not need a fancy degree to do that. It happens everyday when friends or family members seek advice from one another or share their personal frustrations or problems with each other. I feel that these episodes are a lot more beautiful because both parties share and the meetings can get a lot more personal. There is more of a bond within the interaction. When it’s a shrink-to-patient situation, only the patient shares his thoughts, while the shrink seems objective and apathetic. I’m not sure if that is part of the rules of the profession. And I know that the shrinks care (otherwise they wouldn’t be helping) but I feel like it’s harder for people to release information about themselves unless you can connect with the other person. I mean when another person does not open up to me, I don’t feel particularly inclined to share any inner thoughts either. I feel this doctor-to-patient interaction limits the bonding and therefore the beauty. Also, I find the conclusions that shrinks come up with are a lot of the time common sense that I would be able to tell someone in the same situation. I was hoping she could explain more about how her background education ties into the effectiveness of the profession and how it ties helps her come to conclusions about her patients.

Name: Alice S
Date: 2005-03-22 16:34:50
Link to this Comment: 13881

I am not really sure what I think about the comparison of the two patients. I think someone said earlier that this process could be almost dangerous; I agree. What happens when this process goes all wrong? Can there still be beauty in it? I think if we take Eliza as an example, and she is probably a mild example, than we see that it is not 'healthy' for either the patient or the analyst. I suppose it does depend on the connection the two share.

I also think it is strange to try and interpret everything that happens in your life, and it seems like this takes the beauty out of living, even if the process itself is still beautiful to the analyst. I am torn as to which side of the fence i am sitting on; I think psychoanalysis can be probably the most beautiful experience in the world, but I am not sure I believe it.

Teachers and psychoanalysts
Name: Mal
Date: 2005-03-22 16:54:54
Link to this Comment: 13883

It was hard for me to get into the piece right away because I could not imagine how the psychoanalytic process could be beautiful. But as I read it, I was able to see how someone would find the process beautiful. I like the metaphors used, that analysis is like a piece of music or a play, that it is incomplete until you are done with it. She watches her patient grow and change over time. It is that, I believe, that she find beautiful about the process. I was able to understand this when I put it in context of my own life. I am an Education minor and I plan to become a Elementary School teacher. The reason I got into teaching was when I preformed community service at my old elementary school. I got to work one on one with all of the kids in kindergarten. They would come into a room with a sheet of paper that had a story on it. Then, they would read the story to me, with me helping them out if they needed it. I found the exercise both beautiful and gratifying. In a sense, I think teaching for me, is what being a psychoanalysts is for her. We both foster environments that hopefully allow the other person, be it student or patient, to learn and grow. I like teaching in part also narcissistically. It is awesome to have a bunch of children who love you and want your full attention all the time. But the real reason I want to teach, and I think this is true for a lot of teachers, is to see that “ah ha” moment, when the child realizes that they have learned something.

Beauty in Narrative
Name: Rebecca Do
Date: 2005-03-22 17:11:28
Link to this Comment: 13884

"One of the goals in an analysis is for the patient to be able to develop a more or less coherent narrative of how he or she came to be the way she is."
I found the reading on physchoanalysis very interesting especially the section quoted above from the part of the article about "The Aesthetics of Making Meaning: Interpretation." What caught me about this section was the way it connected with Hoffman's essay about narrative. In both articles there seemed to be a theme of finding beauty in making sense out of something more complicated. Hoffman's theory is that we can find beauty in complex things by forming a series of simple steps that will explain the more complex. From what I understood analysts suggest to their analysandes ideas that help the reconstuct their narrative. The narrative that the analysande reconstructs would then hopefully enable them to work through their problems. These ideas that come together are the simpler steps in the overall very complex narrative.

Name: Alix Derme
Date: 2005-03-22 20:10:36
Link to this Comment: 13888

I found the reading on Suzan Levine's essay somewhat difficult. I began by reading the glossary first and i found that to be rather dense and abstract. Perhaps some of my frustration was because of my skepticism about psychoanalysis in general, but i found both the glossary and the essay itself rather hard to get through.
The essay just reinforced my feelings about most of the topics that we have focused on in the class thus far. I am constantly left wondering if i am really getting anything out of this class and if i am really learning anything at all. I went into this class never having been concerned about why i find the things i do beautiful and despite the fact that i have been forced to face the question over and over again, i still do not really care to know or seek the answer.
I therefore went into the task of reading Levine's essay with a great deal of skepticism. While I very much find it interesting and inspiring that someone can find beauty in one's occupation like Susan Levine has, I do not neccessarily know if i care to read an essay on it. At one point in her essay, Levine refers to a teacher she had in high school, who warned her about the difficulties of writing what he called, "an appreciation paper." Levine then goes on to say that she did not heed is warning then and she received a C on that paper. She then says that "it is with some trepidation that [she] set(s) out to do this in regard to psychoanalysis, to try to explicate why it seems to [her] to be such a satisfying and ultimately beautiful process." At this point in the essay, i was left to wonder why she continued to do it anyway.
I understand that i may be in the minority of people that do not appreciate the essay, and perhaps it is much more successful in the eyes of most of its readers, but i still believe that she may have been better off not having writen the essay at all.

Helpfulness of Psychoanalysis
Name: Megan Mona
Date: 2005-03-22 21:12:20
Link to this Comment: 13889

Since we seem to have decided that truth and understanding are beautiful I can see where the connection to psychoanalysis would be inevitable due to its supposed ability to lend greater understanding of the human mind and emotions but I have a hard time putting much faith in psychoanalysis. Levine even says in the very first paragraphs that "psychoanalysts love doing psychoanalysis for reasons above and beyond its helpfulness to patients." In my mind the most important goal of any therapy should be to help the patient. This makes it sound like it is merely for the psychoanalysts to study their patients like anaimals in a zoo.

It seems that so much of the success of psychoanalysis depends on the psychoanalyst that it is most important to remove oneself from the process. By finding so much joy in the analysis process it seems to be making it all about the psychoanalyst which I would personally not find in any way helpful in a therapy setting. It should be a time to focus only on the patient. The essay compares the idea of "creating a coherent narrative" with the way "one attempts to to evalute works of art objectively." I was unsettled by this because it makes it seem like the patient is an oddity to be studied and not a person. This seemed cold and lacking compassion which is mostly how I feel about psychoanalysis in general based on my limited understanding of it.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-22 23:12:35
Link to this Comment: 13900

I'm really amazed at the richness and the range of your reactions to Susan's essay, and very much looking forward to listening in as she discusses it with us all on Thursday.

But first, I want to say a couple of things about Mark's talk today, which I so very much enjoyed. The four "propositions" I came away (agreeing) with were

I'm very much interested in your responses to these claims, and will be particularly interested to see what effect Duchamp's take on art museams will have on the papers, due this Friday @ 5, in which you are reading paintings from the Barnes (Anne quoting Mark quoting Duchamp: "Museums are buildings where we put art that need not be looked @ any more, pictures we already know how to look @, whose power is already used up. The last place to look for new! able-to-change you! art is in an art museum.")

The question I was asking, as we broke up, was to return to the opposition Mark constructed at the beginning of his talk, between the "a-aesthetic cerebral" he was trying to portray when he first began working in theater, and the "appreciation of sensual reality" which continually called to him, and to which he eventually gave in. By the end of his talk, when he was describing ways to enliven worn reality by thinking (noticing and re-using a cliche AS cliche, for instance) I saw Mark putting the cerebral (=reflectiveness) to work in the service of making beauty. So it wasn't that sensuous reality replaced the cerebral, as he first suggested, but rather that, eventually, the loopiness of their interactive relationship was put into play.

Thank you, Mark, both for the work you do and for taking the time to come and tell us about it.

The Chemistry of Art and Beauty
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-23 09:51:35
Link to this Comment: 13914

Me again; can't resist. Selene Platt, who is (among many other things) the secretary for the Center for Science in Society, has been piloting a new feature on Serendip called "Science Matters."

The current page on the chemistry of art and beauty, plus the one upcoming on synesthesia and synchronicity, might give you inspiration for the papers you are writing this week about your experiences "Reading a Picture."

That first page, "The Chemistry of Art and and Beauty," includes links to Sharon's course on "The Stuff of Art," as well as ours here about Beauty, along with a student's essay, written for Neurobiology and Behavior three years ago, about Color Vision and Color Theory.


oops: correction
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-23 09:55:38
Link to this Comment: 13915

Made an error in that link. You'll actually find "The Chemistry of Art and Beauty" here.

Love in Jobs
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-03-23 17:03:31
Link to this Comment: 13937

A number of essays we have read have argued that people perform their jobs not only as jobs, but for themselves. Levine wrote, "There are thus unavoidable narcissistic pleasures (and unpleasures) for the analyst, and it is obviously essential for the analyst to be as aware as possible of what his or her stake in the process may be." I feel that this is necessary for all occupations. An anthropologist for example, must be aware that s/he must be objective and yet it is hard. And yet, it is still wonderful that people find beauty in their work. Levine argues that there is beauty in analysis. She begins by quoting Keats, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." By beginning with such a strong quote, Levine's argument makes sense. Beauty is in all areas including art and science. Levine states that psychoanalysis inhabits both art and science.
It was very interesting to read Levine's essay because I am experiencing a lot of similiarities right now while writing my senior thesis. (I know that I have referred to this a lot but it's important to me at the moment). Each time I have a successful interview, I feel very involved and get excited because my evidence backs up my hypothesis. But, when I had an interviewée who was closed and did not give me a lot of information, I became quite frustrated. I loved the excitement and passion I felt from having successfully drawn out information. And I'm currently enjoying the beauty of pouring over my interviews and literature and finding things that match and don't. While it is necessary to be objective, it is just as necessary to be interested in your work.

Important Request
Name: Susan Levi
Date: 2005-03-24 13:43:58
Link to this Comment: 13981

Dear All,
I realized after I left today that I should have made the this important request.
Although this forum certainlty feels prvate, it is in fact a site the public can visit. So please be careful not to refer in any way to the clinical material we discussed in class.
I enjoyed meeting with you and thank you again for your very thoughtful questions and postings.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-24 18:24:13
Link to this Comment: 13991

Thanks so much to Susan for her visit today. I enjoyed it very much, and learned a lot (even having read the paper several times--and heard it presented--before). I was very moved by her description of her interactions with her patients, and her ability to help them--as well as by the obvious delight she took both in our invitation to her to return to speak @ Bryn Mawr, and in your responses to her work.

The spot where I'd enjoy/profit from more conversation has to do with her use of fractals as the image for what happens when she and her patients "mix it up." When Susan first delivered her paper on "Beauty Treatment" in the Beauty Symposium last winter, she said that "a sentence is worth a session"--as an example of how a small thing can represent/sum up a much larger one. But it's just this notion of a fractal being "invariant across dimensions" which makes it not-quite-satisfying to me as an image for the freedom-from-past-scripts which psychoanalysis can bring about.

Like Liz, I don't like boxes (Sharon once painted my dislike, and named it "Vulnerability"):

--and so I am very much disinclined to embrace a process of simple repetition. I don't find it beautiful, but rather entrapping--and boring. I'm far more inclined to the notion of "emergence" (which is grounded in the presumption that simple interactions on one level can generate new forms of order on the next). This seems to me a much more interesting quality than "simple" magnification: contraction/expansion (into something different)/contraction/re-expansion (into something yet different....)--which would look more like this kind of growth, perhaps:

Name: Susan Levi
Date: 2005-03-25 08:40:18
Link to this Comment: 14001

Dear Anne,
It is interesting that the image you selected to portray emergence (what appears to be a schematic represnetation of a tree and its roots) is fractal. Some fractal images give more of a boxed in feeling than others. I do not (yet, I hope) know enought about naturally occurring fractals to explain the variation that occurs within them. I think we have an aesthetic difference. You are struck by the boxed in feel and I by the ways in which they are infinite insofar as they extend without ending toward nothingness and evrythingness.
However, there is an important point about being boxed in that boxes me in! Fractals are an important and accurate metaphor for mental functioning in that the unconsious -- yours, mine, everybody's -- DOES set limits and box us in. It does so whether we are aware of it or not and whether we have been analyzed or not. The limits of the box may be expanded but there always is some sort of box that our mind sets. We may not like it, but I believe that this is simply true and part of what it means to be human. We are able to think outside the box, but we also are boxed in by ourselves. Perhaps Paul would have sonme interesting comments to make in regard to whether this is consistent with his understanding of the brain. I also wonder whether Lacan's 1936 paper on the mirror stage (in case students might want to have a look, it's in Ecrits: A Selection, Norton, 1977, pp 1-7)might be read as speaking to this.
Analysis takes so long becasue it is hard to add new numbers to a the equation of a fractal that is long-standing. There are fractal generations that one can play with, and small changes in the numbers lead to almost imperceptible changes in the image.
Enough for now!

Weird posting
Name: Susan Levi
Date: 2005-03-25 08:41:21
Link to this Comment: 14002

I have no idea why my posting formatted itself in that way!

centering (on the edge?)
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-25 11:59:32
Link to this Comment: 14007

Funny example, actually, of being boxed in by someone else. I'd put an HTML instruction in my last posting to center the image, and then forgot to give the instruction to "close center." Am doing so now--let's see if it works!

the feminine pursuit of the beauty ideal
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-25 13:34:42
Link to this Comment: 14010

A reminder that your third paper, on "reading a picture," is due, both on-line and in hard copy, by 5 p.m. today, Friday, March 25. Don't forget to submit your paper in a folder along with your previous ones--I've gotten several already w/out that needed "background."

And now what you've all been waiting for: the feminine pursuit of the ideal of beauty. Next Tuesday, 3/29, we'll be having a discussion with Christine Koggel of the BMC Philosophy Department about three texts:

The first two are in your course packet; you can access the third online, and print it off from there. Post your responses to these readings--along with any particular questions you have for Christine, so she can be thinking about them ahead of time--here by 5 p.m. on Monday.

See you next week!

Body Image
Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-03-26 10:16:22
Link to this Comment: 14027

Society treats women as objects. Beauty is found in female uselessness. Footbinding in China, corsets, anorexic thinness, exceptional paleness and even restrictive clothing are all representations that these women either never needed to work or that they cannot work or survive without help. Perhaps it is a throwback to the stereotype of the man as the protector, the male who is influenced heavily by societal stereotypes may feel better about himself if he is strong in comparison to the female. One thing I've noticed is that at no time in history have athletic women been highly favored, I could of course be wrong and would love to hear that I am. The obese wealthy woman of the Renassiance, and the anorexic "beauty" of the modern world, while different on the outside represent the mentality that a woman either should never have to lift a finger or can't do so. The notion of chivalry in modern society, in which a man must open a door, pull out a chair, etc for a woman all show that women are treated as useless objects to be protected. I believe that this is a socialized thing, because there are certain groups of individuals or subculures within society that do expect that women should take care of themselves and defend themselves as well as men can and to say anything to the contrary would be viewed as sexist.
I think that it's funny that body image in men is almost never addressed and fine so a rich ugly man is more likely to get a beautiful girl than the other way around; however, these are extenuating circumstances. Many overweight men do feel ashamed of their bodies just as women do. While the ideal for men, one of muscular fitness, may be more healthy than the ideal for women, there is still a large amount of pressure on those who cannot be the ideal. I feel that it is something that needs to be discussed and brought up. I feel that society shoves male anorexia or overeating into a corner because of a perception that it is not there or that it is not as bad as women's issues. I feel, however, that there are many individuals, who one would never know had eating disorders because people are misinformed. Anorexia for instance cannot be defined by the weight or body fat of an individual, if this were to happen an athlete with an eating disorder would be considered healthy, it is an obsession with what one eats and the limitation of eating so that one loses weight.

The Best Topic
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-03-26 11:00:28
Link to this Comment: 14028

How appropriate to finally discuss the political implications of beauty and the timing could not have been any better. Friday afternoon, I endulged in some Kohr brothers ice-cream, and of course got a regular size which is HUGE and then read our CSEM assignemnts and laughed at myself. Here I was, sitting eating a dessert and thinking gosh, now I'm really going to get fat...and an article about loving your body just the way it is, is upon me.
I love how Koggel gave a concise and simple explanation of Plato, Kant and Wittgenstein with real-life examples. I see a reoccuring theme in almost everything we have read, "everything is explained in relation to how one experiences someting"- and that beauty is closely connected with the truth. I seem to buy into that, but recently catch myself asking why I believed it? Does beauty seem pure and innocent, and therefore is truthful.
Kant on the other hand had more open definition of beauty, "beauty is found in everything" and that our imagination can give us pleasure. But I found this particulary interesting: when he says that in subliminal things like the earth, clouds and sky which are powerful and fearful things, beauty is not experienced directly, we have to reflect on it. I disagree with that, I think beauty is found IMMEDIATELY in something so much bigger than you and I, and with a power so overwhelming that I have to find it beautiful.
I understand how Koggel really liked Wittgenstein's theory of family resemblances, because it says "there is no one definition of beauty" which is what I said when I came into the class, and I might be saying when I end the class. His claim that there are resemblances in everything, is what defines beauty. We base our liking of something because of the overlaps and criss-cross between what we know and don't know. (page 3 of 5, 2nd paragraph). The best part of reading is when Koggel finally asked the questions I have been asking everytime I read something, visit the Barnes museum, glance at Sharon's paintings, "who gets to judge things as beautiful, what does does this mean for people in different communities" but also, are people going to think of me DIFFERENTLY if i view something as beautiful but it is considered ugly/bad by society?
This brings us to the topic of women's beauty and beauty pageants, I have grown up in a very Indian-cultured household and body image has NEVER been an issue, I can never go without eating for 3 hours when I am home, it is considered rude to the cooks aka my mom. So, healthy eating and working out has been a topic, rather than what size my waist and breasts are. Therefore, when I was reading the piece on "No more miss America" I couldn't help but feel sorry for the women who were protesting AND the women who were on stage, beauty is not what people rate you as, or how many Vogue magazine covers you grace, but rather how beautiful you feel. I am not going to lie and say that I sometimes wish I could look like this girl, or have the 6-pack Gwen Stefani has. But to be paraded on a stage in front of many people, to me signfies low self-esteem and an unsupportive group of friends and family members. This might be my Indian upbringing, where women with large bellies wear Saris and have no problem baring their belly...I think we should watch "Real women have curves" in class.

Beauty Can Be a Very UGLY Word
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-03-26 17:37:42
Link to this Comment: 14033

The "Beauty is the Beast" essay really grabbed my attention, and it made me seriously consider how much suffering and pain women have endured in order to be considered "beautiful" by the beauty-obsessed society that we live in. We as women are made to constantly live in fear that we will either never be truly beautiful and socially-acceptable, or that the beauty that we have achieved or maintained will one day be lost. I have witnessed so much of this pain and fear in my own life, as well as other women I have known. I remember in middle school and high school, the pressure was on to wear our plaid skirts as high as possible (I went to Catholic schools where we had to wear uniforms), to have manicured and/or fake long nails, wear make-up, have silky straight hair, perfectly clear skin, an ample chest, and to be thin. I remember my frustrations and personal battles during this time, b/c I couldn't quite seem to wholly fit the standard beauty image that was popular at my schools. For example, I had long, unruly, curly hair at the time (and still do, only it's much shorter), and my facial complexion certainly wasn't "clear." And having my peers who did achieve these things remark to me that I needed to "measure up" or fix myself to look beautiful didn't help my frustrations, either. I recall a male teacher that I had, who jokingly said that I should "shave my head." There were also instances when friends of mine would complain that they were "too fat" (when they were as thin and small as you could imagine), or they would remark that they thought that their boyfriends had dumped them mainly b/c "he didn't think I was pretty enough" or "he didn't like the way I looked."

That's one of the reasons I came to Bryn Mawr -- I knew it would be a school where it would be PERFECTLY OKAY (and even ENCOURAGED) to just be who I am -- to not have to feel pressured to conform to any one beauty ideal.

I'm not a big fan of beauty pageants, so I found the "No More Miss America!" article to be very informative, as well as amusing ("The Living Bra", "Saint Male") and sad. Again, it's the same trend -- the pressure for women to conform to this one specific ideal beauty image in order to win social acceptance, as well as a crown -- a crown that might as well display the message "I Have the Best Body and Face in America -- Worship Me!"

In Christine Koggel's essay, she notes how every beauty theory that we have come across never seems to adequately define what beauty is and all of the uses it encompasses. People's judgements highly vary when it comes to determining what kind of music, painting, animal, house, sculpture, or landscape is beautiful. Isn't it interesting how it's okay to have varying ideals or definitions of beauty for these different things, and yet for the female body, it is not okay to have more than one ideal. The female body is always under the scrutiny of the "male gaze" -- if our looks aren't aesthetically pleasing to those around us (other men and women) then we are deemed automatic failures.

One question I have is this: Has women's historical obsession with beauty been continually motivated by a profound desire to be found attractive by men? Do we suffer and agonize because we want to bring pleasure to men's eyes only? Do we obsess over beauty b/c we obsess over how men perceive us? I personally think the answer is yes to these questions, but if anyone can provide another idea or argument, I'm certainly open to it.

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-03-27 00:35:08
Link to this Comment: 14037

Oh, ugh, ugh. I've been blessed to grow up in a household that's acutely conscious of the unrealistic demands society imposes on women... but it's still a fresh shock every time I read something like these essays.

What bothers me most, I guess, is the double-standard. This is probably because it's an issue that's constantly in my face. My mother is a news reporter. She knows that "technically" her station can't fire her if she gains weight or starts looking old. However, she also knows that the station expects her to come in every morning looking fresh, trendy, and made-up. She'll probably never be allowed to go grey on the air, though she works with male reporters who are completely grey, or balding, or chubby. Not only that, she has to possess an enormous, diverse, constantly-chaning wardrobe. Male reporters can get away with suits every day; just change the color of your tie and you're good to go. Suits never go out of fashion. But god forbid a woman wear the same outfit twice in a month---or worse yet, something that's "so last year."

It's not only the physical, temporal, and financial pressure these demands create that's harmful. What's worse is the mindset that goes along with it. For a woman to be really taken seriously in this society, she has to look good. With men, brains and personality are usually enough to redeem unfortunate wardrobe choices or a five o'clock shadow. (Einstein's hair, for example: who cared?). But women have to be beautiful (read: conform) and smart. The first is a prerequisite for the second. "Ok, you're beautiful---ah, and you also have a brain! Wonderful! Now we're talking!" (Example: letter to Time magazine which congratulated Condi Rice on her "smoking hotness." Riiigghhht.)

Not only that, but the standards women have to conform to are unbelievably unrealistic, not to mention unhealthy. Science knows this, and yet everyone buys into the stereotypes anyway (including people who should really know better... myself among them). Even when you *do* know better, it's really, really tough to look at a fashion magazine and force yourself to think: "she's too skinny--unhealthy" or "that's silicon" or "airbrushed!" We've been raised to accept these women as "beautiful," and there's something in the back of our minds that, no matter how much we know, is always judging---and finding our own bodies lacking.
And *then* there's this falsely "feminist" attitude that fashionable society sometimes adopts, which praises women for being individuals when really they're just slaves to the stereotype... for example, I was watching a fashion show the other day that congratulated Paris Hilton on "rejecting the female stereotype." Excuse me---how??

Name: Amy
Date: 2005-03-27 10:02:22
Link to this Comment: 14041

Like Alana, the article that most fascianted and repulsed me was "Beauty Is the Beast". Although none of Saltzberg and Chrisler's arguments were new, I was depressed and not so suprised at how little progress society has made. And I was wondering to myself how these double standards that Brittany just commented on will ever change? How can we create a society where there is not one standard of beauty that you will never be able to fit? I was interested in Alanna's comment about coming to BMC and feeling like the pressure to be beautiful diminished , because in some ways I've felt the reverse. All I hear all day are girl's discussing calories or whether they should splurge and eat dessert or comparing how long they spent at the gym. Though I do agree that outwardly we respect each other for our minds and opinions, I would not say beauty and body images issues are nonexistent on this campus.

Name: Marissa Pa
Date: 2005-03-27 11:22:39
Link to this Comment: 14044

Wow. I really enjoyed the readings we did this weekend. The Koggel paper was very interesting because I am in a philosophy class and we are (sort of) discussing some of these topics, or at least the philosophers. Ot was intersting to see their words related to Beauty, one of the three "big topics" we were told were discussed in philosophy (along with Truth and Good). I feel that a few of the ideas broached in this paper were things we have talked about class, about how beauty can rely on function, is in the eye of the beholder, and that there are cultural paradigms that govern beauty.
The "No more Miss America essay" struck me because these are issues still being brought up about the contest 37 years later. Women now still see the Miss America contest as degrading, racist, and rigged, and really except for certain dated terms ("It should be a groovy day on the boardwalk in the sun with our sisters" p.1) this is something I would not be surprised to find handed out on the streets or circulated around the internet today.
The final "beauty and the beast" essay was very much like the book my group read for class, Survival of the Prettiest: the science of beauty. The author brought up many familar points about the historical differences in what is percieved as beautiful and also the differences between beauty in a man and in a woman. This is something I find to be very interesting, and I think it would be thought-provoking to take some sort of history class that covered these issues.

Ideal Beauty
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-03-27 16:08:28
Link to this Comment: 14058

Someone earlier in the forum asked if the obsession by women to be beautiful is motivated by a desire to attract men. I find it interesting that this is asked because if you think about this question in relation to other animals, the answer would be no. In many (if not most) animal species it is the MALE that tries to attract the female, not the other way around. Male non-human animals are brightly colored to attract females, fight each other for the female attention, and do the bizarre dances to prove their fitness. For this reason I think there must be other reasons why human women strive for the ideal beauty; we are animals too after all and should theoretically follow other animal behavior.
My guess is that women strive to be beautiful because, despite the social advancements, women are still taught to feel unequal to men, or at least at a disadvantage. Women are the ones who sacrifice their careers to rear children. Women are, according to one Harvard academic, not as competent as men in certain intellect pursuits. Women are not as physically robust.
Female non-human animals don't have these social ideas to contend with and don't feel "inadequate." So it is my uneducated guess that beauty is the ideal striven for by women as a form of compensation. Because society has taught women they are not as intelligent, useful, or strong, women strive for beauty instead. I don't think women are trying to attract men; they are trying to equal them by overcompensating with curlers, make-up, and wax.

Beauty as shackles
Name: Katy
Date: 2005-03-27 18:12:40
Link to this Comment: 14065

Beauty has throughout the ages been one of the only bargaining tools for women. Nearly every culture on the planet, for as long as humanity has been around and even up to the present day, has in varying degrees enslaved, abused, belittled women. The one method that existed for women to turn the tables on men has been their beauty. The patriarchy still exists in this country and even in more liberated countries such as Great Britain. Beauty is considered a woman's only ticket to doing what the patriarchy insists is the only thing women are good for--i.e. bearing offspring. Women have over the ages been enslaved by their biological functions. Since women tend to be smaller and more delicate physically, men have been able to take advantage of them. Since women are the ones who give birth, they have been expected to do so by the patriarchies of the world. In such a world where women's lives are so bleak, their only way to one-up men has generally been their physical beauty. And men fall for it hook, line, and sinker. No wonder so many women then fall for society's unreasonable standards of feminine beauty.
Only in really the last forty years have women--and enlightened men--truly begun to act and push for greater equality. Unlike the women's movement of the early twentieth century, the women's movement of the '60s and '70s sought--and continues to seek--equality in every aspect of the social world. We still have a long way to go. For every independent, intelligent woman portrayed in the media, you have 15 Jessica Simpsons. Many men and fellow women may increasingly respect and admire the former, yet it is still the latter that is considered "beautiful" in our society. And the real kicker of it is that these standards of beauty are so relative and inevitably subject to change. Why is the prototypical beautiful woman a bleach-blond, petite, garishly made-up, broomstick-thin individual? Is there anything intrinsically aesthetic about being twenty pounds underweight? I would argue that there's not, that it's instead an arbitrary standard of beauty devised by the patriarchy and is bound to change when men tire of it.

You're so SKINNY!!
Name: Malorie
Date: 2005-03-27 18:17:18
Link to this Comment: 14066

I found all these articles really interesting. One thing that really shocked me was the facts about contestants and winners of the Miss America pageant, epically the facts about the races of the contestants. It’s amazing to me to think about how much as been said and done about standards of beauty with little to no change. Even award such as the Academy Awards, which we think of as being less associated with beauty and more with performance (not to say that Hollywood is not obsessed with beauty), had it’s first African American woman, Halle Berry, win for Leading Actress just 4 years ago.

What really got my attention was Amy’s comment about beauty here at Bryn Mawr. I agree with what she about us respecting each other because of our intellects, but we are not blind to beauty. Don’t we all occasionally walk around campus and think things like “Wow, she is so pretty. I wish I could look like that” even though we know we are being superficial? We all are aware that the standard of beauty is twisted, but it is something we cannot escape. I personally have been confronted by both men and women at Bryn Mawr and off campus about how I look, specifically about my weight and waist size. I am a naturally small person. I have a really fast metabolism which allows me to eat whatever I want and maintain the same weight. It’s funny how people approach me about it. They don’t say to me “You look great!” , they say “You’re so skinny!” I never know what to say when someone says that to me. “Thank you” isn’t right because they are not really complementing me on being thin, in fact some people say it almost as an insult- as if to say “How dare you be so skinny”. I feel like apologizing to the person for being so thin. I don’t know what they want me to say. My usual repose is “yeah” or a shrug. Some times that is enough for people, and sometimes they keep driving the point, saying “No, you really are skinny. I can almost wrap both hands around your waist!” Really!? You know I never realized that I was thin until you just brought it up!

We always talk about the “ideal” being thin. Yet I believe there is a point when people can become “to thin”, or skinny. Skinny is really a negative word, I think. When people tell me I am skinny, it is not to congratulate me on reaching an “ideal of beauty“, it is to condemn me for it. I cannot say why people feel the need to point my own body size out to me, but I think that part of it is because they may feel uncomfortable with their own weight and size. I am not saying that I am not insecure about my body. In fact, I am insecure about how thin I am- I dread people telling me that I’ve lost weight. I also am very small breasted, and although I do joke about it a lot and consider myself pretty comfortable about it, there are times where I wish I was better endowed.

Maybe you are rolling your eyes at this thinking “What has she got to complain about?” but I felt that it is really important to bring up the fact that beauty is a double standard and even if you seem to embody one aspect of the ideal, you are still being judged. Please feel free to respond to what I have said.

Name: Flora
Date: 2005-03-28 00:15:49
Link to this Comment: 14073

Over Spring Break, I was going out with some girls and some gay men. When I was getting ready, one of my friends said, "It's not like you have to change your shoes or anything. They're gay. They don't care." My immediate response was that I'd care more about what I wore going out with friends who would be discriminating about clothes than if I was just going out with my boyfriend. My boyfriend is not metrosexual enough to make fun of my pumas, but I guarantee that one of my friends would point out that I looked too casual for a swanky wine bar.

I can definitely say that I think women try to become beautiful for more reasons than to just be attractive to men (especially if you're queer). Beauty is definitely equated with power, as the Beast article points out. Being beautiful, fulfilling social standards of beauty in clothes, make-up, shoes and body, all of that gives you power. And with that power, comes just about whatever you want, or that's what we've been taught to think.

Many women in Miss America pageants do it for the scholarship money. It's a lot of money gained by the power of beauty!!! It's pretty sick that competing to see who can produce the most unhealthy body image can win tens of thousands of dollars, but it's survived protests like the one we read about.

Unfortunately, I don't know that we've moved that far beyond Plato and Hume. As Saltzberg and Chrisler suggests, beauty is associated with better character traits than ugly. Beautiful people are often more successful because they have power. Just look at Bryn Mawr. There are almost no critically obese or physically disabled students here. Why is that?

Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-03-28 12:01:23
Link to this Comment: 14081

I agree with Flora, in that attracting men isn't the only motivation for trying to look 'pretty.' And with what Amy said; that being surrounded by other women can actually make one more beauty conscious than before.

Women dress up for other women. I know that the surface reason for a het female to get fancied before going out with a guy is to please him, to conform to his expectations of societal beauty. But other women are the watchdogs of fashion and makeup. Because of other women, I won't wear blue tights with black shoes. (This is going with the unfair generalisation that straight men don't notice/care about fashion or style, dictated by the media. Please bear with me on this stereotype, because it's basically true. Why SHOULD they care, or have to notice?) I'm reminded of another class, where certain women characters were called 'handmaidens of the patriarchy,' sustaining hurtful roles because they believe they can gain (pseudo) power from it.

Only some of my relationships at Bryn Mawr make me put more than minimal effort into getting ready; the ones that are, I don't mind much. We're conditioned, and probably wired, to initially judge people physically. Dinky fashion rules dictated by other women don't oppress me; unlike the oppressive, completely male-powered world of the 1970s, these women are my friends, and would still appreciate me if I broke out, if my shirt gets stains on it, if I gained 10 pounds.

The readings mainly made me want to hug and thank my mom.

Madonna-Whore Combination
Name: Muska
Date: 2005-03-28 12:02:20
Link to this Comment: 14082

I guess my question is broad and a tad bit off topic because it's not specifically related to gender roles or beauty, but more generally on the notion of rebellion. (I guess it's not that off topic after all).

I think one thing that was made clear in the selections for this week is that there are obviously societal ideals of beauty, which are dominated by male concepts of the perfect face, body, etc. These ideals are so interwoven into our lives and psyches that it's almost impossible to escape society's scrutiny.

The only appropriate (and sane) option a modern woman has is to rebel against these ideals and unapologetically develop her own definition of beauty.

However, even if a woman actively opposes and rebels against the male-dominated notions of beauty, she is still allowing the male opinion to dictate her behavior. Whether a woman complies or resists, the woman is still is being categorized through her relationship with male ideals.

I'm not sure if I'm making any sense.

I guess the question I'm asking is whether the rebel can ever be identified independently, without the association with the institution which he/she is opposing?

The Evils of Miss America
Name: Megan Mona
Date: 2005-03-28 13:51:21
Link to this Comment: 14085

I am amazed that we still have beauty pagents in today's world of feminism and gender equality. These displays of objectification have hardly been changed since the protest in 1968 to which the article refers despite certain superficial measures. Though today we have had minorities represented as Miss America and there is a talent portion of the pagent that is supposed to even out the results there is no possible way that a talented yet plain woman would ever make it to the Miss America pagent. The talent portion seems like something they just added on in order to get feminists off their back and to further test the potential Miss America's on their well-roundedness and force them to seek an even higher and more unattainable level of perfection. Also Miss America perpetuates the idea that women must be virtuous or they are worthless. Those entered in the pagent are not supposed to be married nor are they supposed to have children, the implication being that they ought to be virgins. As mention in the article, the Madonna-Whore complex is always at work. Woman are supposed to balance the fine line between all-American wholesomeness and sexiness.

Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America in 1984 but she had a huge scandal and lost the title when it was revealed she had posed for nude pictures. She went on to be an accomplished actress as well as singer but her percieved lack of wholesomeness kept her from being Miss America despite her obvious talents. This only further supports my assertion that the Miss America pagent is a horrible institition. In this case a woman's past actions that had no bearing on her talent or her merit as a human being were brought up to drag her character through the mud. This would never be done to a man because they are not held to the same standard of perfection as woman. I could rant more about how much pagents make my blood boil but I'd like to ask if people think it's ethical to use one's beauty to gain power. One could argue that this is a way to fight in a man's world but is it actually more hurtful?

our notion of beauty
Name: Alice S
Date: 2005-03-28 15:31:57
Link to this Comment: 14091

First of all, I have to say that Christine Koggel's article is the most interesting we have read this semester. I found it very interesting to actually read about theories of the origin of beauty.

I have to say that reading the "No More Miss America" really mad me mad, mostly because so many of these ideals are still in place. At first, I was not sure that I agreed with Koggel's statement that our notion of beauty is still based on a man's perspective. As I read it, I thought to myself that there has to be some kind of universality that goes beyond just the universality of what men think, or else our standards of beauty would have changed. But, after thinking about it, I realized that Koggel is correct, that even the pressures that women put on each other today are really still the pressures men put on women. It is just that some women embrace it and it has become engrained in our society.

This notion of Miss America and the ideal women actually relates to a conversation I had this weekend. I am not trying to go on a political tangent, but I think Hilary Clinton is a perfect example of a woman who has been scrutinized for trying to defy the social norm for a woman, particularly for a First Lady. My friend told me had heard people say they wouldn't ever vote for her because she is "too manly" in the role she takes. I think it is interesting that we will only elect men as presidents, but we don't want a woman to take that role, and if she does, she is scrutinized for doing so.

Sorry if this was a little bit of a tangemt, but I just think it is very relevant to this article. I just think it is unbelievable that we still live by these standards. I still believe that there is some combination of universality and subjectivity in terms of certain things that are beautiful, but it is the standards of human beauty that I think need some revision.

The People vs Miss America, Round II
Name: Liz Newbur
Date: 2005-03-28 16:07:35
Link to this Comment: 14093

Now I've never been a particular Miss America fan. When I was yonder, I never wanted to watch it because it seemed to superficial. I'd rather go play G.I. Joe's with my brothers then sit and watch a bunch of over-primped, plastic girls parading around -- even if by the time I was born they were all parading around for college scholarships. But at the same time, I feel like it's an American icon, a part of our heritage as a nation that, whether we like it or not, is there and universally recognized as being connected to the US.

What I found interesting, in relation to the Miss American pagent, was that the moment the pageant -tried- to adhere to at least some feminist standards, ratings went down the hole. Was it because events like the 'No More Miss America!' rally grabbed the media’s attention, and we felt guilty for supporting the beauty pagent because of what it stood for? Or was the pageant changing from this event that supported a cookie-cutter Barbi-doll image of beauty, and evolving into an event that at least did lipservice to supporting the image of a multi-racial, intellectual ideal of feminine beauty not to the public's taste? Was it because the public did not truly want to be confronted with a realistic perspective of beauty? Perhaps it's a combination of both.

As far as feminist standards about beauty, I cannot help but feel pride in my gender for pushing for a broader definition of beauty. But I am a little confused -- aren't the feminist standards of beauty, described by Koggel, a continuation of relativist/subjectivist ideals? "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", and the beholder up until now has been men, and since the standards of beauty have always adhered, in our culture, to the standards of the male gender, therefore what the feminists are arguing is for us to widen the eye that views beauty so that it includes a feminine perspective. But looking at the other theories that seem to involve beauty, that Koggel brings up.. I'm wondering if this is the proper way to view beauty. Does beauty have to have a gender on it?

Out of all of the theories, I think I find Plato and Hume's accounts the most pleasing to my tastes. That the things we see are just fractions of a true Form, of a true Beauty, and we are but trying to see the true form as best we can through our inferior human senses.

It is Ok to see beauty in physical beauty
Name: Catie Davi
Date: 2005-03-28 16:13:28
Link to this Comment: 14094

OK, I hope I didn't miss anything in the articles...
This discussion over the physical ideal of beauty is very interesting as, if you remember, my group read a book called Survival of the Prettiest and the author very thoroughy explores the idea of beauty and women and society.

At the end of the article, the authors begin to address the issues I'm going to bring up...

What is wrong with being beautiful? The Beauty is the Beast article is very controversial... which, I suspect, is why it was chosen for this class...although most people so far have agreed with the arguments the author is making, I want to know why? I understand the societal pressures on women to be beautiful and that sometimes women do obsess unhealthfully over their bodies, looks, etc. But, it seems to me, that the author is making a direct argument against beauty, period. Why is it wrong to spend money on cosmetics or work out programs if it helps one feel better about themselves. It could be argued that cosmetics, work out programs, etc. are used as a tool to conform to the beauty ideal, but I dont believe that is always the case.

It is important to be healthy. Healthy doesnt mean anorexic, and it does not mean overweight. There is a balance and it is only when taken to the extreme that anything becomes dangerous and unhealthy. It feels good to maintain a healthy diet and work out. We should not use a person's desire to be healthy against her. If this leads to a more attractive physical look according to society, than so be it. It is possible to enjoy the things in life that enhance physical beauty without always striving for society's ideal.

Also, I think sales from cosmetics, belonging to a gym, etc is good for the economy... who is going to complain about that?
Anorexia and bulimia are very sad and dangrous conditions. One of my close friends has been suffering from an eating disorder since we were 13. It isn't a joke but it must be recognized that these eating problems often times stem from other problems lead to a feeling of not being able to control the events in one's life. They cannot be always be blamed on body image problems. A deep insecurity or depression often times sets in beacuse of these problems and the woman, or man believes the only way they can control their life is eating, etc... it is not only a beauty issue.

Many people base their self-worth on what society thinks of them, whether it be their weight or their intelligence, or their economic or social status... people are just self conscious, period. We are all given different gifts, use them. If you are beautiful, dont be ashamed. If you want to be beautiful, work at it. If you dont want to be beautiful, and aren't, don't bother those that do want to strive for beauty. It is true that models are portrayed as the ideal of beauty, in magazines, etc.. but i have noticed a great effort by manufacturers (not including high fashion that most of us dont wear anyway) to diversify the looks of their models.

We cant forget either that we evolved as social creatures as a survival tool (see Survival of the Prettiest). The authors even accept the fact that it is natural for people to paint their bodies and to make them more appealing to others, "...have been decorating their bodies since prehistoric times" (2). We search for societal approval in many ways, we blame society for many things, beauty just happens to be one of them. Do not forget that beauty is not alone in many of the categories Saltzberg and Chrisler place it.

What do we do about the extremely beautiful woman who has a very low self image because she wants to achieve a high level of success but can't because she is not very intelligent or resourceful?

I think the important point Saltzberg and Chrisler were trying to make is that women are, and should not be sacrificing their health for physical beauty. I agree, but I think it is also important to pay attention to how we approach the discussion of this topic. We should not criticize physical beauty. We should focus on the health issues dealing with extreme self-consciousness.

Reaching the Paradigm of Beauty
Name: Jaya Vasud
Date: 2005-03-28 16:45:40
Link to this Comment: 14097

I actually enjoyed reading Christine Koggel's essay- she did bring up the different layers of questions that one needs to answer before defining something as beautiful, ones that I've never thought about myself, which definitely opens up more realms in our discussion. One of the points that she brings up that I particularly found intriguing is the one about how women of different cultures and generations (even our own) are taught to go through great lengths to meet "the cultural paradigms of feminine beauty." What's more interesting is that being expected to reach these ideals is oppressive and only leads to superficial beauty, yet a vast majority of us go through with these rituals anyway... I admit, even I'm guilty of it. Furthmore, it was important that she did mention that ideals towards beauty vary greatly culture to culture... although I personally think that because of globalization and migration, ideals of beauty are becoming more universal. It's something I've definitely seen everytime I go to India, as the women in billboards are moving out of the traditional South Indian ideal of beauty and are definitely adopting what would be defined as a "Western look."

Finally, the Miss America article compared the pageant to a dog or pet show, and at first I thought the idea was a little radical. But after giving it considerable thought, these feminists do have a point, a point that's really hard to dispute. It's also really appalling that there was a ban on letting people of color into the pageant, as if any race other than white wasn't considered to be beautiful at one time.

Reaction to this Wk's Readings
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-03-28 16:53:30
Link to this Comment: 14098

While I enjoyed all the articles this week I think that the Beauty is the Beast article was the most interesting. I'm so excited to read about the beauty and women's continuous struggles to acheive it. I thought it was interesting to read about things that I pointed out in my most recent paper. I thought the Renoir's "The Spring" and "Caryatides" were beautiful. They were nudes of voluptous young women. I commented that it is interesting to see how ideals of beauty change over time. I questioned whether or not today's ideal of beauty (tall, thin, big breasts) would look as good as Renoir's nudes. I thought that it would not. The funny this is that I do find models and their awkward poses in magazines to be beautiful. Maybe model thinness is better when covered up?

It was also fun to see this week's readings tying in with 'real life'. :) Yesterday I spent at least two hours on a site about the good and awful plastic surgeries that celebrities have had. I found it amazing that so many people ended up making themselves look worse than they naturally looked. In most cases, they looked fine before the plastic surgery but as the person who runs these websites said "pretty is not good enough in Hollywood". You have to fit in with the impossible standards of beauty. I was also surprised to see how many models have had surgery. I know that it's naive but I thought that most models were modeling because of a natural beauty. Turns out that isn't so. At least five or six of today's top supermodels have had some type of plastic surgery...breast implants, lip injections, cheek implants. A former Miss America was also featured on the sight. She's had extensive work done since her days as Miss America. She had been a struggling actress for a number of years after her reign (which made me think of the 'No More Miss America' article which points out how the winner is used up and then discarded...another example of women's objectification). She is finally on a soap opera now but only after years of struggling and much plastic surgery. It's really frightening to see how much of what people look up to is fake.

Women and Beauty
Name: Kara Rosan
Date: 2005-03-28 16:53:47
Link to this Comment: 14099

I found these readings really interesting,mostly because I tend to be oblivious to all of these pressures that women feel to reach an ideal of beauty. I see girls around me wishing they looked different, or wearing really uncomfortable clothes that they were told would make them more attractive, and I think its just completely ridiculous. Something these articles made me consider, though, was the fact that men aren't neccessarily the ones who put pressure on women to look a certain way. Often, woman place these pressures on each other. Still, men are still the root cause of these behaviors. Women feel insecure about the way they look and the way they are percieved by men, so they turn to comparisons with other women to make themselves feel better. As a woman, I constantly find myself being surveyed by other women. Sometimes I take it as a compliment and sometimes I feel self-conscious. My response to other women's looks completely depend on how I'm feeling about myself; if I think I look nice, then I assume I'm being given a dirty look for that reason, and it doesn't bother me. That is the problem though, because many women do not feel good about themselves for whatever reason, and completely depend on the opinions of others to dictate how they should view themselves. So when these women are given dirty looks by other women, they assume its because they look horrible and begin to feel bad about themselves. Then these women, with their inscure feelings, begin to prey on other women to make themselves feel better, and the viscious cycle continues. Somehow, there needs to be a way for women to be responsible for their own feelings about themselves, and make sure they know they're beautiful regardless of external pressures. I liked to think that in this day, we had many different definitions for a beautiful woman. Its very sad to me that so many are still embracing the unrealistic concept of beauty that has existed in our society for centuries, but is only genetically possible for a small percentage of women.

Mirror, Mirror
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-03-28 17:05:06
Link to this Comment: 14101

In our society, the ideal of beauty, is, as Naomi Wolf put it in her talk at UPenn on February 27th, to be "young, skinny, with big boobs and no personality, white, blonde, tall, and smiling." Wolf described this woman as "Nazi Barbie." Koggel reviews a few theories of beauty including Kant and Plato. She makes a strong point, "The question I want to ask, one not asked by Wittgenstein, is who gets to judge things as beautiful, who gets to challenge what counts as beautifulo, and what does this mean for different people in particular communities." Who gets to say that the beauty ideal has to be "Nazi Barbie" and does Wolf have the right to challenge this?
Women go through a lot of trouble to fit into the cultural standards of beauty. Not only going to the gym or eating well, but having eating and exercising disordeers or surgery, women torture themselves to fit in. Part of this is because beauty is an integral part of a woman's life. Beauty and femininity are historically correlated. Wendy Chapkis wrote in "Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Apperance" that "Appearance talks, making statements about gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class. In a sexually, racially and economically divided society all those visual statements add up to an evaluation of power." This draw pulls women. But, as Koggel asks, is this truly beautiful. Society can fight it with protests of Miss America and more, but to change beauty standards, it will take a societal revolution.

Getting Worked Over Nothing
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-03-28 18:00:53
Link to this Comment: 14103

Based on some of the responses, it seems that these articles are getting everyone worked up for a cause that has an absolutely unobtainable solution. The aim of Chirsler and Saltzberg’s essay seemed to be presenting a number of incredible and interesting facts in order to shock the reader towards denouncing superficiality. I totally agreed with what she was saying about the pressures placed on women to be this ideal image of beauty. And it is not fair that society continues to change those ideals in order to make this desired image forever unattainable. It’s as if we’re chasing a car we’ll never catch; you’ll get tired, but the car will never slow down. However, reading through changes of ideal beauty throughout history has brought me to the conclusion that is it obvious that these ideals will always be there. The ideals of “truth and goodness” are everlasting, therefore beauty is too. Therefore, the authors’ call to action at the end stating we must “take a stand against continued enslavement to the elusive beauty ideal…live life more freely and experience the world more genuinely” seems so flowery and unrealistic. We can never lessen societies restrictions on our image, but we can individually choose to follow them or not. These societal expectations are not law. Also, asking people to go against societal norms is just as bad as society molding people into these norms. If implant and heels make someone happy, by all means, let them follow that road. And the health problems she related to some of the measures women take in the beautification process seemed to be over-exaggerations. “Unsanitary instruments leading to infections,… long hair and dangling earrings caught in machinery,… high heels and tight skirts prevent women from running from danger, all seem like ridiculous excuses not to wear or carry out those activities. These warnings seem like nothing in this perilous world of earthquakes, traffic accidents, etc. It did not dissuade me the least bit from wearing earrings or high heels; rather it just reiterated how clumsy and careless some people can be. Lastly, the statement, “Imagine a society where bodies are decorated for fun and to express creativity rather than for self-control and self-worth” is not as farfetched as it was intended because that’s our society today. Freedom of expression baby.

Also, after revisiting the timeline of societal ideals, forever changing like a race with no end line, I realized that these societal implications make up a nation’s culture, and culture is a positive thing. Flappers and hippies were figures in history that we look back upon with pride; they were outspoken and free-spirited, so I find it ironic that their dress and appearance were used to exemplify restrictions. This prompted me to wonder if we have sacrifice our individuality and self-image to promote culture.

Ok, to sum up what I had initially wanted to say before I tangented off was that we seem as a group to get worked up and upset about having to fit this ideal image, but honestly we have two options. We can choose to follow it and maybe life will treat us a little better because truthfully, beautiful people get life handed to them in a basket. Or we can choose not to follow it to whatever degree, and accept the consequences that result. I won’t shave my legs, and it does limit the number of men attracted to me, but I’ve decided that those men are most likely not the men I want anyways. The consequences do not outweigh the stress of shaving for me so I continue not to do it.

Ok, now to tie a little bit of Plato in. If "It is the Philosopher with special capacities and a particular sort of education who is better able to glimpse the Form of Beauty than are ordinary citizens,” do we blame the Philosophers for setting these societal standards of beauty? I believe beauty is both relative and subjective. However in different situations it’s more one over the other, and cultural norms adds more in terms of relative beauty. But it is the subjectivity of prominent figures, i.e. celebrities, philosophers, intellects, who decide that cultural norm of beauty. It’s essentially a paradox.

Last, to comment on the Miss America protest, I thought it was a great idea and an awesome attempt, but still ineffective. We’ll still are and will continue to be fitted into our image by society.

Beauty is an Inside Job
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-03-28 18:19:52
Link to this Comment: 14105

I was interested in not only our reading assignment for class, but also in your responses, and in reading them I am not disappointed.
In both the readings and responses, a major theme emerged:"The standard of beauty is imposed from outside the object (woman) and she pays if she doesn't measure up."
I would like to go back to Plato's description of beauty, that beauty is inherent in the object. To this I say "right on."
It is up to us as individuals, whether we are male or female, so find our inherent beauty. Then as outsiders judge us as beautiful or not, we will know that it is only an opinion that they hold and are sharing it with us. A nice response to "You are beautiful." could be, "Thank you for sharing." And a nice response to "You're too skinny" would be, "Thank you for sharing." No matter what the expressed opinion, it is only that.
When someone is aware of their own beauty, why would they care if other people are capable of recognizing it or not? Why do we want to get the compliment? So that we can feel beautiful. We already feel beautiful when we are in touch with our inherent beauty. So if we don't get their compliment, we feel beautiful, and if we do get the compliment, we get a bonus.
Let's take it a step further. How do you feel when you are angry at society or "men" for setting up this society in which 99% of the women are victims (i.e. not matching the strict standards of beauty) including you? How does your face look while you are explaining how awful it is that "they" do this? Do you feel beautiful at these times? I sure don't. My face is all screwed up, my wrinkles are at full-mast, and my skin color turns a brighter shade of red. Not my picture of beauty.
How do you feel when someone is opening up to you and sharing their opinions with you, giving you their idea of beauty. I know for myself that when I am sharing ideas with friends, I feel very beautiful and blessed to have friends that would share with me. This is how I choose to receive information from others. They are trusting me with their opinion. I am grateful for their trust. And I don't have to agree, disagree or change their minds.
As far as the Miss America Pageant, it seems to be something that persists, and it takes female participants to make it happen. Each participant is getting something for thier participation or she wouldn't be there, and it must be worth it, because the participants keep showing up, year after year. It isn't society's fault that the pageant is still going on despite all its flaws. It couldn't take place if the women didn't enter. It must be serving a purpose.
So rather than focusing on the "terribleness-for-women" of something that women keep in place, hold your own beauty pageant every day. Be the most beautiful you you can be, whether that include painting your face, or finding and sharing your inate beauty. You are the only you this world has. Show her off!
Whatever it takes for you to feel beautiful, do it. Then you won't even care what other people's opinions about your beauty are. Yours is the one you live with. Believe that one.

Name: eebs
Date: 2005-03-28 20:37:55
Link to this Comment: 14111

id like to comment on the miss america article. although feminists constantly protest the degrading nature of a beauty pageant, they are forgetting that under a different light, displaying femininity is empowering. yes, some of the contestants for the beauty pageant may appear to be nothing more than a living barbie-doll.. but that is why many pageants now conduct "interviews" to see who, i suppose, is the best specimen. if you think about it, a beauty pageant is not much different from a college requiring photos on their applications. of course they schools may claim that their requesting a photo is unbiased, but if anyone had a choice, wouldnt they choose someone who would represent their school/company/country the best.. as in, someone most pleasing to look at? and in terms of woman, who is most 'capable' in portraying femininity than someone who posesses the boobs, and the curves? our breasts and our curves are physical characteristics that separates us from the male gender physically. this is not to say that someone will smaller breast is not considered a woman, but physically speaking, the breasts, (not hair cut, not skin color) screams, "i am a woman!"

concerning the topic of racism, that is something that the general population of the unites states needs to work on. in koggel's essay, she explains how "beauty is dependent on function and usefulness". with this said, you cannot expect a tight-knit predominately- caucasian community to accept a person of a different racial background to be beautiful if their encounter with the other races have been minimal. there is a point where "different" can be seen as strange/ugly, then maybe exotic in the next level, then finally.. beautiful. it is all about how accustomed one is to seeing the 'other'. i am not trying to justify the miss america winners for the past 50 or so years, i am saying that there are reasons to why it was like that, because lack of exposure. another thing that affects EVERYONE'S perception of beauty is now, the mass media. before the 1990's i believe, there werent as many magazines telling women, "whats hot, and whats not". now with cosmo, us weekly, people, marie claire (which are predominantly read by caucasians), to name a few, the media is trying to portray a sense of beauty to the minds of women across america. and because the largest portion of the population who read these magazines are caucasian women, the beauty standard is fixed to fit their perception: long blond hair, blues eyes, and being a size 3. now about the issue of size, we are shaped by the time/era we live in, the NOW. back in the middle ages, chubbier women were considered the ideal beauty. with the times changing, the criterion for idea beauty has also changed, just like a trend. there is no telling how long the trend will last, but beauty is becomming more and more a person thing. but yes, its true, there are standards shaped by the community we live in (not necesarrily the place we were born). but a lot of the trend is because of the media/celebrities that implant a specific form of beauty (that they posess) into our minds. i think that as long as there is such a thing as a celebrity.. or at least someone who could pose as an idol figure, the idea of beauty will always be skewed..

Yes, but...
Name: Lauren Swe
Date: 2005-03-28 21:34:04
Link to this Comment: 14117

Being the good mawrtyr that I am, of course I believe that the stereotypes of beauty to which women in our society hold themselves (myself included) I can't help but think that there must be something to them. We have already discussed the idea that there are certain elements that are (generally) accepted as being universally beautiful in a human face, such as symmetry. The fact that there have been studies done which prove that overall, most people agree that people with symmetrical features have more aesthetically pleasing faces than those that don't is something to be taken into consideration. Is this merely an extension of the human preference for symmetry and balance in all things. I think that for the most part, one might also safetly say that people who look HEALTHY are generally considered to be more beautiful than those who look sick or in any way unwell. (And my extension I feel that nobody finds someone who distinctly looks like she has anorexia or some other eating disorder, attractive) I also don't think that this is just an aesthetic thing; I believe that this might be a human tendency to take note of elements which are generally signs of overall well-being. Contrary to being shallow or superficial, I think that this is a natural, undeniable tendency which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Granted, there is a lot more to gauging human beauty than just its physical aspect, but this is the one that I have chosen to address because it is the one that seems to interest/upset most people.

I like high heels
Name: Rebecca Do
Date: 2005-03-28 23:24:48
Link to this Comment: 14123

The part about these articles that I found the most interesting was the briefly mentioned section about how women are not necessarily victims of beauty- although I think that it is the small minority of women that want to be beautiful for themselves. When I was reading the article about the protest of Miss. America in Antlantic City it strck me that often times objects such as bras can be seen from two entirely different viewpoints. Attending Bryn Mawr I am well aware of the bra being a symbol of oppression; an article of clothing that binds women into a form that men/society find to be desirable. However, I like bras and I am extremely comfortable in them. When I think of bras I think of femininity and in a positive way. Many of the objects that were thrown into the trash can be either positive or negative for women depending on whether or not women use them for themselves or to make others happy.

A Choice
Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-03-29 17:01:20
Link to this Comment: 14142

Given the subject and context of our conversation this morning, I found that I was still brimming with things to say as I walked out of the classroom. I keep coming back to the point that for me, if you can do something beautiful you should, and in my life, making the decision to do something which MIGHT be beautiful carries huge weight in my decision-making process. This system of belief and practice extends to the decisions I make when I wake up in the morning and decide how I am going to present myself to the world for that particular day. Given the choice (or the time, which is generally the ultimate deciding factor,)why not choose to make myself presentable, or what most people would perceive to be as "more beautiful?" It makes me feel better, it makes other people look at me differently and in turn, it generally positively affects my performance for the day. I (and I think most of you would agree with me,) feel more confident and consequently all-around better when I know I look better than usual--is this wrong? Is this anti-feminist? I honestly don't think so, but then again, I think that we need to address the issue that there is a real difference between feminists and non-conformists. In terms of physical appearance especially, these two groups are extremely different due to the source of their motivations.
Another point that I wanted to bring up in class has to do with the ethics of beauty and my own personal experience in the workplace. I have worked as a hostess in the same restaurant for almost two years, and I have come to accept that mine is a role which is mainly decorative. My former manager (a man) even half-jokingly admitted to me, "I only hired you because of the way you look." While I know this is wrong, I was so taken aback by his blunt honesty that I laughed. I also didn't quite believe him until a little while later. I have come to realize that all of the restaurant business is about presentation, not only the tables and chairs and atmosphere of the building itself, but the presentation of the food on the plate and of the waitstaff and management. Everything is about maintaining an image, and I have been sucked into this superficial world. As bad as I know it is ethically, I feel that this is one of few businesses which is very open about its superfical nature, but is not unique in this respect. I also don't believe that these pracices are to be commended, but it does make things interesting for me. Comparing the situations of where I work and where I attend school is an occupation unto itself which fascinates me. As for those of you who are sick of being "appreciated for your mind" all the time and crave a little objectification, if you are considering finding work in a Main Line restaurant, I suggest that you take the word of my misogynistic manager and "just make sure you're really hot-lookin'" when you go to your interview.

Survival of the Prettiest--or Getting Ahead?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-29 22:48:47
Link to this Comment: 14151

Many, many thanks to Christine Koggel for coming to class today and helping us think through the costs and benefits of meeting the standard ideal of feminine beauty. We'll continue discussing this in our small groups on Thursday; in preparation, read the Introduction and Conclusion to Teresa Riordan's Inventing Beauty, which I handed out in class today (extra copies may be picked up from the box outside my office).

What interested me the most, in today's discussion, was the constant--always implicit, sometimes explicit--comparison between beauty and intelligence. Is it as "unfair/unethical" to use one's innate intelligence to advantage, as it is to use as-unfairly-distributed innate beauty? The "culture of beauty" can be dangerous/destructive; so too can the "culture of intellect"--each operates as a kind of "social capital" that can be expended, that has a "production function" in economic terms. In either realm, how willing are we to "conform to move ahead"? How much/how might we contribute to constructing a diversity of standards, in both realms, so that women might be valued for a range of appearances, and a range of ways of knowing/being in the world? I wrote about this @ length in the forum for the Beauty Symposium last winter, and repeat just some of my questions then here:

Does thinking about beauty as a cluster of "resemblances" simply expand the range of "what counts" as beautiful? Or does it get us out of the category altogether, replacing it w/ the sort of "anti-pleasure" aesthetic some feminists advocated @ one point in time...?

Beauty evokes pleasure. So: Beauty has power. We can acquire (be "socialized" into) a "second order" appreciation of it, but it is, first, a visceral experience, that which "moves" us--an experience most/all of us want to enjoy. Some of us don't feel the need to manipulate or change what is beautiful (the way we appear to others); some of us very much want to participate in its production (= i.e., to "make something beautiful" or to "be beautiful" ourselves).

So: What are the political consequences of this desire? Is the "real problem" that beauty is exclusive, that whoever "has" it (I'm thinking now of beautiful women) has the power? And/or that whoever gets to define it (I'm thinking now of the male gaze) exercises power?

Looking forward to hearing more of your thinking here, and in class on Thursday--


comment on tuesdays discussion
Name: eebs
Date: 2005-03-30 02:08:36
Link to this Comment: 14156

i personally think that the word "unfair" cannot apply to this argument. first of all, everything is unfair (whether we choose to believe this fact or not), especially if you think of one child being born into a family of 11 compared to a single child born with a so-called 'silver spoon'. perhaps the most fitted word would be 'ethics'. however, concerning ethics, using what is given to you for your own benefit is not a crime/unethical. in fact, the opportunity should be used wisely. if one is lacking a stable financial background, why should beauty stop them from obtaining somthing better? beauty should be thought of as a gift or a talent that can be used for ones benefit. if this becomes a reality, the standard of beauty may be raised because of beautiful people taking advantage of their looks, and people who are dealing with body images may be putting their bodies in (further) danger. but we cannot act to protect everyone; there ARE people out there whose job is to seek and help out those with body issues. we cannot be responsible for EVERYONE else. i personally do not find someone's act of trying to be more beauty as selfish. beauty is power. beauty can determine who is hired when everyone is equally qualified for a job. why would any company want to hire an individual that may lower the companies workers/representatives? as cruel as it may sound, looks play an important role in the business world. you look at someone and if they are more beautiful/groomed, you tend to subconsciously think that they are the better bet.

what i do not understand about the feminists' arguments is that beauty confines women. i actually think it is the opposite. i think beauty empowers women. wanting to move ahead (through beauty)is a sign of an ambitious female.. i dont understand why feminists cannot see beauty through that light.

tanya and i were talking after class about how the feminists who are anti-beauty tend to be not as attractive. does anyone else think that these feminists are trying to downplay beauty because they lack it?? i think so.. to a certain extent at least.

liking what we see?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-31 13:06:31
Link to this Comment: 14193

Some of the most striking observations--to me--from our discussion, upstairs, this morning:

"What I learned is that, to me, paintings are not beautiful. Objects are not beautiful. What is beautiful is my experience. My interaction."

"What does a painting DO? Is what it 'does' what it looks like?"

"It is not useful to look without knowledge, in the natural state of not thinking. I don't trust myself to see things on my own. I have a responsibility to not be tricked."

"But if I do research on what I'm seeing, I'm not taking it for what it is; my experience will be tainted."

"There is spontaneous beauty, and there is constructed beauty: we must (or should not?) attend to the labor involved in the latter."

"Knowledge may increase or diminish my experience of beauty, but I must/should take the risk of seeing which happens. To refuse to take the risk is also to refuse the possibility of expanding my sense of beauty."

"You can't force the experience."

"Remember the poem, 'The Doorway'--which celebrates keeping the innocence, before knowledge comes in?"

"There's nothing wrong with making oneself attractive, or with being attracted by others' appearance. This is an undeniable source of pleasure."

"Beauty is not liberation, not power. It is a deception."

"Beauty is not the enemy. The enemy is the narrowing to a particular standard."

I also mentioned a number of suggestions for further reading:
Judith Butler on "reading as 'taking down'"
Laura Mulvey on "the anti-pleasure aesthetic"
John Berger on Ways of Seeing
--as well as my learning, in the Emergence group, more about the difference between "science" and "art"--here are those ruminations ...

We'll meet again in our large group on Tuesday. Please read both the web notes for Paul Grobstein's talk on Biology, Brains and Beauty and Ted Chiang's short story, "Liking What You See: A Documentary." Post your responses to both--as well as your further thoughts/suggestions regarding our re-working/re-presenting/having a party for the beauty survey--here by 5 p.m. on Monday.

The Song of the Bird
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-03-31 15:45:54
Link to this Comment: 14194

This is a little off the current subject, but right on with the subject in general, and I thought it worth posting:

The Song of the Bird
©1982 by Anthony De Millo

The disciples were full of questions about God.
Said the master, “God is the Unknown and the Unknowable. Every statement about him, every answer to your questions, is a distortion of the truth.”
The disciples looked bewildered. “Then why do you speak of Him at all?”
“Why does the bird sing?” said the master.
Not because it has a statement but because it has a song.
The words of the scholar are to be understood. The words of the master are not to be understood. They are to be listened to as one would listen to the wind in the trees and the sound of the river and the song of the bird. They will awaken something within the heart that is beyond all knowledge.

When I read this I felt it was all about beauty. I could replace the word “God” or “master” with “beauty” and it fit perfectly what we have been running into all semester in class.
It also spoke to the question, “Why do some people say Truth is Beauty and Beauty, Truth?”
I am one who says that. I believe it. Truth is something that can not be defined, though it is profoundly simple. But in its simplicity, it is something that can never be defined at all. For every definition falls short, every attempt to define it constricts that which can not have confines, and is therefore an impossibility.
Beauty is the same way, as we have so clearly demonstrated all semester. I do believe that truth and beauty are synonomous.
But I run into some problems here. For we do not find all things beautiful, and yet there can be nothing in this world that is not truth.
This appearant discrepancy comes up because we believe things that are not true; our thoughts. When we see something and think it is not beautiful, that is because we believe our thoughts about it and our belief in those thoughts make it appear not beautiful. If we could see it without believing our thoughts about it, we would see it as beautiful, for it is truth, and truth is beauty...and both are undefinable.

Name: Kat McCorm
Date: 2005-03-31 20:06:23
Link to this Comment: 14196

Annabella, although I do not agree with you that truth and beauty one and the same, I found myself strangely attracted to your theory that we would find ALL things beautiful if we did not believe (or have) our own thoughts about them. I can believe this of myself- although "beautiful" is not a word I often use to descibe experiences/objects, I often am profoundly affected by it's absoluteness (that it is so much itself)- which is I guess what you are calling truth.

This juxtaposes interestingly with the discussion we were having in class today of the purposeful deception which takes place everyday through the guise of beauty- I guess I should say the standard of beauty. I guess in your argument, people (and objects in nature also...i keep thinking of the scene in Finding Nemo where Dory is so attracted to the bright light that is actually lureing her into the dangerous jaws of another fish) use standards of beauty in order to cover something that they fear is flawed or unattractive, where what is actually beautiful in the situation is the act of deception.

funny thing in a magazine
Name: Amy
Date: 2005-03-31 20:32:22
Link to this Comment: 14197

Hi Guys,
So I randomly picked up an old issue of Self Magazine from my HA'S box and it had a blurb that I found truly ironic.
In its -Beauty Flash- section, "Real Women, Real Beauty - Got an opinion about what beauty truly means ( in other words, not flawless skin or a size 0 body)? Then click on Dove's to join discussion groups, read essays and get inspired on topics such as body image and aging. he idea is striking a cord: In the site's first month, nearly 17,000 women logged on and participated in the dialogue. Now, that's a beautiful thing."
December 2004 issue of Self Magazine, p. 62

I just found it ironic that a beauty magazine, writing about a website that from what some would call a beauty product's company about trying to expand feminine ideals of beauty while it has Heather Locklear on the cover of the magazine and is all about losing weight...Interesting phenomenoa- though this isn't to bash fashion magazines- as I said in class I have a perhaps obessive love of them.

"everything can be a museum piece....?"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-03-31 22:01:21
Link to this Comment: 14198

Like Amy, I have a report from the media. This one comes from a special section of The New York Times (3/30/05) on "Museums." The lead article, Holland Cotter's "Outside In," begins

Art museums are our most conservative cultural institutions. How can they not be? Their first job is to collect fragile objects and preserve them from harm. But the conservatism is ideological too. Those objects, most of us are taught, represent humanity at its best, its most heroic or refined. Museums preserve that vision, which many of us have a big stake in holding on to. That's why they are stoutly built, like temples and banks. It's the look of Classical. Unassailable. Forever.

...Whose vision of culture are we talking about, anyway? Yours? Mine? Ours? Theirs?...who really deserves to own these magnetic objects...? Who can rightly assign values to them: good, bad; major, minor; worthy, unworthy?...On the one hand, these cornucopian institutions are an homage to the richness of the human past. At the same time, they are advertisements for power in the present: the power of wealth, the power of possession, the power to enforce particular perspectives on the way history was and is....

Another article, "Online, Anything and Everything Can Be a Museum Piece," suggests some alternatives, and put me in mind of our (upstairs) discussion of the possibility of re-doing the Beauty Survey as a multi-sensory/hands-on/unranked experience; see The Museum of Online Museums for a sense of some of the possibilities!

Online Museums
Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-04-02 13:01:09
Link to this Comment: 14210

I found the link Anne put in her post about online museums very interesting. They had what I "expected"- the Museum of Modern art in new york, the musee d'orsee in France, but they also had unexpected artwork. I found myself drawn to a collection of art that was grocery lists that had been found by the man who ran the site. Nothing special or dramatic about them, simply papers with needed grocery items written on them, yet I found most intriguing the commonality between all of the lists. Though there were a few items each had individually, most of them shared common items, eggs, milk, toilet paper, items that everyone uses, giving a communal sense to the site.
I also enjoyed the museum of temporary art, full of different types of artwork that (I believe) anyone can submit to the website. Most of what I saw was 3D, artwork made from common household items (there is that commonality theme again) but taken in a different way, for example there was a piece entitled "A childs nightmare" that was a hollow plastic doll's leg that was filled with porcupine quills. Interesting...

Chiang and other comments
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-04-02 13:19:14
Link to this Comment: 14211

I was very disappointed by the Chiang story. It began very interesting and original but by the end I was disgusted by the author's apparent approval of "calli."
"Calli" is not a resolution to the problem. It merely masks the issue. If such an invention did exist and "lookism" was eliminated, the type of discrimination would merely shift. Maybe, for example, family name would gain importance in society if people could no longer discriminate based on physical beauty. "Calli" would not resolve the societal problems.
Chiang's opinion is that "beauty is providing its possessors with an advantage." This is no doubt true, but Chiang is placing responsibility where it does not belong. Beauty is not the culprit; we have spent enough time looking at beauty and admiring beauty in art, science, theatre, psychoanalysis, etc. over the last couple of weeks that I have come to the conclusion that beauty is a good thing or at the very least a benign phenomenon. Why would beauty's inherent goodness or benignness change when applied to people? It doesn't. Rather there's something about society that manipulates and distorts human beauty. If we took away human beauty, the current key to power, we would leave behind the door to discrimination and power. And people are cunning locksmiths; with the beauty key gone we would simply find a new file to pry open the door.
There was also a more minor theme in Chiang relating to the competition between the spirit and physical beauty and the political implications of this. Chiang claims that conservative religious groups and monotheistic faiths like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity would be proponents of “calli” and would use “calli” as a way to suppress the body and it’s wicked tendencies to be “bewitched” and “charmed” by beauty. I guess I cannot speak from a Jewish or Islamic perspective, but as a Christian I don’t think Chiang has got this completely accurate. Take for example the Pope’s deteriorating physical condition. The Catholic culture has not been repulsed by the Pope’s physical suffering and apparent imprisonment by his body. Rather it has applauded his physical suffering. This is not, in my opinion, an example of “following the…tradition of deprecating the physical.” The same argument can be applied to the Terry Schiavo case. It was a sect of the conservative, monotheistic culture that was fighting for the physical, that is Terry’s life, even though, in the minds of many people, Terry was in a vegetative state without the capacity to exist as a spiritual being. This is not the monotheistic tradition “which devalues the body in favor of the soul” that Chiang describes. I’m not arguing that Terry’s feeding tube should or should not have been removed or that it was unchristian to remove the feeding tube; rather I’m pointing out how I see the themes of our class discussions reverberating in the news. Please, I am not intending to inflame, anger, or offend anyone.
I know this discussion of monotheistic culture and its permeation in global and American culture is not completely on topic with “beauty” and the Chiang story, but it struck me that this is how the political implications of beauty are playing out in two of the hottest news stories right now. Are we a culture that celebrates physical beauty and the body?

Ted Chang
Name: marissa
Date: 2005-04-02 13:20:48
Link to this Comment: 14212

Huh...I just finished the "Liking what you see" reading. I found myself twisting back and forth during the story, pro or con calli. At some points I could see that it was taking away a vital choice from people, but then I also understood the benefits it could have. I dont know if after reading it I have any final belief about whether calli would be a good idea. The futuristic would the characters lived in seemed so wild yet so believable. I could see the world eventually moving toward 3D advertising and voice and visual alteration in order to present some sort of "better" self. At first I felt anti-calli. It seemed like it would be excessive in todays world. Yet I realized that this isn't taking place in "today". The girl who took her nose off, how Tamara was able to use a video phone function that made her look as if she was wearing makeup--this was a far more intense beauty-concerned society than today with many more opportunities to alter appearances.
The study brought up in the notes about the college application left in the airport was brought up in "Survival of the Prettiest" and I find it very interesting that the author took this idea (and more, I'm sure) to fashion a story in the way that he did. Before this story I dont know if I would have been able to imagine things going so far beyond what I experience day to day.

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-04-02 15:28:19
Link to this Comment: 14214

Like Marissa, I spent most of "Liking What You See" ping-ponging back and forth between approval and disapproval of calli. But by the end of the article, I found myself---and I was surpised at this---pretty solidly on the side of the anti-calli camp.

It's not that I don't like the notion of judging people via character instead of appearance. But I agree with what one of the "students" in the article said: we can't let something artificial make that call for us. The ability to see *past* someone's physical appearance is a sign of maturity and an aspect of personal responsibility. Just "switching off" our ability to distinguish between beautiful/non-beautiful faces also "switches off" the moral imperative need to *learn* to do so. Yes, calli would "get rid" of the problem of beauty-discrimination (at least, supposing everyone chose to get it---that's another problem that I won't address here), but it wouldn't eliminate it in any conductive way. It would just hide the problem instead of force humanity to face it and make a conscious effort to overcome it. In a sense, calli is a form of moral laziness. It prevents parents and educators from having to *teach* kids that "appearance doesn't matter" by chucking the problem altogether. It's irresponsible, and I don't think that's a real solution. (It's also dangerous, should people like Tamera decide to get calli removed after a lifetime of having it. She immediately, though unconsciously, used her beauty to try and manipulate her way back to a boyfriend. She grew up in a society where "looks don't matter" was a default, not a responsibility, and when she was removed from that world, she felt no moral imperative to *try* and be objective).

I think of it this way... calli wouldn't eliminate the categories of "beautiful/ugly," nor would it eliminate the discrimination associated with them. People with calli would still be aware of the distinction, and ugliness would still carry an emotional stigma---they just wouldn't be able to *percieve* that stigma. Calli would not eliminate "lookism," as the article puts it, because it wouldn't do anything proactive to combat the attitudes that lie at the heart of the prejudice. It would just ignore them. Ignorance is not bliss!

My final problem with calli is that it *does* have an effect, mo matter how insignificant, on the way one views the rest of the world. Even if the difference were as slight as, say, a high-class reproduction of a real painting vs. the painting itself, I don't like even the possibility of having to give up some of my ability to see beauty.

I want to end with a video I found on a flash website. I'm not entirely sure what bearing it has to the "calli" discussion, but it's definitely relevant. It's also one of the most offensive things I've ever seen:

Now imagine you're looking at this video through calli. *You* can't "get the joke" in a physiological sense (you have no emotional response to the relative beauty of the video's subjects), so you don't "get the point" of the video. In a way I guess this is good for you, but it's a goodness, an innocence that borders on ignorance. You walk away from it without recognizing the stereotype it presents, and so feel no moral obligation to reject that stereotype.

Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-04-02 20:51:48
Link to this Comment: 14218

I don't understand the link between beauty and emotion. I have never felt emotion with beauty. I also feel my comments last class were misinterpreted. I don't want people to be ignorant background details behind a painting or book or something are fine, what I don't what is an analysis of why I find something beautiful, etc. I am a nihlist I suppose, in that I do not believe in truth, pyscholoanalysis or any internal analysis seems like we're trying to fit our patterns into some set little formula that is entirely comprehensible. If a formula exists, I think it is too complicated for us to understand, almost like an absolute truth. Museums are fine, it is the painters that are the problem. I like physical experiences moreso than staring at something that isn't particularly intellectually inspiring, which is why I like Dali but not Renoir.
Now I should talk about the story I suppose. Like I said at the top, this story links emotion with beauty and my response to beauty is nearly entirely intellectual if not 100%. I can make my brain make me find somthing more beautiful and trick myself. As for getting rid of beauty, let people do what they want. In my mind the beauty response is likely evolutionary, if any element was removed or altered likely it would make people mentally unstable. We use beauty to make us happy. I would keep all parts of me unaltered. I disliked the notion of building a world without something that is intrinsically human. It kind of reminds me of all those future science world of doom stories where they talk away free will, emotion, etc and all goes tragically wrong. If we took away beauty something bad would probably happen and yes fine so we wouldn't judge people on beauty or whatever but who cares. We have the choice to care about beauty, we have the choice to create our own standards when we dislike the convention. Most people buy into the convention because they're trained to or its in their nature but pretty much what I've learned is tha we can be taught to find most things beautiful in someway provided a few general norms are followed. I guess I like the notion that I can shock and defy, without the convention I would lose that ability. I would also lose my power to break with the education that has been thrust upon me, making me feel like some of my free will has faded.

thanks for inviting me
Name: Christine
Date: 2005-04-03 08:01:11
Link to this Comment: 14227

Sorry this is late. It feels like the discussion is already moving ahead to new topics - and I'm finding it difficult to keep up!

I wanted to say that I am most impressed - with the discussion in the forum prior to my coming to class last Tuesday, with the very lively and engaging discussion in class, and with the postings about the readings and the class that have appeared since. I just want to react to one thread that will bring out the ethicist in me.

The idea that beauty and being beautiful either makes one feel good or gets one what one wants or needs to get ahead in life has been mentioned by some. The question for ethicists even after observations and descriptions are made of what is the case for some individuals or in a particular society is whether these choices are morally right - in the sense of should choices be made in terms of what makes me feel good or what is good for me? The point of a critical analysis of beauty is not to say that we should be anti beauty but that we should question the norms that are in place that constrain or limit some people's choices. The analysis has us think critically about the choices we make that support a system that has a differantial impact on members of particular groups - even if and when it is beneficial to some individuals.

Just some thoughts from a moral philosopher who wants to maintain the distinction between the descriptive and the normative - between describing what society and individuals are like with beauty norms in place and what society and individuals could/should be like in challenging and thinking critically about those norms.

Thanks again for a very engaging discussion. I learned lots.

Scary Science Fiction!
Name: Alanna
Date: 2005-04-03 15:55:58
Link to this Comment: 14240

While I was reading Chiang's "Liking What You See," I kept asking myself if it would be possible to one day do this, and if so, would I agree to it? I actually would not be very surprised if someday in the future calliagnosia was made possible by technology interfering with our human brain functions. With the incredible speed at which our scientific technology advances, the idea of "calliagnosia" could be a very likely prospect. However, the idea of tweaking our brains in order to not judge people by physical appearances scares me quite a bit.

I understand that the intentions of calli are meant for take away the pain and ugliness that beauty can cause. Yet, I strongly feel that to have calli would be denying ourselves of a basic human feature -- the ability to appreciate beauty, and possibly the ability to differentiate people, animals, and objects. With calli, people would be "dumbed down" and made less human in a sense. True, it would be wonderful to live in a society where people didn't discriminate based on looks. But what if you found yourself in a situation where you HAD to discriminate based on looks? For example, what if you were a police officer and you had to keep an eye out for a wanted criminal among masses of people? Calli wouldn't do you any good then. What if you were looking for a missing child?

Here's another scenario: the interaction between a mother and her baby. Mothers typically delight in the beauty of their babies, and vice-versa. Beauty is a strong factor in creating the loving bond between mother and baby. If calli were instituted in both mother and child, would it take away from the loving bond that they would normally share? Would babies no longer smile at their mothers b/c they couldn't "see" the beauty of their mother, b/c they couldn't delight in the comfort of seeing their mom's familiar face? Would a mother no longer have special feelings for her child, as opposed to other children? Would she be less inclined to care for her baby?

I can't answer these questions with any certainty. What I can say with certainty is that having calli would somehow stunt people's mental development and our way of perceiving the world.

The answer to getting rid of the ugliness and wrongful discrimination caused by beauty isn't about getting our callies turned on or off. The answer isn't trying to get rid of beauty altogether. The answer should lie in changing our attitudes towards beauty. We can have and appreciate beauty, but we shouldn't obsess over it. Others shouldn't be made to feel worthless or less than because of beauty. Beauty should be used to further good in this world, not detract from it. Beauty is inherently good, but we as people possess the uncanny ability to turn it into something bad.

So how do we change our attitudes towards beauty? Perhaps by having the confidence and the discernment to not feel utterly belittled by the beauty messages that the media throws in our faces on a daily basis. We cannot let the media determine whether or not we are beautiful; we cannot let others determine whether or not we are beautiful. We must determine for ourselves that we are beautiful, without taking others' judgement into account. I think that if we actually took the time to examine our own beauty in this way, we would actually find that each of us is beautiful. Once we've accomplished this, we will be able to view beauty in a more healthy way. And, we would not even have to consider the idea of calliagnosia.

(Additionally -- I wonder if all of the issues surrounding beauty, with regards to Chiang's essay, aren't really about the beauty. I'm seriously thinking that it is an issue of CONFIDENCE. Would working on our level of confidence for our physical appearance ultimately solve the many problems that we have with beauty????)

Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-04-03 16:34:27
Link to this Comment: 14243

Throughout Chang's article I ,like most of the postings, found myself thinking that if I lived in this society I would also be calli opposed. But what disturbed me the most about the article had nothing to do with the ideas of judging beauty. I just found myself continually terrifed with the notion of playing G-d and changing our everyday receptors of reality- and then I questioned myself because I realized I am so checked into the status quo of my own experience of reality that the change is what is really frightening. I think I also came across this conclusion in our group discussion on Thurs. when people were saying that today we consider the work done by braces normal and that in the future people will consider having plastic surgery to enhance their looks normal. Like my disgust at calli, I felt disgusted at the notion that one day we will all be modified versions of ourselves. But then again as Annabella made me question in discussion, aren't our natural versions of our self just as fake as the beauty we buy ourselves?

I think the manipulation of your own physical beauty (as in plastic surgery) and the manipulation of seeing beauty (as in calli) both stem from the same idea- that we can somehow mask over our "impurities" whatever they may be percieved to be and live in a utopian like ideal of either ourselves, our perceptions of the world, our society etc. It's this dismissal of everything that doesn't fit perfectly into the box we'd like our lives to be like that scares me.

Calli reading
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-04-03 17:35:16
Link to this Comment: 14248

It has definitely been a interesting journey discussing the implications of beauty and whether I buy into them. Yesterday I was fortunate to attend a conference in NYC with powerful, smart, rich and educated women who work on Wall Street. While they were talking about their experiences from college students to where they were, I couldnt help but be drawn to them and make judgements and think positive things because they were attractive and had so many other qualities that embodied perfection.
This callignosia topic is ridiculous, to think that people can "numb" their judgements to become a better and more aware human is a total contradiction. I understand that sometimes ugly peope feel shunned by society, but it is through certain experiences- good ones and bad that they can gain the self-esteem to push themselves and not get hung up on how they feel ugly.
I feel like the reading was advocation for a product like Proactive "take a risk-free trial for 30 days, if you don't like it we can reverse the procedure, no harm done just screw with your BRAIN!!"
I agree 100% with Jeff Winthrop that maturity helps you see that differences dont matter but personality and education do. Each of us must have gone through an awkward stage with braces, acne, bad haircuts, disproportioned bodies and look at all of us today- we are all beautiful, brilliant women who are have the dual ability of judging beauty objectively and subjectively. It is the awkward process that makes us reach the stage where we can judge in a positive manner.
I appreciated Tamara Lyons point of view and first hand account but I realized that she become more engrossed with her own beauty and expectations after her calli was turned off and that can ruin her self-esteem. Her obsession with making sure Garrett felt beautiful I think occured as a by-process of undergoing the neural changes, and now she doesn't feel comfortable in her own skin so out of fear she reverts back to getting calli.
When we see we are using all of our senses to experience that sight and make a judgement. There will always be more beautiful, smart, put-together women myself and I will judge them, but doing it in a state of awarness. The state of awareness allows me to judge but not let it interfere with my self-esteem and positive outlook.
Calli is a cover for people who cannot handle the real world and are in constant fear that others might judge and then the calli individuals judge and it becomes a cycle. But it's those judgements that make your decisions important and help you get through life. You cannot be "numb" to these judgements because people are more beautiful than you, it's more important to come to terms with the beauty problem than hide from it.

Devil's Advocate
Name: Liz Newbur
Date: 2005-04-03 20:13:47
Link to this Comment: 14251

I think this reading has to be my favorite thus far out of our course readings. So, looking back over the postings, I think I'll play devil's advocate. I'd like to preface this post by saying I'm sitting on the fence, but I think it's necessary to have both points of view presented.


"Maturity means seeing the differences, but realizing they don't matter." (pg 293)
I would argue that no human being could ever be that mature. We don't live long enough, we aren't programmed naturally to -not- discriminate. It takes you less then a second to see a person and determine which stereotype they fit into. In other words, it takes you less then a second to form a prejudice, to discriminate, against somehow. ("The Nature of Prejudice" by Gordon Allport) It's just the way we work. It helped us discriminate between good mate and bad predators in our early days as a species, and it helps us discriminate today in much the same way. And yes, I'm leaning on Darwin's shoulders here. Natural selection is inevitable.
And I think that the questions that this article brings up hit on that. -Should- we still support natural selection? It thwarts us from ever having 'equality' amongst people. At the same time, it helps us distinguish between Mona Lisa and what my first-grade cousin drew in class. I guess we have to pick our poison.

Other things this article brings up: The conflict with feminism, for one -- should women be judged by their appearances (their use of makeup), or should they be judged from the way they present themselves to the world? How far should the media be able to push their manipulation of a model's appearance in order to sell a product? Should beauty be simply another characteristic, like height?
I think this last idea is what appealed to me the most. Maybe I'm intrigued because I can remember back to the critical learning period in elementary school, middle school, and high school. How many of you were teased for how you looked, for things that you couldn't necessarily control? How many of you felt ashamed over your appearance, self-conscious because you were comparing yourselves to your classmates, to the ideals of beauty presented by society? I'm sure I wasn't the only one, and I doubt I'm the only one that struggles with it even today.
One argue that these experiences make us stronger. I think it took away more then it gave me. If there is one thing I could have changed about high school, it would be been the constantly obsession with 'how overweight am I?', or what clothing I wear, or how much acne I have. The experiences in high school still remind me of my faults rather than my strengths. And while it'd be nice to think that once I hit college everything was rosy and people wouldn't judge me based on my appearance, I know this isn't the case. I think I -am- better off because I go to an all woman's college, then my friends that go to co-ed institutions. But beauty is still a prized commodity, even here.

"[calli] prevents parents and educators from having to *teach* kids that 'appearance doesn't matter' by chucking the problem altogether."
So we have to address 'lookism' directly? Isn't that what we're already doing? How effective is it for your parents/teachers to tell you that 'beauty is on the inside', and then lead you out into the world where these standards are clearly -not- being met? Wouldn't it be better to simply demonstrate, in the classroom, that there -is- more then beauty, instead of simply telling a child these qualities exist? I keep thinking of the scene where the parents are describing how a classroom was electing a burn victim for president. They weren't electing her because she was 'struggling against the odds'. They didn't feel sorry for her, or because they knew they'd get a pat on the head for doing the 'right thing', or because it was politically correct. They were electing her for what she could -do-, because they weren't constantly absorbing, via the media or other sources, the ideal image of beauty, and how she -didn't- meet those standards.

One last thing I'd like to hit on is that this isn't an issue about ugly people vs pretty people. I think it was made clear in the article that beautiful people and ugly people were equally affected by calli, both good and bad. It's not about making people look bland, or bringing beautiful people down, or ugly people up. "Calli doesn't blind you to anything...calli let's you see."


Again, this was just a devil's advocate approach. I'm not sure which way I would stand on the issue. But I do believe one thing: we are addicted to beauty. The question is whether it's an addiction that keeps us alive, or an addiction that brings us down.

No, thank you
Date: 2005-04-03 21:11:58
Link to this Comment: 14254

I really cannot ever imagine a society in which people have willingly agreed to screen out the ability to perceive physical attractiveness in others, and due to this particular limitation on my own imagination, I am all the more impressed with the alternate reality which Chiang has to convincingly created. As far as the short story goes as a work of fiction, I think that it was *beautifully* written and so intriguing in the ways in which the author presents such differing and realist points of view on the topic of calliagnosia. Reading this story was a thoughroughly pleasurable experience for me, and in that respect, I am sensitive to the beauty of the work.

As far as realistic application goes, what would be the point? What if this were true? What difference would it make? Would people really want to be able to "turn off" their ability to perceive physical beauty in others? Where would a scientific endeavor like this get funding for research and development? Would there really be that kind of demand for it? I don't think so. Like the character Joseph Weingartner stated, "I enjoy seeing a pretty face." I tend to agree. Given the choice between seeing as I do now and altering my thought process so that my ability to perceive beauty is in ANY way weakened, I would definately refuse the opportunity. I know that my perception of beauty influences my choices and how I live, but this is how I have come to function as a human being and quite frankly, I like it.

creepy Madison Avenue and my prejudices
Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-04-03 22:44:30
Link to this Comment: 14263

I really enjoyed this reading. I don't want calli, I want legal restrictions on advertising. I notice it now; ads are getting more and more sophisticated at manipulation. The 'super ads' in the story don't seem far fetched. We have collective experience in dealing with beauty. There isn't an inborn cynicism towards technologically improved, dynamic, powerful speakers. That was the most powerful part of the story to me. I like the idea of being able to turn off my inborn prejudices wired in my brain, though. I just wouldn't want to never see beauty.

Some people are beautiful, no matter how technically funny their features. I learned this from Roald Dahl's book The Twits when I was little. I always thought this was true. If someone is scowling, I think they look ugly; if someone is smiling sincerely, eyes crinkley and all, I think they're nice looking. This only works after a person is older, or if I know them, for some reason. Maybe I just trust the faces people earn after a third of a lifetime more than a younger random stranger. But I don't know; I don't make conscious value judgements of people I see on the street, and I don't think I make sub-conscious judgements either unless someone is exceptional. Most people, if they're not grinning or scowling, are just average, afterall. I'm still trying to work out my definitions of 'likeable' and 'beautiful,' because they definitely affect each other. If a person isn't likeable, they are not beautiful, no matter how pretty their face.

Again, I really liked this reading; it was well written and made me think.

Name: eebs
Date: 2005-04-04 08:59:14
Link to this Comment: 14270

ted chiang said in his interview how "evolution doesnt necessarily reflect on our intentions". it seems to me that people (in the US) evolved into thinking that equality is the best answer. to some extent this is true; equality is beautiful. but this does not necessarily mean that looking the same, or hiding imperfections if going to be answer to all of the world's social problems. in theory, calli might sound like the perfect solution to the problem, but theories always sound beautiful... in reality, nothing ever comes close to the theoretical utopia. i think what we are trying to do right now by accepting diversity is the best its ever going to be. ignoring the entire aspect of appearance and beauty is never going to solve anything. eventually, the same problem (or a modified/new version of it) will (re)appear... similar to the effects of drug abuse. calli might be a temporary escape, but in truth, the problem will come up again.

in this aspect, i agree with people when they say beauty is an addiction, a game we cant really win at. but whatever the case is, beauty is inevitable, and like meera said, "calli is a cover for people who cannot handle the real world in constant fear that others might judge them". if we think of beauty like that, it seems possible that if we downplay the role of beauty in our lives the fear of being judged would dissapear. but it seems just as likely that something else will come up to take the place of beauty by which people will be judged by/against once again. it seems to me that it is human nature to judge others and that beauty isnt the culpit of all that is evil or whatnot.

beauty is not everlasting (in humans). even those who seem flawless will one day find themselves in a position where their beauty will 'let them down' (in a sense). but women may feel that while/when they still posess beauty that they should make the most of it to gain whatever power or influence they desire. and is that necessarily a bad thing? the women who use their beauty are focused on what they want. maybe beauty is all they have, then do we have a right to deny her from her only "gift"? i just think that some things are there for the better not worse. if beauty is the one thing that brings an individual happiness, you shouldnt try to take that away from them. besides, almost everyone's goal in life is to be happy.. why take that away from them?

Name: Katy McGin
Date: 2005-04-04 11:10:11
Link to this Comment: 14271

I found the Ted Chiang piece fascinating. While I was annoyed by the vacuousness of Tamera Lyons, I greatly enjoyed reading all the different viewpoints about this most interesting procedure. I had never even heard of calliagnosia before reading this article. On the whole, I don't know whether I endorse calli or oppose it. I probably fall somewhere between.

It is mentioned by various individuals in the article that calli does not rob one of her/his sense of "real" beauty (ala "inner beauty"), but rather merely blunts one's perceptions of the beauty of faces that may lead to unfair judgment or low self-esteem. However, who does not get an emotional high when viewing what she/he considers a beautiful person? It is fun and emotionally meaningful to see a beautiful face. It moves us. I'm as liberal as they come, but even I can't shake the feeling that calli is p.c.-ness at the very extreme. Educating people is a natural way to expose people to the unfairness of beauty and get them to realize that being beautiful does not necessarily entail personal worth, but messing with people's neurological systems? What if something goes terribly wrong, and that person is never able to experience the emotions of subjective beauty again? There is undeniably an Orwellian aspect to calliagnosia that I find unsettling, even though I'm sure it was developed with the best intent.

That being said, I can also see a positive side to calli. It is only a temporary condition that one can turn on or off. It is a choice, not a requirement. Whether or not we are mature enough to admit it, we judge people by their personal appearances all the time, and this judging has destroyed many a friendship and has had disastrous political/social consequences. Young women particularly are hurt by society's standards of beauty. With calli, they don't have to experience this pain. In the context of interpersonal relationships, people are able to look beyond the surface of each other's appearances and see each other for who they really are. For all of calli's drawbacks, it has distict positive aspects that cannot be overlooked.

Name: Malorie
Date: 2005-04-04 13:10:22
Link to this Comment: 14272

I really enjoyed the reading this week. I found that it got to the issue of beauty in an original and exciting way. I especially liked how it was set up like a documentary instead of a narrative. That way, we were able to hear opinions from multiple charters with out a bias. I was especially intrigued by Tamera’s comments. It was interesting to see how she reacted to have the calli turned off. Her parents said that they had the calli on her because they wanted her to not have to worry about looks while she was going adolescence so she could focus on school. Though when she got it off, she got all the same reactions. Instead of being used to seeing beautiful people in adds she was memorized by it. She also tried to impress her ex boyfriend with her good looks when she found out that he was not particularly attractive. She was even going to go see him to help him out- show people that he had a cool attractive friend. Even after not being aware of it, she still was affected by beauty. Having the calli on didn’t teach her anything. It actually hurt her ex, he became so self conscious he had it turned back on so he didn’t have to see himself. At first I liked the idea, that it would be good to not judge on beauty. As I read, I realized that it would be nice but using a machine is not the answer. I really like what the character Jeff Winthrop said on page 293 -“Maturity means seeing the differences, but not realizing they don’t matter. There’s no technological shortcut.” We should not judge people on their looks, but forcing our mines to not notice it is not the way.

A world without beautiful people
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-04-04 14:36:31
Link to this Comment: 14275

First of all I would like to note that I know this is a fictitious piece of technology and therefore my posting may seem like I’m ridiculously arguing over something that is not even a real issue, but I’m going to express it anyways because it still applies to the issue of lookism, which is very real issue.

Initially the idea of calliagnosia sounds idealistic and nice, but I find myself siding with the group against it for a number of reasons. First of all, I am quite disturbed with the idea of a society where different personal features are noted, but cannot be evaluated. I love being awed by amazing looking humans. Most of the time I do not even speak to these people, nor am I prompted to by their looks; I merely look and admire the same way you do a sunset or a picturesque landscape. I find a vast majority of people to be beautiful and having that ability revoked would make my life dull and a little empty. It would be a disability not an improvement.

This leads to my next point that a world lacking beauty within a species would be an incomplete. “All animals have criteria for evaluating the reproductive potential of prospective mates, and they’ve evolved neural ‘circuitry’ to recognize those criteria”(283). Therefore, humans are meant to have discriminating tastes. Whoever created us gave us this ability for a reason. The justification that “supernormal stimuli” caused by makeup and airbrushing are “more stimulation than [our receptors] were evolved to handle,” and “causes “beauty to ruin our lives” is unsubstantial (296). My life is not ruined; it is enhanced. What about traditional makeup or the colorful and elaborate dress of other cultures? Is that not “supernormal stimuli.”

I agree totally with the excerpt from Alex Biblescu on page 303 explaining how the controversy arises from religion, which “devalues the body in favor of the soul.” It seems that we always run back to religion as a means of justification for anything controversial - racism, homosexuality, technological advances – yet we always misconstrue the bible to argue one way or the other. From a religion standpoint, we were created to sin, the sin in this case - judge by appearances. We cannot forcibly change that with technology.

Overall, the real reason it bothers me so much is the thought of programming our minds. Technology reaching the point where it tells us how to react or think is a little scary.
Reading Tamera’s experience made me think of parents who are so overprotective that the essentially shelter there children from the world. In the long run, the kids end up losing more from the upbringing than gaining. They do not have the opportunity to learn from experience. They do not grow and strengthen from overcoming adversity. People need to deal with these issues. You can’t protect people forever. They'll have to face it eventually.

Despite it all, the documentary was thoroughly innovative and entertaining. He presented all sides of the issue and the idea seemed so plausible that I initially thought it all real.

Beauty and Science
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-04-04 15:38:24
Link to this Comment: 14283

This week I found the Chiang reading the most intriguing. I thought the story was a very interesting and intriguing one. At first I was confused. I was like what is calli? Is this real? I eventually figured out the answers to both questions. I thought the reading brought up some very interesting points; nature v. man made, value of beauty v. harm of beauty, and the big business of beauty. While reading this I thought of a movie (but of course!), Stanley Kubrick's 'Clockwork Orange', which dealt with issues of altering the mind and whether or not good behavior is still laudable if it is not voluntary. That is one problem I would have with calli too. As someone pointed out, how do you fight something if you are blind to it. And although the very action of getting calli is voluntary and shows some 'admirable' quality, the very use of calli does not seem to allow for people to recognize beauty and choose like mature people whether or not paying too much attention to beauty in certain circumstances is harmful. The new calli that would allow for calli to be turned on and off more easily would probably address some of these problems. Another reason that I think I don't particularly agree that calli should be mandatory is because of issues with naturalness and goodness. Although I know that natural does not always equal good (for example diseases and natural disasters can be quite harmful) I still have the tendency to believe that the natural way is the best way in most cases. Another issue that arose for me, and was mentioned in the article, is the idea that beauty is a negative thing. As was alluded to in the reading and mentioned in class that are other qualities, like intelligence and athletic skill, that can cause discrimination or harm people unintentionally but there is no work being done to block those things. I still liked the reading a lot and the storyline was really intriguing although some of the storylines were predictable.

turning off beauty
Name: Alice S
Date: 2005-04-04 15:43:12
Link to this Comment: 14284

I thought this story was really cool. It was fun to read, but it really resonated with me. I initially though that it would be a cool idea to be able to turn off our perception of beauty, but then, I started to think about it more, and I don't see a problem with being able to see a beautiful face. Granted, some people in this story enjoyed having the calli because it made them forget about their own looks if they were unhappy with them. But, there was a comment in the story that I agreed with; it is education that needs to be changed. I think this applies within the story as well as in the real world. It would be very difficult, if not almost impossible, to change our standards, but it is worth a try. As one of the speakers says in the story, "if you want to fight discrimination, keep your eyes open." I think this is a key point; to fight discrimination, you have to fight it, not just ignore it.

On another note, i really enjoyed this story, not just for the provocative subject, but just because the author presented every side of the debate. The one question I have would be, if you go from having your calli turned off to back on, wouldn't you still remember, even if you couldn't see, who is attractive?

Name: Kara Rosan
Date: 2005-04-04 15:44:51
Link to this Comment: 14285

I have to say, I was really annoyed in last weeks discussion at the suggestion that women have a responsibility for others' feelings about their own beauty. I think its ridiculous that a woman can't make herself as beautiful as she wants to because it might make other women feel bad about themselves. In general, I felt that the discussion was much too accepting of the fact that women feel negatively about themselves if they are not seen by society as beautiful. That instinct is what needs to be addressed and remedied, not catered to. The standards of beauty themselves are not what needs to be changed. Somehow we need to change society's standard of the fact that physical beauty is such an important quality on a woman. We need to open ourselves up to other qualities such as intelligence and humor and kindness to give women value. If we could do that, we wouldn't need to alter society's standards of beauty, because it just wouldn't matter that much.
This idea was mostly what drove my comments about plastic surgery in the small group discussion on Thursday. Many suggested that it was fine for women to alter themselves surgically, because as long as it made them feel better about themselves, it was a positive thing. I agree that it's important for women to feel good about themselves, but it's ridiculous to suggest that the only way to do this is to remove the offensive feature all together. For example, if a woman dislikes herself because she has small breasts, certainly getting implants would fix the problem and make her feel better about herself. However, this course of action requires several health risks, a large amount of money, and a few weeks dedicated to recover. It is also very likely that this person simply has low self-esteem, so now that she doesn't have tiny breasts to complain about, she will simply find another feature of her physical appearance to hate and make her feel unattractive. Instead, if this woman would address the real issue underlying her insecurities about her breasts, and actively look for other qualities she has to make her feel good about herself, as well as surround herself with positive influences that remind her she is beautiful in many other ways, she woud certainly feel better about herself without the surgery.
This is my point: the problem with the concept of physical beauty in women is that its importance is grossly exaggerated. Women obsess about acheiving the ideal appearance instead of improving themselves in other ways, thus lowering the number of qualities they have to feel good about themselves, and in turn, their self-esteem. That is when "beauty" becomes harmful.

Trying to turn off Lookism
Name: Jaya
Date: 2005-04-04 15:47:55
Link to this Comment: 14286

Even though I found the documtary really fascinating, as open as I tried to be to it I couldn't help but think that the whole idea was outrageous as a whole. I really want to believe that humans don't have to resort to this kind of procedure, something that seems so unnatural and almost drastic, that would alter an innate ability that humans have had for ages.

I liked the point that the neurologist in the documentary made about how even if you have your calli turned off, you can still pick up a general idea of beauty by reading about what people "should" look like in magazines, ads, or other people. Even if calli is turned off, formulating a beauty ideal is almost inevitable, because society will instill one in you. Besides, technology is never perfect, and this kind of procedcure can actually have more effects on the brain than one in the long run.

The idea of having non-calli schools is interesting, but my problem is that it's keeping the children away from the sad facts of the real world: in the same way that cosmetics and plastic surgery are deceptive, these schools in a way are deceiving these children to believe that people in the outside world do not judge by appearance, as awful as that may sound. Also, even if one person does get the procedure done, they'd be a minority among a majority with the Agnosia, so there's really no getting around discriminating faces.

It almost feels like people are blaming our genes/nerve makeup on this lack of inequality and rampant injustice- why is no one trying to or attempting to figure out ways to fix society? People taking this procedure must think then that society is a lost cause. Even if a person gets rid of their calli, these underlying problems- people's obsession with reaching a paradigm of beauty- will still be there. I just don't think turning off a localized area of your brain steam will get rid of this problem, but would instead cover it up/give people a false sense of reality and what's really there.

Comments for Last Week-Koggel
Date: 2005-04-04 16:14:25
Link to this Comment: 14287

I forgot to post last monday, so this post is about last week's materials.

I found the Koggel article interesting because, as many others have pointed out, the article very concisely went through the philiosophical history of the theories of beauty. I liked thinking about whether objects have inherent beauty or if "all we have are subjective and pleasurable preferences linked to non rational/emotional reactions and are variable from one individual to the next. I tend to lean towards the latter because I find that my opinion of what is beautiful is usually quite far from what my peers say is beautiful. I do believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, BUT the eye of most people is steered and glazed by common media and other affecting outside sources. I think that though people have varying tastes and DO have agency in deciding what they find beautiful, there are societal forces (advertising, Hollywood, models of beauty, etc.) that do affect what people will say is beautiful. There are "common" or "clear" cases of beauty that are accepted as such by a community, but who can say where these established cases of beauty were started and from who/what. Communities are constantl evolving in what they find beautiful; the standard of beauty changes. But who is the catalyst for such change? Who controls the change? I do not know. But I do believe that if an individual wishes to, he/she can take that power to change it on an individual micro level. They have the capacity to change what they perceive is beautiful and apply their own theories of beauty in the way they live their life. This is not to say that their theory or the resulting way they live their life will change the whole of society and this is also not to say that they will be free from whatever pressures/discriminations/obstacles from the societal standard/theory/establishment of beauty. They will still be a member of the community, but the individual still has a choice. They still have agency and the capacity to make up their own mind.

I was also interested in Koggel's statement about the way that women are set up on a pedestal of beauty, almost like setting the standard of beauty, but that the majority of women do not meet this standard set for female beauty.

Though there may be a standard of beauty that some may find oppressive, I would rather use whatever resources I may have been given, read the game as accurately as I can, find a strategy and use it to get into the system in a fashion that I set as morally and ethically comfortable for me. This is not to say that I intend on dressing up in clear plastic heels for my next job interview (not that there is anything wrong with that) or performing sexual favors or anything else that I would find uncomfortable for myself, but I do not intend on purposely dressing in a rebellious non-standardized feminine way. I will probably not wear my sweat pants or draw in bigger bags underneath my eyes in protest. But most people would not. Most, even if they are people who are angry abou the standard of beauty forced upon women to live up to, would control their actions in order to come off a certain way. No one wants to slouch or burp or fart in an interview. These are all exterior qualities/mannerisms/behaviors that society has deemed inappropriate, yet this is not perceived as oppressive. I will work with what I perceive is the standard of beauty and look at the best strategy to use that standard to my advantage if there is any--to use an "oppressive" standard to realize my own goals. Some may say then that I have given in to being subjected and objectified and judged by my exterior qualities or mannerisms, but so what? As long as I am fully aware of what is happening and have the personal agency to control my actions, what have I lost?

Last comment was mine-Mo Rhim
Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-04-04 16:15:00
Link to this Comment: 14288

Name: Katy McGin
Date: 2005-04-04 16:23:12
Link to this Comment: 14289

Well, having just found out that this story was a work of science fiction (it really, really had me though!)changes my perceptions a little. Instead of taking a position for or against a procedure that does not (yet) even exist, I'm now able to see Chiang's story for what it really is--a wake-up call for those of us who build our lives around the concept of superficial beauty. Many posters find the idea of turning on and off one's perceptions of subjective beauty absurd, if not downright fascistic and terrifying; but has anyone here ever wondered if perhaps the way that Madison Avenue and the rest of society has forced the concept of beauty onto women is every bit as absurd and potentially catastrophic as calliagnosia?

This week--Ted Chiang
Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-04-04 16:37:07
Link to this Comment: 14290

Ted Chiang's "documentary" was interesting in the questions and different sides to the argument about beauty standards but I did not struggle with any internal debate over the subject. I found the concept of calli and other agnosias completely ridiculous. One I think that something like calli would dull everything because one's ability to take in what they see and then formulate a personal "reading" or "experience/judgement" (as we discussed last class period in small groups I am equating judgements with experiences) would be impaired. The indiviaul on calli would only be able to see things. They would not be capable of finishing the rest of the experience. I know that they could experience other things that have to do with personality/character but a big chunk of experience would still be lost in not being able to experience someone else's physical beauty. I also think that anything that would inhibit individual agency and capacity to choose/experience/judge is not beneficial and limiting. It is taking away a person's right to make individual choices, whether or not those are effected by outside sources. Every person should be able to experience all of their natural senses and reactions.

I also find it ridiculous to think that people would want to simply take a drug, a quick chemical fix to theoretically make this world a better place. How lazy. All calli does is take away the rights of the individual while it stunts their growth as a moral human who makes decisions. Calli takes away the opportunity for each individual to make a moral/ethical code for themselves. If there are parts or aspects of the standard of beauty that are "wrong" then it should be up to the individual to learn that and then apply it in his/her life. Calli shortcuts the individual's creation of his/her own ethics and sense of right and wrong. "Maturity means seeing the differences, but realizing they don't matter" (Chiang 293). This student in Chiang's documentary was making a statement that calli should not be used, but rather education was the only way to create a society where people are not judged by their appearances. I agree with this sentiment. I think that if there is something wrong with the standard, whatever it may be, then education and the individual's agency to decide for him or herself that they will not use the standard to unfairly judge/discriminate against another person is the only fair and ultimately effective way to instill social and personal change. There cannot be any shortcut.

Even in this society where we may not have the option of calli, the only way to change social institutions and standards is through education and personal change. Taking down all of the billboards in Time Square or banning ads that use "attractive" models will not create ideological and deep change--it would also be undemocratic in my opinion and thus would be more damaging to forcefully control the media in terms of national spirit and the foundation of freedom of speech, which in turn is like freedom to advertise (speech to me is advertisement in some form).

I hope this makes sense
Name: Catie Davi
Date: 2005-04-04 16:41:21
Link to this Comment: 14291

Chiang does an amazing job organizing the beauty debate by presenting both sides around this sci-fi condition "calliagnosia", and eventually being able to turn off and on one's perception of physical beauty.

We are the artists of the beauty around us. Every action we take can either do or undo someone's aesthetic appreciation of the given situation. Dewey tells us that perception involves full interaction with an object to create an experience. Perception is active. Dewey says
that the artist will create that experience so that it is satisfying, or beautiful to him.

So, calli was created by people to take away the emphasis placed on physical beauty, and the societal consequences thereof.For some, calli did enhance the quality of life. For those with bad appearences it improved their social status because it put them on the same level with everyone else. For others with good looks, it didnt affect their social status necessarily but it took away the power they may have had in society. As Tamera Lyons pointed out to us at one part in the text, it could also be argued that by having calli, people could not fully experience the beauty of life, of eachother because they cannot see the physical beauty in eachother. However, for others taking away calli may result in a strong development of one of our other senses and enhance another way of experiencing beauty.

Lets look at the implications of manditorizing calli.

Does it make it fair to take away someone's asset to compensate for another's weakness?

Although we are affected every day by what people do, we can choose whether or not to let it truly affect us. Most of the time we have this control. In the case of calli, some wanted calli to be mandatory which would impose on one's right to create their own beautiful experience. Others supported the idea of creating a device that would allow people to switch calli on and off.

Whenever "mandatory" comes into play, it involves taking away something from someone and giving something to another. The debate Chiang outlines could be applied to many societal issues. Take from the rich, give to the poor,etc. Redistributing power so the strong have less and the weak have more. The tension between the power and the powerless allows a sort of beautiful equation to exist that keeps society from moving too far to the power side of the spectrum, and not too far to the powerless side of the spectrum.

If the calli people fight for mandatory calli, they are fighting to take away peoples' rights to create their own experience, and taking away a natural gift to those who are physically attractive,
if the non-calli people fight for no calli at all, they are first of all giving more power to the corporations (makeup) mentioned in the text,but they too are also taking away someone's creation of their own beautiful experience.
Its a tough call and I guess I like the idea of being able to switch calli on or off at will.

Name: Kat McCorm
Date: 2005-04-04 17:04:21
Link to this Comment: 14292

I guess my reading of Chiang's story only further emphasized a point that I was trying to make in last week's discussion: I claimed that beauty is not the enemy, or as one anti-calli studets says, "elininating beauty is not the answer; you can't liberate people by narrowing the scope of their experiences." Meaning, I suppose, that the narrowing of beauty standards that has taken place as a result of mass media is what needs to be changed.

Although Chiang also makes the point of using technology to fight technology, he puts a good example of the type of technological beauty arms race that can result in his short story.

So I find myself in an interesting position: I hope that nothing like calli ever becomes comercially available. But I also kow that if it did, I would want to try it.

Nothing wrong with beauty
Name: Megan Mona
Date: 2005-04-04 18:57:10
Link to this Comment: 14294

I agree with the comment made in Biology, Brains, and Beauty that it would be unwise do dismiss the category of beauty. We have evolved this way and there must have been some reason for it. It is so intrinsic in how our brains work that the essay even says it would be unlikely to be abolishable without either 1) universal very-difficult-perhaps-impossible brain surgery or 2) universal very-difficult-perhaps-impossible psychotherapy. Given that thia is this is true it seems like an overreaction to want to not use beuaty as a discriminating quality. We all judge on beauty, but that is not the real problem. What should actually change is our perception of beauty. I don't think there is anything wrong with judgements because you will make them no matter what and killing yourself about it will not change that certain attributes inspire certain responses in you. I think it would just be most beneficial to everyone if we could learn to see more things as beautiful instead of just the things that are so hard to attain. Beauty chould not be a unimportant quality to obtain, just not always in the traditional ways.

Loss of Discernment of Beautiful Faces
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-04-04 19:36:07
Link to this Comment: 14295

What a loss that would be! I love to see beautiful people. Sometimes when I am down, just seeing a beautiful face, whether or not I know the person who wears it, can pick me up. It is such a pleasure to me.
But I also know that what I see as a beautiful face would not necessarily meet with agreement of others. It is beautiful to me. What would be hard would be to discern what part of my exhileration is from the face and how much is from the stories I tell about the person.
I like to think that beautiful people have good lives. It makes me happy. Why would I want to give that up?
And I liked it that Chaing followed through with the idea, where will this kind of thing lead, and end?
If we really find beauty to be such a distraction, Good for Us! I couldn't imaging anything I would rather be distracted with. Of course, if we did dull our ability to feel beauty as the cocaine user loses their natural ability to feel joy, that would be a very sad thing, indeed. Fortunately, I feel that as long as we stay away from stuff like calli, we will not be faced with this unfortunate possibility.
With the overwhelming majority of the students speaking out against the idea of calli, I wanted to stand up for it, but I just couldn't find it in myself to do so. I can't find ANY reason to want to do such a thing.
I am not proposing that life is not different for those who are not beautiful than for those who are. But that all falls into diversity. We are not all born to have the same lives,...thank God.
I don't think the "All men are created equal" thing translates to "all people are to be looked upon as the same." These are very different ideas.
I like it that we have such a wide variety of everything here in life. The more we try to homogenize it, the more we deprive ourselves of its richness.
Life simply isn't fair. It isn't designed that way. Not everyone is beautiful. Not everyone is smart. Not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone is trusted or to be trusted. Not everyone will give you the benefit of the doubt.
But in its lack of fairness is tremendous beauty. It is in the navigation of the unfairness that each of us has the opportunity to show off and use to our advantage that which we are unfairly endowed with, whatever that may be.
Long live the unfair, unequal playing field of life!

Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-04-06 21:19:27
Link to this Comment: 14360

I had a meeting this afternoon with Anne, and I have been thinking about it since. The things that we talked about have been racing through my head to the point where I have become completely confused about what I believed. As usual, I got a pencil to pierce through my ideas, sort them out and pin them down to a piece of paper before they escaped me entirely. (As I told Anne, I am a writer and use writing as a tool to manage my own mental health. I really did write these things down on a piece of paper before typing them here, so you can be sure how seriously I am taking this posting.)
All right. Here's what I've come up with so far:
We still don't have a clear definition of beauty, and yet, we're using this word all the time. How do we know what we're really talking about if we can't even define the word? A few weeks ago, we discussed the question, does beauty have to make you cry, and though the general consensus was "no, it doesn't" I think that beauty does affect us in a very specific way. Can beauty be considered a *feeling* toward something? I think that it would be more accurate to say that it is whatever thing or event which causes this feeling (which then leads to smiles, tears, anger or enlightenment) is beautiful. People who cry from experiencing beauty are the ones who are taken back to percieving beauty on a visceral level; they are so overwhelmed by whatever emotion this beauty inspires in them that they cannot help but cry. (Keep in mind, this is all my personal opinion and I maintain the right to alter these statements, but seeing as how the one thing about beauty that we can all seem to agree upon is that it is subjective, here I am, supplying my subjective opinion.)
As far as the physical appearances of humans go, after last week's classes, I don't know if it's fair to the ideals of beauty that we have tentatively established to apply the term in this sense. There's a lot more to a beautiful person than just a pretty face; physical attractiveness and beauty are not the same thing and we need to stop treating them like they are. I really feel that "beauty" is one of those words that's just gotten thrown around too casually and we've lost the sense of what the word really means.
A beautiful experience is one which inspires a change of perception--a beautiful thing is something which inspires this change. I am finding it much easier to say what beauty isn't rather than what it is, other than a galvanizing force which affects us whether we like it or not.

And to Anne: I am going to have to take back what I said earlier about not needing an audience for my writing, otherwise I never would have posted the above statements. I want people to read this to validate my statements and to see if anyone agrees or disagrees and mostly to make sure that I'm not crazy, though what I have written probably won't mean as much to anyone else as it does to me. A patient can't analyze herself now, can she?

what the bipartite brain gets us...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-06 23:25:24
Link to this Comment: 14363

Whether we need an audience is of course central to this question of whether/how we use beauty (or a beautiful appearance)--only works if someone's watching, right?

What seemed important to me, in Sharon's presentation on Tuesday, was--aside from her very useful distinction between "beauty" and "appearance"--two other key ideas: that


that however women have used/been used by beauty in the past...

if we don't like what we see, we can see/think/do differently, if we wish....

so where are we?
Name: Sharon
Date: 2005-04-07 13:27:14
Link to this Comment: 14371

Lauren, we got to thinking along the same lines as you towards the end of our small group discussion today. One member felt that all this talk about beauty left her frustrated because the talk, the descriptions, always fell short of the experience. Another felt that the shared discussion and awareness of differences of how and where others perceived beauty left her feeling more alone. Another took the view that realizing no one would (could?) share her experience of beauty freed her from depending on another person's validation of her beauty experience. I hope members of my group will pipe up now and expand on my short summaries here. I don't wish to attempt a more complete paraphrase as I have a (nearly pathological!) fear of mis-quoting someone, especially regarding these highly personal and hard-to-articulate views of beauty!

Freedom from Validation
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-04-07 17:46:53
Link to this Comment: 14374

I'll take up your offer to write, Sharon.
Since taking this class I have given up all hope that anyone will be able to share a beautiful experience with me through my description of it. The only possible way to share a beautiful experience is if we both experience it together and both find it beautiful. I haven't given up hope of this happening, it does. But I won't expect it anymore. It will be a bonus, not a requirement in my life.
After all, if I have enjoyed a beautiful experience, why would I need validation anyway? Would it make it more beautiful? I don't think so. And learning in class how very differently we experience beauty and what is beautiful, I will no longer feel that someone has to agree with my opinion that something is beautiful in order to feel connected with them. If we are getting along, great. That's the connection. If we agree something is beautiful or not, so what? The odds that we would agree on what is beautiful seem very small at this point. I never saw it that way before.
So I am letting the people in my life off the hook as far as agreeing with me that some specific something is beautiful. Our disagreement about this will not diminish my opinion of them, whereas before, it may have.
Great class, ladies.

more on what the bipartite brain gets us....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-07 19:08:52
Link to this Comment: 14376

so I am letting the people in my life off the hook as far as agreeing with me that some specific something is beautiful

Can I extend that suggestion...that each of us could also let ourselves off the hook, as far as agreeing with ourselves that some specific something is beautiful....?

Here's more, in other words, on what the bipartite brain gets us... It arose from a pretty amazing discussion we had upstairs (inside!) today, that came from comparing

Edouard Manet's Olympia with a student-made print I have hanging in my office, in which the nude on the bed climbs out the window, and we watch her doing so from the perspective of the maidservant (who stands in the background in the original, and was not mentioned in our discussion of the "undue importance and power of appearances" on Tuesday). Here's what we came up with:

FreudFoucaultBergerGilliganafter GilliganGrobsteinGrobstein extended.......and extended
father (super-ego)panopticonsurveyormalepowerfulneocortexstory-tellerobserver
child (id)prisonersurveyedfemalepowerlessfrog brainmodel-builderactor

What happens in the course of this "evolution" is that we turned what Freud-Foucault-Berger-Gilligan-and-the-theorists-following her saw as a limitation on self-expression into a neurobiological understanding that having a "storyteller"/squeezer/abstractor/neocortex may actually enable us to break out of/act differently than we are instructed to do, by the sensory imputs that come--and are fed back-- into the "model-builder" that we call the unconscious.

I REALLY like that revised story, myself--thanks to all who helped it to emerge.

"Giving up Teeth to Fulfill a Notion of Beauty""
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-07 22:13:25
Link to this Comment: 14377

We were also talking today about wanting to learn more about different cultural notions of beauty--so I was most interested (and thought you might be, too) to read a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education (4/01/05) about a Sudanese

tradition of extracting as many as six bottom front teeth and two top front teeth from young boys and girls, a practice that often leaves them with permanently sunken chins and gap-toothed grins. That look is considered handsome in their home country....One young man [said], "If I don't have my teeth taken out, then I look like a jackal"....Children from the Dinka and Nuer tribes appealed to each other's vanity. "People convince you it's bad to have lower teeth...and that you look like a cannibal who could eat people"....No one is sure how the practice originated..."Some say the Dinka pulled teeth because they like to hear hissing sounds when they speak...." Regardless of how the practice of yanking teeth began, the collapsed lower lip and sunken jaw that resulted became the preferred profile in that culture....

(the punch line)...

...the teeth-removal process is no different, fundamentally, from the lengths to which many people in the United States go to conform to an American ideal of beauty...Americans extract our teeth for all kinds of unnecessary reasons...and now we're bleaching them until the enamel wears off, just to conform with what we think is beautiful.

A change in perception...? Or that which lasts...?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-07 22:32:03
Link to this Comment: 14378

One more bit, and then I'll quit. We also discussed, in class today, Lauren's proposed definition, above, of beauty:

a change of perception...a galvanizing force which affects us whether we like it or not.

That seemed to work for many of us, including one who asked about "that which is lasting." Lauren's definition highlights the temporal, the fleeting, the new, the momentary. But what of the things we find beautiful --like the love of a mother for her child--because they endure, unchanging? As Adrienne Rich (who will read @ BMC on April 21) advised younger poets,

If you are troubled by the cruelty and violence and lovelessness you see around you....if you want to live in your time....if you've seen people around you pushed around or crushed...
If you love langauge and see it being betrayed, if you feel a huge gap between what you're told is going on and what you actually see and feel on your nerves--then this is the material of your art, there's no escaping it.
The question then is, how do you make enduring beauty and form out of such materials?
And that will be the question of a lifetime.

saying "no" to the gaze (and/or "yes" to....?)
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-08 16:57:19
Link to this Comment: 14385

The scanning wasn't entirely successful (many thanks to Helen Rehl for manful efforts, many MANY apologies to the printmaker for gaps...), but I thought those of you who didn't see this pairing on Thursday (as well as those of you who did) might be interested in seeing it anew/again (through the eyes of the servant woman?):

Date: 2005-04-08 16:58:03
Link to this Comment: 14386

turning to justice
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-08 18:25:17
Link to this Comment: 14388

We make another "turn" this week, into questions of the relationship between beauty and being just, between beauty and being fair (not that we haven't been working up to this, with our discussions last week about the unfair, unequal playing field of life).

Anyhow: on with the game. Please read the essays by Gebara and Scarry in your packet-supplement (add'l copies in the box outside my office, if you don't have 'em) and post your thoughts here by Monday @ 5.

Name: Flora Shep
Date: 2005-04-08 22:04:26
Link to this Comment: 14391

When first reading the Calli article, I wasn't quite sure what to think about the whole idea. However, after reflecting on all of our discussions thus far, I think that I would be very pro-calli. The part that most convinced me is the section that describes a child with burn scars being elected president. I have one friend who became physically disfigured, and it is so painful to see how how much her life changed after the accident. I don't see why anyone should suffer because of society's social stigma against "imperfection." It's easy to say that we should accept responsibility for our actions, etc, but that's just not how human beings operate. There is definitely an instinctual reaction against the disfigured. I think that we are now starting to decide, as a class, that lookism is dangerous and should not be so tightly connected with beauty. There is so much other beauty in the world, why would we keep this dangerous social stigma around if we could get rid of it? Yeah, there's plenty of other ways we could discriminate against each other, but if we start eliminating them, maybe eventually suffering will be relieved.

Beautiful from the terrible?
Name: Flora Shep
Date: 2005-04-08 22:16:05
Link to this Comment: 14392

Seeing as I already submitted a beautiful text that many found terrible, I thought I would share this site with everyone. It's a group of artists called the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists. Primarily composed of three artists, they are kind of re-inventing taxidermy. One of them is a formally trained taxidermist, and another one is "vegan taxidermist" who only uses stuffed animals. They all have a "waste not, want not" mentality and so they use roadkill, euthanized animals or other similarly gained carcasses in their work.

They've kind of taken the art world by storm. Taxidermy associations think they're corrupting the taxidermy reputation. Some artists thinking their work is just disgusting. I find the idea fascinating. Some of their work is very disturbing (see: the animals eating their own legs), but I find a lot of it very beautiful. Especially the Fiji mermaid, the siamese animals and the winged squirrels and cats.

What does everyone think? Did these artists sucessfully turn something ugly (dead animals) into something beautiful?


alternative aesthetic!
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-09 16:06:00
Link to this Comment: 14397

Did these artists sucessfully turn something ugly (dead animals) into something beautiful?

Well...not by my lights, not by a long shot (but then we all know by now that subjectivity's key here, and that it's the job of the next generation to turn upside down the "standards" of the last...!)

Case in point: I actually came to the forum this afternoon to post something expressing an entirely different aesthetic than Flora's rogue taxidermy--a passage from the novel we're now reading in "the other course": Virginia Woolf's Orlando (1928), who begins by asking herself

what this beauty was; whether it was in things themselves, or only in herself.... (145)

and then goes on to say,

There was...something one trembles to pin through the body with a name and call beauty, for it has no body, is as a shadow and without substance or quality of its own, yet has the power to change whatever it adds itself to. This shadow now....[composed] innumerable sights she had been receiving...into something tolerable, comprehensible. Yes, she thought...I can begin to live again. (322)

Coming across these passages, I find myself mulling over what still seem to me two different aesthetics, of desire and desirelessness: Is the beautiful that which draws us on/out/beyond ourselves, pulls us off-center, makes us long for what we cannot reach; or is it one which makes us "relax," contributes to a sense of "stability"?

Elaine Scarry's book On Beauty and Being Just suggests a way of bringing this tension together: in being pulled out of ourselves by something beautiful (=symmetrical) we may find ourselves moved towards the symmetry of justice (=equality). That would make our "acculturation into what is beautiful" not at all a matter of narrowing of taste, but rather an expansion of empathy. And in those terms--well, Flora's dead animals do begin to attract me (a little, just a little!)

But the aesthetics which Scarry says "call" us to justice are classical: symmetry, balance, harmony. Following Paul's description of a bi-partite brain structure, I've been intrigued by the possibility that we might acknowledge a difference between the formal coherent pleasures of conscious processing, and the incoherent immersion of the unconscious portion of the mind, between an aesthetic which is calm, closed, comforting, satisfying, and one which leads us uncertainly beyond such satisfactions....

So how about this? A beautiful thing is a plateau were things look (momentarily) understandable (so, in Woolf's terms, we "can begin to live again"), but which also "opens the door for something else"--and is powerful precisely because it holds this sort of promise. In this context, I'm also remembering something (else) Mark Lord taught me in the Beauty Symposium last winter: that the beautiful asks us to function on two (or more?) levels/layers, gives us the capacity to be in more than one world @ a time.

This involves our ability to hold simultanously in mind (only? at least?) TWO almost-there-patterns, a process that is only interesting as they are solving, not after they settle. Beauty nurtures our capacity for ambivalence, for simultaneously holding in mind different emotional/perceptual experiences, for moving back and forth between rational choice and visceral reaction....? (Flora, Alice: what aesthetic guides physics today? Is it the search for "broken symmetries," the presumption that we live in a universe that was once symmetrical, is now broken, and whose originary/primal/lost symmetry we are trying to recapture? If so--how Platonic!)

One other thing I also hope we can keep in play as this course "winds down": that sense of immersion, of interplay and congruence between us and what we are working on/playing with and this still-vexed matter of "developing a discriminating palate": how much of our talk about beauty is guided by acculturation/socialization into already-recognized forms? And how much might our understanding of beauty be expanded if we thought of it as breaking out of such forms?

Beauty and justice
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-04-09 20:43:17
Link to this Comment: 14398

I found "On Beauty and Being Fair" a little unrealistic. It argues that the natural tendency of people to seek out symmetry could be applied to social justice. The idea that "beautiful things give rise to the notion of distribution, to lifesaving reciprocity, to fairness not just in the sense of loveliness of aspect but in the sense of 'a symmetry of everyone's relation to one another'" has not really played out in society. Don't we thrive on diversity? What are the "beautiful things" that encourage generosity? If anything it is the ugliness of poverty,etc. that motivates me to work for change. For example, when I see a homeless person, I want to help, but when I am comfortably dining at Bryn Mawr with plenty around me, feeding the hungry doesn't enter my mind. My "social empathy" is jumpstarted by asymmetry and injustice, not "beautiful things."
The article goes on to say that "people seem to wish there to be beauty even when their own self-interest is not served by it." This also seems to be an overgeneralizing statement. Haven't we just been discussing how people manipulate beauty for their own advantage over other people? Isn't the very beauty standard of our society built on the fact that only a select few are able to attain it?
I guess what really bothered me about the article is that "beauty" seems a superficial reason to pursue justice. If beauty is a culturally refined thing and ever changing, then isn't a justice motivated or guided by beauty going to likewise change and shift, sometimes in a way that is unjust by the standards we hold now?
Justice should be pursued because it is virtuous, an absolute good, not because it is beautiful.

Screw Symmetry
Name: Flora Shep
Date: 2005-04-10 00:25:04
Link to this Comment: 14401

***One of the problems that I’m running into is that the word symmetry is over-used nearly as much as beauty. As a result, there can be several different interpretations of the term. But I hope my implications for the word are clear. ;-) ***

So after reading through this weeks articles and Anne's post, I've decided that I am no longer comfortable associating symmetry with a larger sense of beauty. The theory doesn't work for me. Maybe it's my inner physicist talking, but the whole concept is just scary. A perfectly symmetric world would be perfectly balanced between all things: the beautiful and the terrible. And I think that would be an awful place. From my understandings of symmetry in the physical world, I 'm going to try to explain why it would be horrible applied to the moral/aesthetic world. I’m going to try to explain a qualitative concept in quanitative terms, forgive if it's confusing.

(This argument has probably been written by a philosopher before. I apologize for my ignorance. And it kinda has something to do with what Gwen brought up about economics.) Many people are familiar with the concept of conservation of energy. The idea is: that in one system there is only a finite amount of energy. So, you have to get your energy from something else. If you want to move a ball you have to expel energy to push it.

Now, think about conservation of beauty. Say there’s only a finite amount of beauty in the entire world. That means that at any given time, all the people/things/events in the world have to split this beauty up evenly. Now, we know from experience that the amount of beauty is not evenly spread at any given time. How many times have you run home in a great mood only to find your roommate cursing out her computer? But, in this symmetrical argument, everytime you do/have/see something good, you're taking that goodness away from someone else, because there’s only a finite amount. For every millionare scamming seniors of their savings there would have to be an innocent person on death row. Everytime I am happy, that means someone else is crying. That's the sort of far-reaching implications I find in symmetry. Ying and Yang.

And there's nothing beautiful about it, unless the goal is to try to distribute everything evenly. Maybe one day, each part of the world will have an equal amount of beauty and an equal amount of non-beauty at all times. But that just makes no sense. After all, everything would be the same. The world would have none of Scarry’s “wake-up calls” because all beauty would be equal in all things. This sort of beautiful symmetrical world doesn’t work for me. Maybe our models of the world can be symmetric and beautiful, but I doubt the whole universe, including thought, coudl possibly have a symmetry we could comprehend. If it did, where’s the excitement? Where’s the beauty?

All of this thinking has left me with my favorite definition of beauty. It’s, very simply, whatever gives one pleasure. Granted, there are many kinds of pleasure, but that just allows for an equally large number of beautiful experiences.

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-04-10 04:30:29
Link to this Comment: 14402

Though I agree with Elaine Scarry on her most basic thesis---that justice is "beautiful"---I'm not sure I buy much else. First off, I think she's using the wrong *term* entirely.
When Scarry says "justice," she means our twentieth-century, equal-rights, humans-deserve-humanity form of justice. If we reach at all far back into history, "justice" becomes an eye for an eye (it still is, in some countries). And technically that's what the term implies: a sort of universal equilibrium. A world governed solely by justice would strictly abide by the (usually scientific) principle that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction." Therefore, our justice---that which Scarry finds so beautiful---isn't very just at all. Locking a criminal away for life for a murdering rampage isn't justice. It's mercy. And personally I think mercy is *more* beautiful.

Scarry even admits this on page 94: "of the revolutionary triad--liberty, equality, fraternity--it is fraternity... that underwrites liberty and equality, and hence also fraternity that underwrites liberal theories of justice." Justice, in its purest form, shouldn't be underwritten by anything. It's absolute---the scales are balanced perfectly. But fraternity, this feeling of sisterhood, prejudices us to tip the scales in the direction of respecting humanity. (Thus, many countries have abolished the death penalty, even for murderers.)

Moving on, though, my other big criticism of Scarry's argument is her basis itself: the two "complaints" which she cites on pages 1--3. They are: 1) that beauty distracts us from the pursuit of justice, and 2) that the human gaze is destructive to a beautiful object. Maybe this is a generational difference speaking, but to me, these statements seem obviously false, and the "logic" Scarry uses to refute them simply common sense. Well of *course* beauty is distracting, but a) so are a million other things, and b) beauty has no especial vendetta against justice; it's equally distracting in other spheres as well. And of *course* the vase isn't going to suffer when we look at it admiringly. It's a *vase!* Honestly, a lot of Scarry's article seemed like an exercise in logic to me: self evident and ultimately pretty useless.

Though I did like this bit (I think it ties interestingly to Lauren's definition of beauty): "she describes suddenly seeing a kestrel hovering; it brings about an 'unselving.' It causes a cluster of feelings that normally promote the self... now to fall away... all the space formerly in the service of protecting, guarding, advancing the self... is now free to be in the service of something else."

not vexed and an anology for how to have more
Name: Sharon
Date: 2005-04-10 09:56:56
Link to this Comment: 14405

Anne wrote above about this "still vexed matter" and mused on a couple dichotomies within which to consider beauty. In contrast, I discovered in the two readings for this week, two statements describing beauty which perfectly (i.e., completely) express beauty without hemming it in. At least, for me, for now, and I haven't been able to think of any beauty experience that can't be included within these descriptors. How about for you?

From Ivone Gebara (p.25): "Beauty, by contrast, comes from the interior. We know it is present because we feel something that transforms us."

From Elaine Scarry (p. 69) : "...the moment of perceiving something beautiful confers on the perceiver the gift of life; and now we begin to see that the moment of perceiving beauty also confers on the object the gift of life."

Both statments include the aspects of relationship and connection which seemed to be characteristics of beauty that emerged in many discussions. It's the emphasis on beauty's ability to transform and give life reciprocally to beauty-perceiver and beautiful thing which I find just perfect.

Flora showed how undesirable a symmetry requirement of beauty can be when the symmetry inherent in the first law of thermodynamics, the conservation of energy, is applied to beauty. I thought of another fundamental physical principle, the second law of thermodynamics: The total entropy of the universe increases. This law in contrast is asymmmetrical. It's not hard to find the promise in applying it to beauty: Universal beauty increases.

And that is not unlike what both authors write about, how appreciating and caring for beauty in one place can make it more likely for beauty to be seen and cared for elsewhere.

Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-04-10 17:08:47
Link to this Comment: 14425

On thinking about beauty and justice in the world in genernal I can't help but wonder why we can't use our neocortexes to get past our initial reactions and predjudices. If we so greatly pride ourselves on being a society of educated and intelligent inidividuals, why should beauty motivate us or effect how we rule but the truth is that it does. We say "justice " is beautiful, but justice throughout history has favored the wealthy or aristocratic. Look at the earliest justice and one will see that in the law's of ancient Rome or in Hammorabi's code that different people are treated differently. I see justice as always corrupt and not necessarily thriving for fairness in all cases. We are humans and we are flawed and beauty in its many forms cannot be harnessed to benefit our judicial system. We must acknowledge that it exists but not succomb to it. We must realize that our standards for justice are never completely fair and are always subject to alteration, for better or worse, we must know that justice itself perhaps has the potential to be both beautiful at best and putrid at its worst.

Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-04-10 19:49:06
Link to this Comment: 14430

Although I related to Scarry's notions about how the beauty of something helps us relate to it, give it value, - how beauty forces something on us and makes it important, I had to question how her notions of distributional beauty would really make the world a more just place. I just couldn't help but feel that she was being so optimistic about the good in the world, and the human desire to protect justice as we protect beauty. Unfortunately, I see many historical examples of complete disregard for beauty...The first thing that came to mind were the multitude of values that we let trump beauty. I couldn't help but think of the current administration's complete disregard of the world's natural beauty/ natural environment...Although in class we've discussed the almost universality of thought that there is beauty in nature, that beauty doesn't seem to be give any kind of justice just because it is beautiful.

Despite my issue with this part of Scarry's argument, I really related to her ideas that Sharon posted about, the idea that beauty requires us to attend to the aliveness of the world.

Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-04-10 21:11:37
Link to this Comment: 14433

While I did agree with a few of the ideas that Elaine Scarry brought up relating justice and beauty I was very turned off by the style of writing and the frequent repetition, almost word for word, of ideas and sentences. While I understand that it could be for effect, hearing the same ideas in barely different words does not make them any more believable.
I did like a lot of the comparisons and "proof" that was given in the chapter. It seems as if the author really tried to focus on beauty from a justice standpoint and it was very interesting to hear what the philosophers and historians had to say about the topic. I am interested to hear what connection the class finds between beauty and justice.

Beauty...a Path to Salvation and Justice?
Name: Alanna
Date: 2005-04-10 23:39:27
Link to this Comment: 14439

According to Gebara, "our salvation depends on grasping human transformation as a journey toward justice and toward beauty." She then goes on to define salvation as a "dreaming of justice and beauty [...]." Yes, "dreaming" is right. Gebara's essay sounds very sugar-coated and obvious to me. Of course it makes perfect sense that if we as a world strive for and achieve justice, we will also achieve beauty. Great, point well said. So well said, in fact, that Gebara seemed to have forgotten to mention how exactly we should go about achieving beauty and justice in a world where injustice is the norm. While many of us yearn for a world in which justice reigns supreme, the reality of the situation is that there are many out there who don't believe in striving for a just world, those who prefer to live by killing, stealing, lying, cheating, etc. As long as we live on a planet where people don't all share the same ideals about striving for justice and beauty, we will never hope to accomplish what Gebara insists is necessary for our salvation. While Gebara's idea is quite a noble one, it is also an impossible one.

In response to Scarry's essay: again, there is nothing wrong about beauty. Beauty is actually a good thing on all levels. The potential links between beauty and injustice are only possible because people corrupt beauty. People take beauty and turn it into something ugly. Beauty isn't unjust, and it shouldn't have to be. I think people in general need to re-think their own attitudes towards beauty, and they need to try to see beauty simply as beauty, and to not see beauty as power, self-worth, manipulation, etc. Wow, just think...if we ever did accomplish that, I think Gebara's "dream" would actually be a dream come true...

Name: eebs
Date: 2005-04-11 11:54:09
Link to this Comment: 14446

i really enjoyed gebaras piece. i thought a lot of what she said made sense, especially how "the world of profit lures us to the pretty- an exterior quality that moves us to buy and sell things". i got the impression that she was generalizing people as a rather shallow creature. although i dislike being labled as "shallow" i must admit, i do look for the pretty sometimes when i am making a decision on a purchase or whatnot. as for scarry's piece, although i thought she made a couple of good points (not that i necessarily agree with them) she tended to be repetitive and a little dry. i also thought that her thinking was a little unrealistic to apply to the 'world of profit' we live in. both the pieces got me thinking, its true, the beautiful do survive not only because people try hard to preserve beautiful artifacts, but because beautiful people (in my opinion) portray themselves as more... fragile (?? maybe its not the right word) so that others will look after them, be nice to them, etc. everyday i see instances where beautiful people use their gift to get ahead. i find beauty used in this manner to be an effective way to be more efficient. for example, if your employer is a beautiful person, you would want to work harder to be noticed by him/her or to please him/her. it isnt about having a romantic relationship- i just think people try harder to look better/efficient/intelligent/etc in front of beautiful people. ive also given a lot of thought when scarry says "great math skills, a capacity for musical composition, the physical aglity of a dancer or speed of an athelete-entail luck at birth". beauty is also a result of luck at birth. if everyone else can praise the other types of luck at birth, a person's physical beauty should also be praised.

beauty and justice
Name: Alice S
Date: 2005-04-11 14:36:08
Link to this Comment: 14448

I have to say that these articles gave me a very different perspective of beauty. I enjoyed both pieces, and I found this view of beauty, well, beautiful, for lack of a better word. I do think it is a bit idealistic. Whether that is a good or a bad thing i am not sure.

I really connected to the opening line of Gebara's piece that said, "to understand justice is to think about injustice...often it is injustice we experience and witness that makes us cry out for a different world." This made me think of some of our conversations in class about unattainable standards of beauty. If we did not have a standard, we would not have the motivation to fight for something better.

I am not sure that either Gebrara;s or Scarry's argument can hold true in the real world, once again because they are so idealistic. But I think it takes optimists to make change, and I thought their notion of beauty and justice, and the idea that seeing injustice can help create beauty, was a very provocative idea, and one that maybe someday could evoke change.

Gebara and Scarry
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-04-11 15:06:52
Link to this Comment: 14449

I really liked Gebara's piece (maybe because she was quick and to the point), she puts a huge emphasis on finding beauty in simple things that can help everyone around us. "We are esstinally talking about ways to build better relationships"- these relationships are founded on the basic principle of loving and finding the beauty in others. By being critical, "ugly", judgemental and attached we lose the progress to defining justice. It is true that beauty will ultimately save us, because if most of us find something beautiful we tend to examine it and cherish it more closely and thereby can save it or save ourselves.
I don't necessarily agree with her thought on a friend being equal, "someone whose eyes I can see, whom I can talk to directly, care for and love." I think we sometimes get so caught up in outdoing the person next to us, especially in a beauty definition that we don't treat people with that beauty and respec they deserve.
Beauty does come from the interior for many people, (I can't lie that sometimes it is the exterior that first attracts me) but once I get to a glimpse on the inside and I like what I see I tend to find it more beautiful that I would have initially. This brings me to Scarry's argument that I am still trying to clear up.
Scarry says "beauty occupies our attention and distracts us from real things" but for example if I enjoyed the presence of a person and didn't necesarrily find them beautiful I am NOT distracted by them but more drawn to their personality than looks. It makes me examine and like them even more! I do agree with her in that the human pleasure comes from looking at beautiful things, we should NEVER give up this right otherwise we are giving up one of our five "senses". Additionally, I am not sure if only non-living objects are able to be stared at, because even flowers, humans, babies can benefit from the staring and feeling they get from being considered beautiful.
Can we try and sort out Scarry's 2 main points that she points out will be contradicting in her paper?? She lost me a slight bit..

The Injustice of Beauty
Name: Muska
Date: 2005-04-11 15:48:47
Link to this Comment: 14450

I was very interested in this week's readings because I had never thought of beauty in the context of justice or fairness. In fact, I thought the whole concept of beauty was based on a spectrum. Defining something as beautiful required defining all the things that were not considered beautiful. In fact, it seemed as if the concept of "beauty" benefits from a system of injustice. The only way one thing can be categorized as "beautiful" is if there is something else categorized as "ugly."

I still don't know what beauty is...
Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-04-11 16:23:34
Link to this Comment: 14452

The Gebara and the Scarry pieces were unsettling; I need to think on them. My gut reaction, though, is that this theory won't work, that something is wrong with this argument, it's too simple, that people are not naturally nice. But I'll see what people say in class before I try to flesh out an argument against it.

So in the interest of posting on time, I'll write on the definition of beauty, which we started talking about in Anne's section. Simply evoking a response seems too broad a definition. Requiring the event to be new or startling limits timeless themes like relationships that most people would call beautiful.

On a tangent, and at the risk of accidentally quoting a pop song, I was thinking about love in the same way; it sounds ridiculous, but I honestly couldn't describe love a year or two ago. I still can't describe it, but now I realize exactly what feeling it is. Before, if you had asked me, I would have said something vague, like an 'attachment.' This isn't to say that I didn't love before (or maybe it is...maybe I wasn't mature enough, or was too busy with stress and hormones in adolescence) but I've finally realized what the damn thing is. That feeling of wanting to protect and at the same time release my brother, mother, (in a complicated way my father,) and my closest friends to the world--oh, I get it. What a moron. Why didn't I make this language connection before?

My definitions will very probably change later--I won't stay 19 forever. But tThat's what I'm hoping will happen to me with beauty. I know I experience it; I just can't quite place it yet. But I think it's an emotion, like love. Beauty is somethink I feel, not a characteristic in some outer thing.


Justice and Beauty
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-04-11 16:29:44
Link to this Comment: 14453

I thought that it was interesting to once again see earlier sentiments echoed this late in the class in regards to symmetry being a key component to something being beautiful. I thought that the Scarry argument that beauty means symmetry, fairness, and/or equality which means justice which means that beauty is necessary for justice was confusing and a bit of a stretch. I felt a little confused by this week's readings. I thought that the issue of beauty not being as applaudable as some other attributes because it is 'natural' and doesn't have to be worked for is still faulty logic and I was happy to at least see that pointed out in the Scarry article. Another argument I found intriguing was the idea that something that's beautiful causes you to want to be more just to something of the same type that is less attractive. I feel like this is also true/reflected in other cases. For example, when fighting against racism or homophobia...if someone meets someone from a minority and sees something appealing or likable about them, they are more likely to give other minoirites, who are not necessarily as compatible with them, a chance or take more effort to get to know them. I still had a problem with both articles because they seemed to want to ignore physical beauty. Why is physical 'superficial' beauty still so maligned? Gebara's article says that "beauty is our birthright" so why can't a beauty that is physical be as appreciated as the intangible beauties (justice, equality, love, etc.)? I do like the argument that in order to understand justice we need to understand injustice. It implies that in order to appreciate 'ugliness' we need to have beauty. Why isn't ugliness attacked instead of beauty (at least by the morally upright and 'intelligent' circles)? It seems that by removing one you'll end up getting rid of the other because they can't exist without the other; so why not attack ugliness because without ugliness there wouldn't be beauty and the outcome (absence of beauty and ugliness) would be the same as if beauty were attacked. :) Maybe I just need to take my nap already.

Sounds like Sailor Moon
Name: Mal
Date: 2005-04-11 16:30:14
Link to this Comment: 14454

The Ivone Gebara piece really confused me. I think it was well written, but I’m not sure what she is trying to say. I don’t think she explained toughly enough why she thinks beauty will save us. Its not that I don’t understand what she means by beauty, in fact I like what she has to say about that, especially when she talked about the difference between the words “pretty” and “beauty”. I just don’t see how seeing the beauty in our souls can give us justice. I don’t buy it. Also, her language is to flowery. When she says on page '25': "It is rooted in the love of justice and beauty", the first thing I thought of was Sailor Moon, which is an anime about magical girls who save the world. She needed to make more concrete points.
I think that the Scarry piece brought up some good points about beauty. I especially like when she talked about the beholders having the power. I think being beautiful can gain you power, especially in our current society, which is something I feel we have talked about. She also bought up the connection between beauty leading the way for justice. I still don’t see it. How is me loving my mother, which is a beautiful experience, going to help me be more just. Maybe someone will be able to explain it to me.

Justice + Beauty
Name: Liz Newbur
Date: 2005-04-11 16:34:54
Link to this Comment: 14455

I don't particularly find Scarry's argument very appealing, and downright round-about. For instance, I've always thought that the human gaze was necessary in order to find something beautiful, in order to quantify it as such. So what if me finding a vase beautiful would mean that it would open my awareness to the preciousness of other vases -- isn't this what we want? So look for beauty in one item, and then extend our awareness from there to find beauty in other things?
But one portion that I did find to my taste was this concept of finding a group of people who were unaware of their own identities -- that were behind a veil of ignorance. It reminded me of the calli proposal, in a way, but with a twist. With the calli, you couldn't see beauty. With this 'group' of people, because they were blank slates/neutered/veiled, they were willing to accept beauty in as many ways as possible, even if there was a chance that they would never get to experience this beauty. Which I think is something key to human nature -- we're willing to admit that so many things other people find beautiful -are- beautiful in the hope that one day we too will discover beauty for ourselves.

Gebara's article I think really hit home for me, too, because she offers a clear definition that distinguishes pretty from beautiful, and how justice combines with these. This also hits on a few things we've been talking about in class -- how there's more to appearances, how beauty is at a different level than just aesthetics. I also liked how she linked justice and beauty: "If justice is fundamentally about creating right relationships, beauty is in many ways the incarnation and measure of the integrity of those relationships." Gebara's way of looking at beauty is a very philosophical, Plato-inspired viewpoint.

Beauty and Being Just
Name: Jaya
Date: 2005-04-11 16:48:35
Link to this Comment: 14458

Although I was expecting a lot out of these articles, I felt like I was left with some good points by the authors that didn't have very strong arguments to back them up. I am also still not convinced as to how beauty is just; these articles just didn't do it for me.
With Gebara's article, the author says that beauty will ultimately provide us salvation- I'm still not exactly sure how it would save us and what it would be saving us from, or more importantly how beauty was a provider of justice. I do agree with her in that beauty is touched by all of our senses and can be defined by experiences wholeheartedly, however. The paragraph where she describes beauty- about beauty being an event in history that makes us cry or laugh, music that opens our hearts, a child that beckons us to smile, etc.- was very similar to my first posting on the online forum about what we consider beautiful. I'm happy that someone addressed the simple experiences that could be considered beautiful (something I haven't seen explicitly mentioned all semester)- another way that simplicity as a whole relates to beauty.
As for the Scarry excerpt, I found myself constantly drifting off, or being really confused by her wording, and once again I felt like she'd make great points and then have arguments that just didn't seem to fit in with her initial point. For instance, she talks about staring and how it is a version of the wish to create- a point that I considered original and became really interested in initially. However, she goes on about the paralysis and pain that one goes through when he/she sees a beautiful person, making references to the works of Plato and Dante, which kind of goes against her initial idea of beauty providing pleasure for the person staring. She also left behind really good developing argument about how people create drawings and art to replicate/create this beauty. Moments like that I'd just scratch my head confused. Once again, it could be just me missing the whole big picture.

Scarry is Scary
Name: Catie Davi
Date: 2005-04-11 16:58:32
Link to this Comment: 14459

Scarry was a challenge to understand and I'm still working on it but what I did get from her article is that the justice in beauty comes from the relationship between the perceiver and the object being perceived. What a person finds beautiful, he or she brings alive, gives value to, has the desire to protect the beauty of the object to ensure its continuity.
She talks about the inherent nature of beauty... a human's appreciation of the blue sky... preference for flowers to no flowers...etc. She argues that perceiving an object as beautiful is important because this beauty and our treatment of this beauty is applied to other objects that may not be beautiful that we associate with the beautiful object. So, what scarry proposes is that the beauty of one object is transferred to another object that may be less beautiful.

She mentions that the problem with the perception of beauty is present when perception involves emotion. When an object is admired for its beauty, that object is judged. The perceiver recognizes this object as pleasant, and although scarry argues that the beauty the perceiver experinces is transferred to other objects, judgements are also made, and "ugly" also exists. The fear in judging human beauty comes from the idea that those perceived as ugly will not have the same chance to exist at the same level as those perceived as beautiful because they are not able to be as competitive.... they are disadvantaged.

When we describe unpopular or undesirable groups in society, we call them disadvantaged. Often times, the most effective way for these groups to bring attention to themselves and gain support is to inform people of the "beauty" in their cause to add more power in their part of the equation to have more influence in life's equilibrium.

I think another big question addressed here is the ethics of beauty. The fairness and unfairness of different ways of judging beauty. But since It is almost 5:00... ill save my thoughts on this for tomorrow.

Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-04-11 17:18:48
Link to this Comment: 14460

I found the two articles did a poor job of captivating the reader (or just me perhaps) and creating a compelling argument. In the Gebara article I was put off by the number of cliched arguments, metaphors and the final argument that I felt completely neglected the more complex nature of justice. The article addressed justice in abstact terms and often dropped it to pursue some flowery prose about beauty and its healing effects. In the end I felt that to talk about justice and to go further in making some sort of prescription as to how justice is achieved or met, it takes more than loose examples and a passive reliance on beauty as a saving force. I liked some of the things that she had to say in an abstract or theoretical way but in the end I was left uninspired or moved by her argument which relied too much on string of old sayings and "truths" without further elucidating them with more explanation or discussion. I found that it was just too easy to say that the process of historical salvation "is rooted in the love of justice and beauty." What about beauty makes us care or wakes us up and what is a "right relationship" that justice tries to create?

While reading the Scarry article I found myself in a similar position that some others have also mentioned in their postings: I was lost. The language was verbose and unnecessary in many of the paragraphs. Her arguments were also not thought out well and circular in many instances and ultimately did not add to my understanding of beauty or its connection to justice or "fairness." The first part of the chapter I felt was not well constructed and I found myself flipping through the pages not knowing where she was headed or for what purpose. I also did not feel that her arguments were substantiated by clear evidence or even a fundemental argument. I was intrigued with the question (though perhaps not her discussion) of lateral disregard and if the notice or perception of beauty diverts attention and care from the other laterally placed objects. I immediately thought of how distracting or not the skin and exterior beauty of people and or objects are in terms of the whole being or experience.

Beauty does not need to be symmetrical in its treatment or in its use or distribution. The person perceiving the beauty should not have to dole out appreciation of beauty equally or in a just or fair manner. In terms of beauty there does not need to a "symmetry of everyone's relation to one another" (I realize that this is not a direct reply to Scarry's argument or article, but rather a tangent that was inspired by a portion of her chapter). It is about individual perception and experience.

Ultimately I found Scarry's almost too methodical, but messy argument and presentation of beauty and the relationship to justice. Though some parts were interesting and certainly got me thinking about things, I could not get into her argument that seemed so based on the perfect fitting of pieces in a puzzle: symmetry, proportion, equality and lateral disregard. I do fundementally agree that there may be some similarities in the scientific explantion and dissection of an experience of beauty coming from an appreciation for the symmetrical with the generic notion that justice means also a type of symmetry or same treatment between people, but I still don't quite make the same argument that she does because I think the beauty and justice are both too complex and morphing to be pinned down so precisely.

1's and 0's
Name: Kat McCorm
Date: 2005-04-11 17:27:08
Link to this Comment: 14461

Read the both article has helped me to clear up some of the dichotomies in our own course thinking that I was having trouble putting my finger on (i.e.- Sharon's thought that we've actually been talking about appearances- what is "pretty" rather than what is "beautiful", and Gebara's assertion that "the beauty that will save us is, above all, not pretty." )

Also, reflecting on all the earlier posts has brought out another two distinct ( i think) schools of thought- and inspired by Anne's attempt at unity of two (or more) "almost distinct patterns", I guess i'll try and attempt to do the same:

I'm very intrigued by the Flora/Sharon conversations about effectively inserting beauty into the laws of thermodynamics... and although these laws were ultimately written about thermodynamics, and thus thier application to beauty seems a little, well, ungrounded to me- they provide such a nice model of (yet another) dichotomy: that of beauty being fixed in amount (beauty=symmetry=justice=equality) versus that of beauty being unbounded (Beauty somwhere means more beauty elsewhere). Muska seems to be in the same camp as Flora, stating "the concept of 'beauty' benefits from a system of injustice. The only way one thing can be categorized as 'beautiful' is if there is something else categorized as 'ugly.' "

Also, I was wondering if it is possible to tie together these conflicting ideas with other dichotomies that we were discussing in Anne's group on thursday: Surveyor vs. surveyed, neocortex vs. frogbrain, relational vs. isolated, constant vs. transient. Help, I'm seeing binary!-

BUT- interestingly, Flora and Sharon do come to a consenus on on aspect of beauty: that long sought after and ever-elusive definintion:

Flora: "my favorite definition of beauty. It’s, very simply, whatever gives one pleasure."
Gebara, quoted by Sharon: "We know it is present because we feel something that transforms us."

So, maybe there is a way out of this after all?

Gebara's one page arguement was more convincing th
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-04-11 18:41:53
Link to this Comment: 14465

First of all, I just want to say that I loved Dr. B’s argument that the universe is becoming increasingly beautiful because of increasing entropy – from the beginning of the cell to trees, flowers, humans, etc. It’s very reassuring to know that you’re living in such a universe, and I loved that you shared that.

Now on to the reading. Some interesting points that I picked up from Scarry’s essay were these:

-The beauty of the extraordinary draws you attention to universal truths about the ordinary. Put nicely: “It is as though beautiful things have been placed here and there throughout the world to serves as small wake-up calls to perception…”(81).
-Recognizing beauty bestows life unto the perceiver and the object admired.
-Admiration of beauty tends to be more dangerous to the perceiver than the subject gazed upon.
-Beautiful objects prompt action on its behalf (paintings, poems, care of it) and this leads to the problems of lateral disregard

One of the more original points in regards to this class was when explained the theory of dividing the aesthetic into two realms: the beautiful and the sublime. Beautiful is described as harmless aesthetics and the sublime as “powerful aesthetics.” In either of the cases, beauty is describe as too much of an extreme and has caused it to be regarded as a troublemaker leading to injustices.

However, she seemed to be arguing in favor of beauty as a tool for helping us recognize injustices as opposed to a proponent of injustice, her conclusion seemed to contradict her argument. She claims beauty draws our attention to symmetry, provides “generous sensory availability,” and allows us to take in pleasure while still remaining “lateral” or “decentered,” and all of these aspects allow us to recognize injustice by drawing our attentions and allowing us to recognize equality/symmetry. Although her arguments hold some weight, her conclusion describing how beauty has led to fair and equal measures does not take away from the fact that it has led to numerous more unjust ones. Sure, “the vote on the sky” has caused environmental awareness, but what about the Holocaust or genocide in Sudan? Is that not severe injustice as a cause of beauty preference? And which is greater: the justices brought about by beauty or the injustices as a result of lateral disregard? It seems to me that it is the injustices. I admire her attempt to stand up as beauty’s attorney, defending it to the point of making it a victim, “A fugitive bird unable to fly, unable to land”(86), but I still think its crimes are pretty severe and I’d vote guilty.

Gebara’s essay was clearly stated and beautifully expressed. It made me feel relaxed and appreciative of beauty. I like how she stated, “Beauty comes from the interior,” because I had almost forgotten that in after reading the previous piece. I liked also how she stated a call to action: “ Our task is simply to believe in the redemptive qualities of doing justice and living beauty. Our saving gift is to insist on both.” How nicely put!

Name: Katy
Date: 2005-04-11 18:58:46
Link to this Comment: 14466

I was frustrated by this week's readings. The idea of justice being beautiful is hardly revolutionary for me. Most people consider justice to be a *good* thing, and a common theme in this class (that I've picked up on, anyway)is that people often assign the term "beauty" to that which is "good." It feels to me that, through these readings, I was only reminded more and more of how jaded the term "beauty" really is (not just in class but in the English-speaking world as a whole). I was particularly frustrated by the Garbera article, which again asserted that beauty and justice are intertwined, yet said virtually nothing on what we must do and how we must use beauty as a tool for eradicating injustice. It was just talk, not to mention talk that would make intuitive sense to any twelve-year-old. It was just the age-old "real beauty is on the inside" rhetoric that most of us have heard our entire lives. It taught me nothing new or ultimately profound.

One and the Same
Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-04-11 19:35:50
Link to this Comment: 14468

To me, beauty and justice have always fallen into a category of similar virtues which loosely includes, truth, freedom, peace, happiness and love which are these nebulous ideas which so many people spend so much time talking about and thinkng about and writing about but never really seem to understand. They are clearly important, but no one can seem to say exactly why. Perhaps it is because they are all so relevant(?) in our lives but in such a way that we are only aware of in retrospect that it is hard to give them shape or definition. After all these weeks we still haven't been able to really agree on a definition for beauty, and I believe that these other words are no less complex. I guess that it seems logical that they would be related because they all seem to be symbols of what constitutes "goodness," and all are both intricate and complicated in the same kind of way. There is no doubt in my mind that the concept of justice is beautiful, justice in action is certainly not something which can be called perpetually beautiful. Plenty of hideous acts have been performed in the name of justice, but whether or not these are "truly just" is something that I need to think about a little more.

Truthful Beauty?
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-04-11 22:33:32
Link to this Comment: 14480

In "On Beauty and Being Fair", Scarry mentions that beauty "ignites the desire for truth." Despite the fact that her work was confusing, this statement made me think. Would it necessarily be true? Stereotypes that I have heard are that a) beautiful people are too dumb to lie or b) that beautiful people are conniving. I understand that these stereotypes are ridiculous but it makes me question our society that allows the stereotypes to exist. How exactly does beauty "ignite desire for truth"?
I went to a small prep school for high school where we wore uniforms and stood when adults entered rooms. All the girls were size two blondes and the boys looked like Abercrombie models. It sounds "beautiful" but really it was boring. It also made me realize that it appearance and "beauty" do not correlate to whether someone is good or bad or truthful or not.

Interesting quote about justice
Name: Kara Rosan
Date: 2005-04-12 15:26:06
Link to this Comment: 14520

I found this quote that I really like about law and justice, and the way criminals should be delt with. It's a bit on the idealistic side, but I think idealism is crucial in order for societies to evolve in a positive way. Here is the quote:
We shall look on crime as a disease, and its physicians shall
displace the judges, its hospitals displace the galleys. Liberty
and health shall be alike. We shall pour balm and oil where
we formerly applied iron and fire; evil will be treated in charity,
instead of in anger. This change will be simple and
—Victor Hugo
I think all acts that are done with the intention of hurting someone, even if that someone is a criminal, are ugly. When crime is met with punishment, it only compounds the ugly that exists in the world. The only way to make the world more beautiful is to try to lessen the amount of ugly acts that take place. This can only be done by treating the problems specifically and contextually, as you would a disease.

increasing the amount of beauty in the world....?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-12 16:37:04
Link to this Comment: 14523

lessen the amount of that different than increasing the amount of beauty?

Anyhow, in service of the latter, here's an update on what the remainder of the semester (now, in consultation w/ you all) looks like (for ease of reference, see also updated syllabus):

4/14 In Goodhart Music Room: music, dance, and the martial arts--
sharing some other beautiful forms,
and discussing what it feels like both to create and receive them,
including (perhaps) Conversational Beginnings and
On Sitting Down to Read "On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again" Once Again.

4/15 Fourth (5 pp.) essay (due in hard copy and on the web): on the political implications of beauty

Weeks Thirteen-Fourteen
4/19 Julian Robinson, Preface, "Traditions of Adornment," The Quest for Human Beauty: An Illustrated History (New York: Norton, 1998): 9-56.
[In class:] selection from The Gods Must Be Crazy. Dir. Jamie Uys. Videorecording, 1980. 109 minutes.

4/21 (selections from) Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage, 1989.
Whitney Chadwick, "An Infinite Play of Empty Mirrors: Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation." 3-35.
Janice Helland, "Culture, Politics, and Identity in the Paintings of Frida Kahlo."396-406.
[In class:] selection from Frida Kahlo. Dir Julie Taymor. Videorecording, 2002. 123 minutes.

4/26 [In class:] selections from A Beautiful Mind. Dir. Ron Howard. Viedeorecording, 2001. 135 minutes.
Life is Beautiful. Dir. Roberto Benigni. Videorecording, 1997. 116 minutes.

4/28 A Beauty Surround, created by all....

5/16 Final (5 pp.) essay and Portfolio Due

Date: 2005-04-12 16:37:39
Link to this Comment: 14524

Name: amy
Date: 2005-04-12 18:58:42
Link to this Comment: 14530

That we find a crystal or a poppy beautiful means that we are less alone, that we are more deeply inserted into existence than the course of a single life would lead us to believe.
John Berger

the quote has nothing to do with what we've been talking about recently...but I thought it was fitting .

Date: 2005-04-14 00:30:27
Link to this Comment: 14561

Kara's Victor Hugo quote---and the attempts we made on Tuesday to try and create a "beautifully asymmetrically mercifully just" society---inspired me to post another Hugo quote. It's basically his attempt to imagine a justly-beautiful society a la Tuesday's discussion.

"Let us understand each other in regard to equality; for, if liberty is the summit, equality is the base. Equality, citizens, is not all vegetation on one level, a society of big blades of grass and little oaks; a neighborhood of jealousies emasculating each other; civilly, it is all aptitutes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights. Equality has an organ: free and compulsory education. The right to the alphabet, we must begin by that. The primary school obligatory for everyone, the higher school offered to everyone, such is the law."

Practical? Who knows. But I love Hugo---he's wonderfully, sadly, beautifully idealistic.

Beauty & Justice
Name: annabella
Date: 2005-04-14 14:57:03
Link to this Comment: 14567

I found Scarry's argument to be right on. I agree emphaticly that beauty and justice are completely intertwined. Beauty does not depend on justice, but justice would not exist without beauty.
Beauty is not man made. It was on Earth long before man was, and will be here long after we are gone. But justice is man made, at least the type of justice we are referring to when we talk about justice between people and peoples. That is entire man made, and without a vision of beauty in the mind of the one picturing justice, it would not be a possibility.
The fact that so many of my classmates felt that Scarry was not realistic
is a little scary for me. I think it actually speaks to the problems currently arising in out nation today. If our leaders are thinking that beauty and justice are not only not connected, but also completely seperate entities, then justice can become ugly, and beauty impotent.
Justice requires beauty to keep the scale in balance, and beauty inspires justice, just by being beauty. I agree with Scarry that when one experiences beauty, they feel inspired, and in this state of inspiration, a just world is not only possible, but worth the effort to bring about.
I ask my classmates to get more specific on what about Scarry's argument is not realistic...specifically.
I experience a general feeling of sadness at the thought that the emerging adult generation could possibly feel that beauty and justice can in any way be seperated, or exist without each other. In a world like that, much can get very ugly in everyday life, before the truth about beauty and justice will again reveal itself.

mathematical ideal? or cultural variety?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-14 22:46:05
Link to this Comment: 14574

Welcome (again) to the last of our "beauty" forums. This week we will be exploring a variety of forms of beauty. Prepare for our next class by reviewing three websites Eebs suggested to us:

Compare the description, in those pages, of a universal preference for an ideal face, with the multiple cultural varieties of beauty Julian Robinson traces in The Quest for Human Beauty, pp. 9-56 (there are extra copies of those handouts in the box outside my office, if you didn't pick up one in class today). Post your responses here by 5 p.m. on Monday.

We'll meet in the Lecture Hall on Tuesday morning, to watch a part of the videorecording The Gods Must Be Crazy, and to discuss these texts.

"Perfect Faces, Perfect Beauty?"
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-04-16 16:34:19
Link to this Comment: 14614

Well, I took a look at the sites that discuss the "Golden Ratio" and its relation to the "Perfect Face Mask." Very interesting material -- I had briefly heard of the golden ratio, but I was not really aware how commonplace this number is in various human, animal, and architectural structures. The article also directed me to a link that allowed me to take the "Perfect Mask" and apply it to a picture of my own face and see how I measure up in terms of beauty. Seemed pretty cool (although I didn't try it), but upon reading a thought crossed my mind. What happens if my face doesn't measure up, doesn't fit the "Perfect Mask?" What about all of the other people out there whose face will not fit the perfect mask? Does it mean that we just don't have perfect faces? That we aren't beautiful? That we're "doomed forever" to be society's misfits? I don't think that's very fair. Not all of us are blessed to be born with the golden ratio in our faces -- that's something we have no control over. But just because some of us lack the golden ratio doesn't mean we can't still be beautiful. I believe that beauty can be found in flaws, imperfections, and asymmetry. True, it may be much more difficult to see the beauty in imperfection, but it can be found. For example, in wondering around the perfect mask site, I came across an article in which a woman commented that she found the scar above her boyfriend's lip to be "sexy" (I think I can equate beautiful with "sexy" in this case). Need I say more?

That's why I found Robinson's essay to be much more appealing and realistic (as well as eye-opening at times) in terms of beauty. The definition of beauty highly varies across cultures and countries, and it has been constantly modified over different time periods throughout history. The variance is very surprising...I think of our society where thin is in, and then I read Robinson's words describing how some cultures will send their young women to "fattening houses" so that these women will be deemed beautiful, socially acceptable, and attractive to potential husbands. My gosh! I can't even envision that kind of beauty perspective here in the US!! And then in some other cultures, the male body is considered more beautiful than the female! So it seems that the willingness to modify and/or cause suffering in order to achieve a certain look of beauty really is a universal thing. On one hand this relieves me, but on the other hand it doesn't. After reading the essay I felt like there was more of a burden/pressure on myself to conform to my own society's standards of beauty -- and if I don't do this, then I feel I'm not being fully human, and I'm not portraying a good representation of my culture. Arrrrrrrrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

the quest for human beauty
Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-04-16 19:34:57
Link to this Comment: 14618

I liked Robinson's article for the ways that it showed how culturally universal the idea of a beauty ideal is, and how all beauty standards lead to some suppression/opression of the physical attributes that we are all born with. I also liked how he equated the beauty standard with the uniquely human trait of creativity/imagination etc. One of his most interesting points was, to me, the difference he assigned to the commerical aspect of the Western beauty standard and how he equated that, not the actual beauty standard itself, with what has "corrupted" us in a sense. As he writes..."We had begun to judge beauty not objectively or aesthetically, but by its sales potential and cost. If something was expensive and exclusive, like haute couture, then it was by its very nature seen as intrinsically more beautifull and desirable than items that were cheaper and more readily available." To me, this idea relates back to our discussions that we value the rare- and had me thinking that perhaps the widespread commericiality of beauty has upped the antie, upped the standard and made our new beauty standards inherently more oppresive than they may have been before. Yet, as Robinson proves- societies do not need this capitalistic view of beauty for their to be an emphasis on certain beauty standards, or on rare specimens of that culture's interpretation of beauty.

The other thing that struck me was Robinson's emphasis on how beauty is all about sex and appearing attractive to those you want to have sex with. I remember when Christine Koggel was visiting I tried to bring up this point in class and Anne kinda dismissed it...I wonder how the class felt about Robinson's focus on sex as a driving force behind the efforts behind beauty?

Golden Ratio and other stuff
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-04-16 19:50:21
Link to this Comment: 14619

First off I wanted to thank everyone who performed on Thursday. You guys are beautiful.

I looked at the Golden Ratio site, and I can't say I am particularly surprised that there is a standard of beauty (or maybe just symmetry) that transcends race. We would be a very unsuccessful species if we did not find other races beautiful; we would not vary the gene pool very much if we were only attracted to races outside of our own.

"The Quest For Human Beauty" has made me realize how complicated human beauty issues are. Some beautiful things seem to transcend culture like nature, symmetry, and color but human-constructed beauty is so subjective. I almost think this article was less about beauty and more about sexuality. I don't think beauty is only a product of sexual impulse. Why is a flower, a waterfall, music, or a butterfly considered beautiful if beauty is so related to sexuality? Paul Grobstein, if I understood him correctly, argued that more primitive creatures don't have beautiful experiences because they lack the higher brain function and the conscious, and I agree with him. However, if sexuality is central to beauty, don't more primitive species have beautiful experiences, perhaps more beautiful than we experience? Sexuality is beautiful, and many beautiful human interactions are rooted in sexuality. Nevertheless, to say that sexuality and beauty are one in the same is an oversimplification.

It was amazing to hear what extremes people take and what pain they endure in order to achieve the standard of aesthetics upheld in their society. I can't decide if pain is necessary for the aesthetic experience. I know that some of my most intense beautiful experiences have followed intense periods of emotional pain. We have tossed around the idea that beauty brings power. Well, maybe vulnerability is also related to beauty then? Are we more receptive toward beauty when we are vulnerable? It would make sense from a Darwinian perspective if you think about it. If we are vulnerable we should seek things that give us strength, like beauty. So maybe causing ourselves pain is a way of making ourselves vulnerable so we can be receptive to beauty? I don’t know, it’s an abstract idea, but the pain related to beauty concept keeps coming up, and it makes me wonder….

Sex and Beauty
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-04-16 20:11:44
Link to this Comment: 14620

Gosh.. i just deleted everything I wrote. =(

Okay so thank you to all the performers on Thursday.. it was a beautiful way to start my day!

So reading and visitng the websites I realized that Robbins said a point that has been repeated over and over again in class. Beauty is determined by the societal views and the culture that person is in. WE ALL GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO WANT TO BE BEAUTIFUL. All of us shave, pluck eyebrows, wear lip gloss and so on.. But our beauty is linked to the culture we are in and Robbins states that: "Human beauty is undoubtedly culturally determined and each cultural group has invented the ideals and symbols it needs to reflect its natural peculiarities"

Robbins was an effective writer because he writes from a unbiased viewpoint and manages to cover each culture or the general idea of them. He does make an interesting point that Amy touches on, we are attracted to people who we want to have sex with..I really think this is true, but in my culture it is NEVER a topic of discussion. Sex, pornography and nudity are a hush-hush topic...although the gods are depicted naked in some statues it is NOT in a compromising position.

I found it interesting that women in certain cultures are fed very high fat diets and then shown off wearing jewelry and garments that display wealth but across the world women are complete opposites.

Being an Indian woman by heritage it was finally interesting to hear Robbin's view of our culture and the way our women perceived beauty. One important point he makes is that in countries with certain beautiful attributes that becomes the norm in that country and attaining that is the highest level of beauty. For indian women, our outfits of saris and lengas usually show the stomach and back and they are considered beautiful regardless of the size but because they are now the norm. Although our culture does have a problem with public display of nude bodies- it's not just western culture that has a phobia of it. We tend to show off parts of our bodies that are accepted such as the stomach and back in our clothing.

Visitng the websites featured I wanted to see if I had the "perfect golden ratio" but probably would have felt bad if I didn't so I didnt bother. But just today, a friend and I were bored and found a website called that shows celebrities that had HUGE changes in their face/body.

Name: Liz Patere
Date: 2005-04-17 13:45:09
Link to this Comment: 14629

So I know we've been talking a lot about female beauty, etc but one of the things that annoyed me mildly about Robinson's paper were the sexist undertones. Mostly in terms of the reasons that females are build as they are. First off, females have greater endurandance and better oxygen consumpition than males; higher body fat means that we survive better during periods of hardship, for that we sacrifice some speed and strength but in general it always appeared to me that women are built for the long haul. Perhaps fat deposits in the butt and breasts were actually healthier than those in the mid-section (it is shown that women who gain eight in the mid-section have higher risks for certain diseases) and perhaps the fat deposites in these areas allowed women to better carry out their daily tasks. Then there is an assumption that women had to attract male aid. However, there are monogamous species. Chimp live in a very patriarchial societal structure which is perhaps where this notion comes from. However the bono (this is what I believe it is called) are much smarter, less agressive and I believe more closely related to humans, live in a much more female oriented society where everyone cares for the offspring. Anyway of the rant of why male non-scientists should be more careful writing these articles.
I like the notion that women and men select for traits that are defining of themselves. certainly I've noticed myself being attracted to individuals who I can relate to through dress or more that I can be initially repulsed by a tanned muscular guy and name brand clothes, although I still make an effort to overcome that. It seemed like beauty was in a sense this external pulmage and that sort of bothered me. I always felt clothes enhance the person but a naked person who is beautiful will be beautiful no matter what and clothes will not make an unattractive person attractive. I thought it was odd that the undecoorated body was considered animalistic and therefore ugly. Perhaps the societal norms of clothing and hiding prevalent in the western world have made me feel that we need to rebel. Piercings and tattoos and scars don't make you less animalistic to me. I thought that a funnny notion actually because animals are often full of battle scars. I suppose the intent makes them humans. However, I understand the beauty of these modifications more than the beauty of some removable external plumage. Eventually it comes off and we are all naked. Therefore it is a transicent fleeting beauty and I suppose thats why I don't care much about it.

Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-04-17 17:03:36
Link to this Comment: 14646

I found the websites very interesting and I agree with the comment that "what if your face does not conform?". Though I see its applications in nature and to a certain number of faces, many of which are beautiful, I would assume that for every beautiful conforming face there is another one considered just as beautiful that does not fit the golden ratio.
I really enjoyed the "quest for human beauty" reading. I think that it just emphasizes what we've been talking about all semester, that sometimes there are things that "everyone" finds beautiful but there is also a wide range of beauty as well. In America there seems to be a trend towards thin women but the reading mentioned "fattening houses" that take a completely different view towards weigh and its relation to what is beautiful.
There was an interesting connection between it all that the author made however. He wrote that "all of our different forms of 'beauty' speak eloquently of health and vigor and fertility and of the promise of the survival of any genes invested" (42). It did appear that many of the different things that were emphasized as beautiful were things that did just that.
I wish that we could have seen the pictures better though. It seemed like there were so many images of different types of beauty displayed in the margins of the reading but unfortunately they did not copy very well so it was hard to identify exactly what sort of beauty was in each of the photographs.

Evolution applied to Beauty
Name: Rebecca Do
Date: 2005-04-17 21:12:32
Link to this Comment: 14658

To begin, this week's material has been the most interesting thus far. The reading "The Quest for Human Beauty" and the website about the golden ratio are more along the lines of what I thought the class would be like. Evolutionary biology has always been one of my favorite topics and it was interesting to have it applied to beauty. In my last conference with Professor Dalke she asked me if I was comfortable considering that there was a genetic or biological influence on what people find attractive. Without hesitation I said yes and it took a second for me to realize that others might find this idea quite upsetting. I actually find it assuring because it is just one more way in which nature takes care of itself. In today's society beauty is not something that we need to survive and maybe even considered an impediment or distraction. However, these biological influences to select "beautiful" mates may be the reason why the human species is the way it is and that is amazing and nothing to be made uncomfortable by.

There has got to be more to life than being really
Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-04-17 23:38:03
Link to this Comment: 14661

After checking out all three "Golden Ratio"-type sites, I have to say I'm not overly impressed. Sure, a lot of beautiful faces fit the "grid" that Dr. Marquardt and his team have come up with, but a lot of them *don't.* And the websites in question only published the material that supported their theories. I'm sure they had to sift through lots of celebrities before discovering that Pierce Brosnan had the "ideal" male face. And hey, I agree, he's hot---but I wouldn't call him "ideal." I'd take Owen Wilson over him any day, and I just *know* Owen's nose wouldn't fit on that chart.

I would hesitate to call anything "ideal," in fact. Just biologically, the idea of a "standard human face" doesn't make sense to me. Don't species need biological diversity to survive? Wouldn't humans be pigeon-holing themselves if they all searched for the exact same mate-traits? I remember reading somewhere that one of the reasons the human species made it in the first place was that we were versatile; we weren't all the same; we didn't adapt so specifically to a certain environment that we were *all* of one "type"---and so we weren't wiped out when said environment changed. I can understand biologically built-in preferences based on the appearance of health, but I think that with human beauty---just like non-human beauty---it's all about personal preference. And personal preference is heavily influenced by culture, a la Julian Robinson. Though I have some problems with his argument (he's a little too optimistic about Western culture's enthusiasm or "acceptance" of other beauty standards, etc.), I agree with his basic premise. Each culture has different beauty standards, determined jointly by inherent body-type, environment, heritage, technology, and social patterns. Good thing, too. The world would be really boring if everyone looked like Paris Hilton---or tried to.

One more bit about the Golden Ratio. Maybe this is irrelevent, but... does it strike anyone else as odd that the image which these groups are proposing as the "perfect face" is essentially a cold, angular, non-human piece of trigonometry? And that it's actually really creepy looking, when viewed independently of a *real* human face? Seems metaphoric, almost. That's the thing about ideals: they're essentially inhuman. Even if you CGI'd that "perfect" face into reality, a la The Polar Express (the movie, not the book), I doubt it would look attractive. It'd be too flawless---inhumanly so. Even Perfect Pierce deviates slightly from the geometric model (his eyebrows, bless him, are a bit too flat). I'd argue that those little "deviations" are what really make faces memorable, beautiful.

Name: Katy
Date: 2005-04-18 00:43:39
Link to this Comment: 14663

If you ask me, Dr. Marquardt is a hack. There may be some logic to what he's saying, but it's lost on me. I disagree with nearly everything he has to say, from beauty being a necessarily "human" trait to the idea that a mask with certain very-specific proportions will help a face become "beautiful." Beauty is subjective. I believe that, beyond a certain point, there are no standards of beauty--many people may come to a consensus that individual A is beautiful (based on a shared appreciation of certain features), but no matter how many people feel that individual B, one still cannot objectively state that individual B is, in fact, ugly.

Take, for example, certain "beautiful" celebrities. Tom Cruise is a classic example--most people would consider him a phenomenally beautiful person, and Marquardt would certainly approve. To some, however, Mr. Cruise may in fact be almost TOO beautiful, to the point of being unreal and inaccessible. When we ascribe rigid standards of beauty to persons, places, and things, the result often works against these objects of beauty and sometimes actually makes them seem unappealing. There may be some meric in attempting to explain the phenomenon of beauty by scrutinizing it in terms of esoteric irrational numbers and proportions, but I for one find it far too technical and needlessly complicated.

Name: eebs
Date: 2005-04-18 08:35:06
Link to this Comment: 14666

while i was reading "the quest for human beauty" i wondered if "to improve social and sexual appeal"(13) implied that maybe some things (like scars)are not aesthetically pleasing but socially accepted so... there is a sexual appeal to it. or maybe scars are aesthetically pleasing, but i wonder if a scraped knee would be 'more beautiful' than a normal kneww.. 'less beautiful' than a 'planned-scar'.

i realized how western cultures are more infleunced/affected by temporary methods of beauty: makeup/clothes/hair/nails, where "beauty of clothing is accepted as a substitute for beauty of the body" (27). however,it seemed to me that other cultures, according to robinson, seemed to be more focused on long term beauty modification. and when i mean other cultures, i mean cultures that still have not been affected by globalization. im getting the feeling that as countries get more access to the media of the first world countries, their perception of beauty changes to accept the beauty standard of the US, or any other western first world nations.

if you think of it in this way, maybe beauty is "conditioned". is it because we see so much of a certain type of beauty that we think it? i personaly think that hollywood is the culprit.without the celebrities and their creating a standard of beauty, no one would be affected by their hm... perfectness(?), but then again, could we ever be free from the influences of the media, or some outside force that is not our own idea of beauty? is that even possible? how do trends/behavior start (or change) anyway?

beauty is considered in terms of feminine beauty. both the robinson article and the beauty analysis website tells us this (not that either of them are in a position to be absolutelycorrect). females are the more beautiful gender, and (i think) i see how good looking men look somewhat feminine. this is not to say that women with more masculine features are considered not as beautiful. but im sure that the feauture that makes them less femininet stands out to everyone. i dont know if i beieve in an absolut beauty mask, but im sure to some extent this holds true. but i know for myself, when i see someone with a huge browridge,for exmaple, i will notice it and i will think, that thats detracts from their overall beauty.

another thing i wanted to randomly throw out. there IS a difference between real life beauty and a photograph. imagine how many beauty people there are who arent photogenic.

Leave me and my non-traditional face
Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-04-18 11:39:13
Link to this Comment: 14667

The former plastic surgeon propagates this magical form that is universal, perfect, and beautiful. Let's go back to former plastic surgeon. This is a person who profits from people feeling unbeautiful as they are, with human abnormalities and deviations, and who want to have an easy, standardized form of beauty. Yuck. I adore the golden ratio in the nautilus--it is beautifu to me in theory and in form. But in humans, and shilling the ratio to humans, it is creepy and alien. Perhaps it's because I'll never want to have sex with a sea shell, but I accept that balanced mathematical relationship much more readily than android-like blank faces. I agree that the mask, with or without a face underneath it, looks ugly. I believe that there are universal traits that humans find beautiful; but I wouldn't ascribe proportions to them. I think it's basically clear, colorful (I can't think of a better word, but I mean vibrant and healthy, not determined by any racial thing) skin and basically symetric features. But there are deviations from this that are beautiful!!

The more I think about the websites, the angrier I feel. What vultures, what jerks. Exploring the basic links in the first 2 websites (the last wouldn't open for me) I only saw pictures of women. There is no humanity, there is nothing to inspire my admiration or delight in these plastic looking faces. Gah.

On a side note, in response to another posting, I don't think Tom Cruise is attractive at all; maybe it is the 'too-perfect' face, but he's just not dynamic looking. Of course, his apparent fakeness is probably connected to the fact that I've only seen him in 2-D form, like the models in the websites.

Multi-Cultural Beauty
Name: Muska
Date: 2005-04-18 13:15:09
Link to this Comment: 14671

What I found so disturbing about the entire notion of the golden ratio is how it was presented as a unifying principle, when really all it did was elimate any possibility for a diverse range of beauty to be recognized as aesthetically pleasing. The ratio was applied to everything from nature, to human faces, and even to classical art pieces, therefore giving a universal feel to the validity of Marquardt's "golden ratio." However, where the theory of the golden ratio breaks down is when Marquardt states that his mathematical ratio crosses racial boundaries. In one of the links on his website, a text box reads "Regardless of race, the mask fits attractive faces." Then below the text box are pictures of four differnet women--two white women, one Asian woman and one African-American woman. It is true, the mask appears to fit all these women--however what Marquardt doesn't take into consideration is that all these women still have predominantly white features. Therefore, the real message is "Regardless of race, the mask fits if your face corresponds to white features of attractive faces."

It always comes down to sex
Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-04-18 13:24:35
Link to this Comment: 14672

I find myself agreeing with Robinson in response to a number of points. First, the search of beauty in humans is predominately sex driven. What I found so interesting was how universal this idea was. I did not know that so many cultural ideals of beauty were so sexual. What I found a little troubling, but not necessarily incorrect, was that the more sexually stimulating someone was, the more beautiful and sought after they are. That almost promotes promiscuity and immodesty. Our society today definitely promotes immodest behavior in the media. The sluttier we dress, the more beautiful we are. I’ve even noticed it in the terms we use to characterize beautiful people. We have moved from calling people pretty and beautiful to hot, fine and PHAT. However, we can’t dress beautiful all the time; otherwise nothing would get done in our society. That is why we stress conservative dress in the workplace, but not in the disco club where you are trying to meet a guy.

Another controversial idea she presented was that beautification tends to be a painful process universally and that is alright. It came back to the idea that acquiring beauty required work and strife. Ultimately nothing in this world comes easy, so working at beauty is a pretty acceptable idea and it doesn’t trouble me as much when I know that it is universal and not just Western culture that pressure painful beautification methods. However, although society bombards us with the ideal characteristics of beautiful, beauty is also very individual. People have their own preferences so those who do not fit society’s standards (or can’t afford the means of acquiring those features) can still be found beautiful and can choose not to take the painful route.

One thing that I did find myself disagreeing with was that we seek beauty in order to pass our genes on to the next generation. IF beauty is truly sex driven, it is not because we want to proliferate, but more because we enjoy the pleasure of sex. A lot of people today do not wan to have children, but everyone still wants to have sex.

Just b/c you can doesn't mean you should.
Name: Malorie Ga
Date: 2005-04-18 13:30:09
Link to this Comment: 14674

The mathematician in me is really excited by Phi and the golden ratio. It is exciting to be able to rationalized things such as the human face in terms of numbers and shapes. Like how you can calculate the derivative at different points of a shell. The other part of me is disgusted. This is just another standard of beauty. Just because we can calculate the “perfect” face doesn’t mean we should. Phi is described as a natural occurrence of symmetry in nature, which is part of makes a flower for example beautiful. If this is a natural occurrence, why do people think that they can change themselves to fit this? I’d really like to do more research about the mathematics behind this concept so that I can understand it more.

Adorning the Body
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-04-18 14:38:35
Link to this Comment: 14675

Wonderful postings, ladies. I really enjoyed them, thank you.
I am in the corner with those who found the whole PHI thing a turn-off. I simply don't agree with what they are saying. If there is one thing we have proven by life experiment in our class, it is that none of us agree on what is beautiful.
For example, take Cher. Some consider her very beautiful, but I doubt she has the proportions of the "Golden Triangle." Likewise with Barbara Striesdan, and countless others. So I think the whole point put forth in the websites is moot, and it is just a way for someone to make money off of other's insecurities.
I loved the Robinson reading. I particularly enjoyed the idea put forth with the example of the society where he "offended local custom by wearing shorts and a T-shirt." What an idea. How twisted is our thinking about the human body in our society where we go to jail for walking around if we don't cover our bodies with clothes?
No wonder there is so much violence and upheaval in America today. We hate everything about ourselves, right down to the very vessel which is devoted totally to our service. It give us the five senses, it carries us from place to place, and without it we couldn't experience life at all, yet we are so disgusted by it that we have written laws against letting J. Q. Public see the whole thing in its entirety, and ensuring that we won't see J. Q. And if J. Q. shows it to us we become terrified. This is definitely a symptom of some major confusion.
Too bad no one who was there in the 60's remembers it. I think they were on the right track!

my thoughts on the reading
Name: Kara Rosan
Date: 2005-04-18 14:45:47
Link to this Comment: 14676

After spending a great deal of time exploring Dr. Marquardt's theories on universal beauty, I still had many qualms with it. For example, what does it mean to have features that are "most human"? Does that mean that if you have eyes that are slightly close together, your face is suddenly more reminiscent of a different species than a humans? He's also suggesting that attractiveness is something that everyone can agree upon, but I know of lots of cases where my friends will all think some guy is gorgeous and I just won't be able to see it. Does that mean that "human" receptors are off from other people's?
I really just hated this man's whole hypothesis, even though on the surface he managed to make it pretty PC. He managed to include both sexes and all races in his "beautiful face" design, and defined beauty in such a way that made it seem like what we find beautiful is just a natural, instinctual reaction that we shouldn't question. But I have to question someone who is forcing a theory that one can only be beautiful if they have the exact facial structure of every other beautiful person in the world. I can't speak for this guy, but I think the most beautiful people are so because of the uniqueness of their features. I think having large eyes, or a defined chin, or very full lips can all work towards making a face exceptionally beautiful, but none of these features would match a line on the mask. The mask only accounts for the placement of the eyes, the chin, the mouth, not their shape or size, and so it misses one of the key ways that a person's face can be beautiful. It also discounts color, which is just ridiculous because I know of a very beautiful woman with the most striking blue eyes, without which her face might otherwise seem very plain.
I also prefer to believe that everyone in the world is found to be beautiful by somebody. Perhaps that is idealistic, but I can think of countless examples of it happening. If people are really honest with themselves and manage to drown out what they are being told is attractiveness, they will all have very different definitions of what makes a person beautiful. It's almost an insult to human perception that someone would take it upon themselves to create a model of an attractive face, just in case we couldn't tell on our own whether someone was attractive or not.
All of that said, I did think it was pretty cool that so many ratios in the human face and body are all consistent with this one "golden ratio." It makes sense that it would work for all people, since we all have the same parts in basically the same places, but the fact that they are all the exact same ratio is really fascinating. I wonder why that is.

Why wear a mask?
Name: Megan Mona
Date: 2005-04-18 15:11:18
Link to this Comment: 14679

I find the whole idea of the "golden ratio" to be quite fascinating but I'm not entirely convinced of its truth. While I will agree that most beautiful faces will fit the mask (though the mask itself looks rather grotesque); I think there is probably still room for other features to be beautiful. Maybe they wouldn't be as universally beautiful but to say that there is only one standard by which we judge beauty seems preposterous.

What I found most disturbing and yet oddly comforting was the page where they showed a beautiful face, an atractive one, an average one, an unattractive face, and a very unattractive face. The fact that the faces could be rated on this scale just based on the mask was frightening and yet somewhat nonsensical to me because I could find very little difference between the way the beautiful face matched up to the mask and the way the attractive one did, though I was able to percieve that one was less beautiful than the other. The mask did not explain this phenomenon to me. What was reassuring to me was that both the unattractive face and the very unattractive face looked almost deformed to me and based on the system set up by the mask I think almost everyone would range somewhere from beautiful to average. I was disapointed in myself for putting enough importance on these theories to find comfort in them, but I guess it is always human nature to want to look attractive.

Name: Alice S
Date: 2005-04-18 15:22:30
Link to this Comment: 14680

I found the Robinson reading very intriguing. I agree with a comment Tanya made in her post that our media promotes promiscuity, but at the same time we do call women who are promiscuous "sluts." Being promiscuous in Western culture has very negative connotations. That is why I found it so interesting that Robinson described the practice of one culture in which women were supposed to display her tokens of love by her many suitors, and that the more tokens she had to display, the more desirable she is. I found it an interesting contrast to our society. Our society tells us to be sexy, but not to have sex. I just really appreciate the fact that other cultures do not see sexuality as being so taboo.

Name: Catie Davi
Date: 2005-04-18 15:42:56
Link to this Comment: 14681

The Robinson article was definitely interesting... like most of the stuff we read for this class..and I found myself really trying to put together the overlap in the argument Robinson was making and those of other authors we have read.

I like how in the preface, Robinson explained his argument in terms of moving away from the argument that aesthetic appeal stems from beauty in terms of perfect symmetry and argued for the influence of culture and tradition on one's perception of beauty. He emphasizes the idea that the ideal of beauty has undergone such extreme changes over time that the history, the story behind the evolution of this beauty is very important. He does not argue against symmetry as a determinant of what is far as I can tell... but places less of an emphasis on it, and through his explanation of the diversity of beauty leads one to recognize that it is probably necessary to experience, or be a part of a culture in order to appreciate the beauty ideal (example: a culture that sees beauty in the human form and whose people do not wear clothes compared to a culture that goes as far as to put into place laws that prohibit public nudity).

Robinson says that the quest for beauty is "part of our genetic make up... an inborn human trait" which goes back to the idea that beauty is key to survival. This search for beauty is hugely influenced by society, especially in the western world where "...our aesthetic sensibilities had become closely linked to commercial interests, with the mass media..."- every culture has developed a different ideal of beauty, but that this ideal is "incluenced by our subliminal sexual instincts". So, in class we discussed the ethics and social and political implications of beauty... when we rebel against society's ideal of beauty, are we going against human nature? What is the difference between the form of beauty seen in western society and that ideal formed in an isolated community untouched by western culture... where people walk around naked and swell their genitals for the sake of beauty?

Robinson argued that human beauty is determined by the respective culture as an means of expressing creativity. One culture may share preference for qualities with another culture, but is individual in creating its human beauty ideal. Those that are best able to reach this ideal become more desirable, will have more potential mates, and higher quality mates. However, to complicate matters a bit.... in order for survival, reproduction must occur. So, if the achievement of beauty is not used for the purposes of reproduction, and survival is why the quest for human beauty began, is our beauty search for the right reasons? Do we really need beauty if we dont plan on reproducing?

Also, because people are increasingly experimenting with fashion from around the world, the beauty ideal is ever changing, and it is through the adoption of different styles that groups, even within one given culture, distinguish themselves to attract people with a similar style- Robinson supports this especially through saying that the way one dresses himself/herself is a means if internal expression. So, as people open up to different cultures, there is a greater diversity of style but as a result, these styles are more defined than ever before.

Beauty In the Round
Name: Liz Newbur
Date: 2005-04-18 16:45:16
Link to this Comment: 14685

After reading both the websites concerning the golden ratio, and the Quest for Beauty packet, it seems that there is at least one commonality between them: beauty is being human. With the golden ratio, it seems that we're searching for the face that is the -most- human, the one that fits the golden ratio the best. We hold all other faces up to this subconscious ideal.
But the question that comes to mind is whether this is a -universal- ideal. It would seem that based on both of the readings that there are common trends in beauty. Robinson illustrates that as a species we have always been trying to find new ways to adorn ourselves, to distinguish ourself and add onto our natural beauty. Robinson is arguing for cultural realtivism, in a round-about way. Or at least, I think he is. He spends a lot of time going back and forth about how cultures do or don't appreciate the naked human form, and how fashion trends have varied over time. He brings up a lot of Darwin and Weber based theories, using natural selection as a basis for why we feel the need to distinguish ourselves (Darwin), as well as modes of production being another source of how we go about beautifying ourselves (Weber).
Another interesting point that Robinson brings up is that, cross-culturally, our sense of beauty pertains to those characteristics that our culture/society is most endowed with. For instance, Western women tend to be curvier and bustier, so historically these are the assets that have been reported as more beautiful. In another culture, it may be beautiful for a woman to be flat. This seems to counter the golden ratio theory, since the golden ratio seems to be arguing for one, universal standard of beauty -- not for cultural relativism.
At the same time, Robinson brings up the issue of globalization, which leads me to wonder how this is affecting our standards of beauty. Are we all striving towards one standard? My instinct says that we aren't, since, based on my observations, we seem to be more for embracing our diversity than trying to make everyone fit to one cookie cutter image. We are looking around us and at other cultures and integrating many different schemas for beauty into our own culture, but I don't feel that we will ever have a universal standard of measurement, one perfect person.

Beauty across Cultures
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-04-18 16:55:48
Link to this Comment: 14686

I thought this week's readings were very interesting. I think they were some of the best material that we've covered. I really liked reading about the different views of beauty in other countries. It was interesting how the various ways of making oneself beauty were in some cases the polar opposites of one another but still seemed to work towards the same goal of impressing someone and making them desire you as a mate. I also thought interesting the point that Julian Robinson bought up about people being more willing to declare something beautiful if they're possess that quality. While I can see this happening I don't know if it applies to everyone. In my opinion it seems like many people want what they don't have. Everyone envys what the other person has. For example, many girls with curly or wavy hair may wish for straight hair while girls with straight hair complain and express their desire to have wavy hair. Another example is some African American's having problems with their full lips and brown skin at the same time as others are going out to get lip injections for fuller lips or sitting in tanning booths and risking their health to have tan skin.

Also, I may going off on a tangent here, but I thought it was interesting how many risks people are willing to take in order to make themselves appealing to the opposite sex (or same sex or both sexes if you please). It made me think of another class I'm currently in which deals with sports role in society. We read articles about male athletes feeling the need to give their all during games even if there is danger of injury or worsening a pre existening injury because they have to prove that they are real men. I think there are some parrallels between this and the pursuit of beauty. Risking extreme pain and possibly death to prove to others just how much of an attractive man or woman you are. I may be stretching it but :sigh: I just like when my classes end up blending together in terms of certain

Also in regards to the golden ratio...I find it interesting but I agree with Muska that many of the women used as examples still seemed to fit in pretty close with the mainstream, "white" images of beauty. Also, it does seem as if it does not allow much leeway for little oddities or quirks that a person may have. Sometimes the more interesting faces turn out to be the most attractive ones in the end. That's just my opinion. I thought that many of the faces used as examples all pretty much fit into conventional ideals of beuaty. I know that people across cultures can find the same faces (or other things) beautiful but I wonder how much the golden ratio plays into that.

Ratios and Art
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-04-18 16:57:57
Link to this Comment: 14687

As someone who has done a lot of art, I was very impressed about the Golden Ratio. I took a lot of art classes throughout high school (until I was told I was too much of a perfectionist and thus too slow!). In ninth grade, we had an assignment to go home and do as self-portrait. Our teacher had told us that the eyes were about 1/3 of the way down the face and other proportions like that. Even then it amazed me (though I'm not sure why) that our faces and bodies were made up so evenly. I sat in front of my mirror at home and sketched myself trying to use the divisions that he had taught us about in class. The drawing did not come out as well as I would have liked.
About a year later, I had another assignment, an in school one. We were supposed to choose an object, any object, and draw it in pencil. I chose a silver teapot from home. The challenge with this would not only be to draw the teapot, but to draw the reflections in it, including myself. While it took me a while to finish this piece, I ended up with something that I loved and ended up having framed. The person in the teapot looks a lot more like me, even though it's distorted, than the self-portrait did. It may be because I had time to expand my skills, but I personally think it was because I was not worrying about ratios. It became a lot more beautiful as a piece.
I love the idea of the Golden Ratio but worry if that is what people think about all the time. It's interesting and it explains why we find certain people more beautiful to others but just I don't like the idea of putting it at the forefront of people's minds. We already have enough to struggle with in attempting to be beautiful in this world. TO worry that you're not up to par with a number does not help.

Human Beauty
Name: Jaya
Date: 2005-04-18 17:13:21
Link to this Comment: 14689

Ahhh allergy season >:|...

The websites that we were to take a look at weren't unfamiliar to me- I've watched movies and read articles about them in high school, but this time I didn't buy into them like I did before. As interesting as they are and although they provide mathmatical/scientific backing along with examples, I really don't like to think that the beauty we find human faces can be that simplified. The idea that an individual's perception of beauty is culturally and socially based has resonated throughout this class and makes me skeptical towards the idea that beauty can be defined by a system involving universal proportions. I really don't deny the fact though, however, that proportion does play a part in judging a 'beautiful' face. Phi has to be a cultural/religious construct itself because I surely never heard of it and I don't consider it divine.

I did like Robinson's article (despite the fact that it did cover a lot of the points that we've discussed many times in class) mainly because it covered a much broader range of beauty i.e. beauty OUTSIDE the Western world (thank you!!!) It also made the suffering that we all (ok, many of us) go through to reach the beauty ideal more natural, because it points out that in many cultures people try to alter themselves in some way in order to attract a mate- something that a handful of developed animals do within the animal kingdom (although i doubt they've taken it to extremes like we have.) I also liked that the article was more of a celebration of beauty rather than a bashing of it, which is something I've felt like we've done a lot of (how beauty is deceptive, how it can be oppressive to women, etc. etc.) I'll also admit that I enjoyed the pictures. I found myself making weird faces towards some of them, but it's interesting to think that somewhere in the world someone considers that person in the picture beautiful according to their own standards.
Someone (I forgot who it was) did mention an attack Robinson made on the women's body- I just wanted to agree with them and say that the extra deposits around the hips are partly there for childbearing, and it's also true that women have FAR more endurance that men do- men may be stronger, but they definitely would not last carrying a baby for 9 months, which is an amazing feat all mothers go through if you think about it.

I do not think it means what you think it means...
Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-04-18 18:40:32
Link to this Comment: 14695

As fascinated as I was by the idea of phi and the Golden Ratio when I first read about it in the da Vinci code, this is not about beauty. I was on these websites for an inordinate amount of time looking at the mathematical ways in which I might determine the symmetry of my physiognomy but I still have a hard time calling this idea "beauty." Yes, i agree that these faces which adhere to the ratio are physically attractive, yes, they are aesthetically pleasing, yes they are pleasant to look at, but again I maintain, there is more to beauty than visual pleasure. There are plenty of things that are symmetrical that I don't/can't consider beautiful. As we discussed earlier, a circle is the closest thing that we can get to a perfectly symmetrical shape, but I would never think to call a circle beautiful. It's a shape. It's flat. It doesn't move me. It doesn't represent anything other than what it is and it doesn't hide any underlying meaning, summon emotion or call up feelings of nostalgia. Math might be able to map a pattern among things that are considered aesthetically pleasing, but I cannot believe that there is any way you can find a formula to explain why the feeling I get when I'm dancing is so ineffably exhilarating in the most beautiful way.

Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-04-18 18:47:05
Link to this Comment: 14696

Bye the way; did anyone else note that these websites were claiming to present the perfect "human" face but 50% of the world's human population was lacking a representative? Where were the men?!

There's a first time for everything
Date: 2005-04-19 00:40:42
Link to this Comment: 14717

Name: nancy
Date: 2005-04-19 00:57:19
Link to this Comment: 14719

I felt particularly creeped out by the MBA site. It seemed like a scene out of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or one of the twenty other movies (I heart huckabees, vanilla sky...) that take something nebulous (beauty, sanity, memory) and commodify it, making it seem very sterile along the way so as to convey a sense of security for anyone thinking of subjecting themselves to the product/procedure.

I saw the TLC "golden ratio" thing when it was on TV a couple years ago (I think...). I don't buy it. I know our bodies are constructed with innumerable patterns and that beauty may depend on proportion etc, but you can't take out the air of subjectivity. For example, TLC found that the (fairly public and well known) person who matched best with the weird face thing was Elizabeth Hurley of "I was with Hugh Grant once" fame. To me, if there was much truth in the ratio, it would follow that most people would see the person as the most beautiful person they know. I don't think she is particularly attractive and-- even though I don't tend to boil things down to individual experience-- this is telling, I think.

Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-04-21 23:19:24
Link to this Comment: 14780

A link that showed up on aol today for an article entitled "Good Looks May Mean Better Pay, Analysis Says"--something interesting to read!

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-25 13:06:12
Link to this Comment: 14845

This is the final forum for the Beauty course, Spring 2005. Use it once more, please, to record your final reflections on what you've learned and experienced during our fourteen weeks of exploration together. After we watch and discuss portions of A Beautiful Mind and Life is Beautiful in class on Tuesday, take some time to reflect and record publicly what you are thinking about…

What new thoughts and questions about beauty do you have, that might not have occurred to you without the conversation that was this course? How might you explore them in the future?

Name: Mick McAll
Date: 2005-04-26 08:21:05
Link to this Comment: 14874

I'm possibly intruding on what was meant to be a private conversation, and if so, my apologies. I just had my attention drawn to the Marquandt site for the second time in a year (I am a 3d modeller), and upon learning that their "genetic theory" is to be the subject of a BBC documentary, I decided to find out if my reaction was as skewed as my modelling colleagues said. After finding dozens of laudatory stories (and even one that claims Marquandt has discovered "the genetic code" of beauty!), I stumbled into this room with a gasp of relief.

My reaction to Marquandt "beauty analysis"? The MBA "ideal" is, as some of you have said more politely, a bit of Occidental racism aimed at what is surely the most trivial aspect of Aryan "superiority": looks. The first time I looked at the site, it took me nearly an hour to find anything that suggested any sort of racial diversity in the evidence, and it was indeed simply examples of people of other races that Occidentals considered beautiful. Tyra Banks and Lena Horne are the ideal of Black beauty? Give me a break! Going back through it this morning, I found that even those attempts to palliate the racist subtext seem to be abandoned.

The site makes no attempt to, for example, to explore the extraordinary "ideal" of traditional Japanese beauty. Polynesian, African, Inuit standards for beauty are simply ignored, and the old examples of "ideal beauty" relied on Occidental representations of non-Occidental examples and even, with no indication of the fallaciousness, imaginary representations by Occidental artists. The fact that some Renaissance painter imagined St. Catherine as a PHI tells me how pervasive the stereotype is; it tells me nothing about how St. Catherine looked or whether she herself was beautiful.

I've enjoyed reading your comments, and I'm very grateful for the reference and (however qualified) endorsement of The Quest for Beauty, which I am off to Amazon to find. I will come back in a few days to read your final comments, but I promise to keep my mouth shut.

Name: Tanya Cord
Date: 2005-04-27 13:38:57
Link to this Comment: 14894

I forgot to put this on the surveys, but if you do end up offering this class next year, I think it'd be cool to incorporate personal studies i.e. self-made surveys/experiments where the students could individually collect their own personal data on any one aspect of beauty. I would have been interested in surveying children or students from certain backgrounds, etc. It would also incorporate more science into the class.. Just a thought..

Anyways, on to the posting. The biggest message I took from class this year was probably that beauty was not a characteristic but an experience or emotion. It is felt not posessed. Therefore, my most heightened experiences of beauty had to have been those in which I interacted with other people. My family, my boyfriend, and my friends incited the most beautiful experiences and are by far the most beautiful things I can think of. It is warming to see a beautiful painting or walk in a blossoming garden, but those experience can never live up to the butterflies I feel when my boyfriend puts his arms around me or when my two year old niece falls asleep on my shoulder. These people control my moods and emotions throughout the day and therefore control the amount of beauty in my life. My life is beautiful because I have them. A beautiful life is a life filled with people whom you love and can share yourself with.

A beautiful mind is a mind that takes advantage of everything life and the world has to offer; it wants to soak up everything. It is hyperactive and uses the full capability of its senses to gather information about its surroundings. It uses this infomation in attempt to understand everthing that "is". That is why coming up with answers and learning new things can be expressed as beautiful. A beautiful mind wants to know all and share it. It is full, juicy, and plump with an insatiable appetite for knowledge (not just in the pedagogical sense, but also through new experiences.)

Parting Comments
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-04-27 15:55:45
Link to this Comment: 14897

Through this class I realized that I experience much beauty when I am in the space of wonder. To look at a blooming tree, and realize that it is "doing its thing" without consideration of my reaction to it is a wonderous, and beautiful experience. And while on the subject of trees, I also marveled at how in the autumn the trees just let go of their leaves. They don't try to hang on to them saying, "I won't be as beautiful once my leaves fall. I must keep them." No. They just let them fall, and stand in a stark beauty that is the leafless, winter tree.
I want to live in that space, the space of just being what I am, to my fullest, without consideration to what other people think of me, without thinking I can even know what they think of me and letting nature take its course with me. What a wonderous, empty (i.e. beautiful) space that would be.
But alas, I fill that space with my thoughts and concerns about how I appear, and what you think of me.
As the school year progressed I became more invested in the "knowing" of something, anything, whatever. It became important to me to "know." And as that investment grew, my experience of my life as beautiful dimmed. It was almost like, if I didn't "know" then my life wasn't OK.
I look forward to returning to the space of not-knowing this summer, as much as I am able, and next year I will try again to answer the questions and write the papers without having to "know" anything in an effort to keep my life beautiful.
Thank you to all of you for the "beautiful experience" that was this class. I found the exploration of beauty a fun thing to do, but I don't think we will ever unravel the mystery of what makes something beautiful.
A wonderful summer to you all.

Name: Alice Kauf
Date: 2005-04-27 16:07:31
Link to this Comment: 14898

I can't descibe a beautiful mind. I got to use a prototype of a program called Thinkmap (formerly Plumb Design) Thesaurus a year or two ago, and that is what I imagined when we were challenged to describe the mind. To see the newer, less pretty version, go here and try the trial offer. In that version, the background was black, the words were colorful, and you could rotate the diagrams in three dimensions, and it was beautiful. If I had to pick a representation of the human mind, this would be it; mobile, complicated, and filled with spidery connections between thoughts and ideas.

As for a beautiful life, I feel even more inadequate. I can only think of accessories, material things that would enhance the physical beauty of my surroundings, and cliches. It's too easy to say "laughter, happiness, friendship" etc. Maybe it's a life that continuously changes, mindfully adapts and tries to improve the world in some way. That seems vague, but it includes lives that I consider beautiful, and would be a prerequisit for my life to feel beautiful.

Now what the hell can I do to demonstrate beauty in a non-analytical way for a final project/paper? Hmmhmmhm. This will take further thought.

Final Reflections on Beauty
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2005-04-27 16:36:03
Link to this Comment: 14902

What makes a beautiful world?

-- When people treat each other with respect and love...are not so quick to judge one another harshly...are gentle and understanding towards each other...are considerate, thoughtful, and gracious to others, as well as patient...demonstrating a caring attitude towards others, not just towards our family and close friends, but also people we do not know so well...sometimes it can make a huge difference in others' lives when they know someone has cared to think of them...


What makes a life beautiful?

-- Having people in your life who love and care for you, and vice-versa...being able to laugh and maintain your joy in the face of hardship and to others generously who need caring in some way...following what you believe deep-down in your heart to be right, when others tell you otherwise...having the courage to pursue your dreams and passions when others say no...knowing that a life doesn't have to be fairy-tale perfect in order for it to be beautiful...taking full pleasure in life itself, the joy of being alive and all of the seemingly small yet important things it has to offer -- like flowers on trees, someone smiling genuinely at you, children playing, walking along a beach, holding hands with someone, eating lunch with friends...

What makes a mind beautiful?

-- The ability to comprehend what love is truly all about...ability to think in creative ways that can improve art, improve others, improve the world in which we live...strength and determination of the mind...all of its mysterious ways that we have not yet figured out...thinking in ways that others normally don't, like thinking in equations (John Nash) or thinking in pictures (Temple Grandin)...healthful thinking about oneself, as well as others...

What makes a body beautiful?

-- Being thin, heavy, tall, short, pretty, plain, muscular, wimpy, flat, full-chested...all of these things can be considered to make a body beautiful, depending on the culture in which one hard to say what makes a body beautiful when the opinion varies so much on this particular topic...I guess what I would say for this is that for a body to be beautiful, these criteria must be satisfied:

1) YOU must think you are beautiful! (otherwise, why else should anyone think you're beautiful, if you yourself do not?)

2) YOU must take good care of yourself (exercise, try to get decent sleep when you can, be clean, try to eat healthy, etc.)

What I found beautiful this semester, and why I find it to be so:

-- THis is going to sound strange, but what I found was beauty in "beauty." In other words, I had always taken the term "beauty" for granted -- never given it much thought, always assumed it referred to looks alone, viewed it as a superficial word -- and then, throughout the class, I learned that beauty could be applied to family, interests, science, equations, experiments, poems and literature, paintings, different images from different cultures, etc. Beauty doesn't have to be about physical appearance -- it can also be about whatever you're passionate about, or whatever stirs your interest...

beautiful life
Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-04-27 16:38:15
Link to this Comment: 14903

It wasnt until reflecting on the movies we watched on tuesday and I realized we didnt really talk during the course of the semester on beautiful living, how to make your actions beautiful. Living a beautiful life, for me, is using the talents or money or time that you have to help other people, ideas shown in both of the films. Whether its through saving the life of your child (Life is beautiful) or controlling your own "demons" to teach and help others understand (a beautiful mind) or whatever one choses to do to think beyond yourself and allow others to live a better (and more beautiful) life as well.
I think it is wonderful that we ended the course with these movies because they put a whole new perspective on what is beautiful. We had previously focused mainly on things you could see: art, nature, literature, physical beauty. But these movies forced us to think about what a beautiful mind or life is, ideas that are more abstract though not less important. I wish that we would have been able to spend more time on that idea, being able to discuss the more abstract ideas or actions that are beautiful. Maybe next year...

summing up beauty
Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-04-27 16:59:37
Link to this Comment: 14905

I'd have to agree with many of the comments posted already.
When Anne asked us in class yesterday what makes a beautiful life, the first thing I thought was sharing it with the people you love, spreading love to others, and leaving the world more beautiful when you leave than it was when you came into it. I guess that answer indicates that to me one of the biggest lessons I learned about beauty was how important the connections are. To me a beautiful life is one full of laughter, dancing, singing, art, poetry, music, family, friends, clear air and water, good health- full of the little things that are so essential.
A beautiful mind is a questioning mind, that is curious and engaged- that pursues its passions happily, that constantly thrists for knowledge...

As for final reflections on the class, I found it interesting rereading my papers and postings to write my porfolio review. Many of my personal unbiased thoughts about beauty in the first paper touched on themes that we discussed multiple times during the semester. Overall though I think I've realized how neccessary the concept of beauty is to our daily lives. If we did not delight in whatever we personally individually find beautiful, life would be so empty and dull. I also found that there is so much beauty out there- we just need to be aware enough to see it. Hope everyone has summer full of beautiful experiences!

Name: eebs
Date: 2005-04-27 19:08:09
Link to this Comment: 14908

i learned that beauty isnt necessarily visual. i used to associate beauty only with sight, now i think that true beauty is about the mind. ever since we had the talk about psychoanalysis, i started to feel more and more attracted to the wonder of the human mind and psyche. in both films, 'life is beautiful' and 'a beautiful mind' the general theme in both films had to do with complex human relationships and sacrifices. i think both these aspects makes us more beautiful (in terms of our behavior, way of thinking, reasoning) than paintings, or nature. there is something about humans that can be so beautiful, and so ugly. without both extremes, we would not be able to notice where everyone falls into place.

having a beautiful body comes second after a beautiful mind/heart/spirit. what is the point of having a beautiful exterior if one is truly evil at heart? people always refer to the old saying that "beauty is skin deep". i normally wouldnt agree with cliches, but i think this one holds true. you can always manipulate your exterior whether it be with make up, clothes or surgery. but somem things you cannot change, your 'soul'. i believe that if you are a beautiful person in the inside, your inner beauty will come to light eventually (to the outside).

life is beautiful only after something painfulhas happened. i think people tend to look at life and whatever is happening to them for granted .people dont realize how beautiful the simple things are until they are taken away. i think the only time we find life beautiful is when there is some sort of escape from an unhappy/unpleasant situation.

now.. for a beautiful mind. a beautiful mind, to me, to put it simply, is a mind that is being put into good use. beautiful means efficiency. to know that a mind/person/brain is working to achieve something is beautiful (even if its just the intention).

Feeling is beautiful
Name: Megan Mona
Date: 2005-04-27 22:04:31
Link to this Comment: 14915

I think if I had to pick just one defining beautiful thing I would chose emotions. Everything that we find beautiful inspires some sort of emotional reaction and that is why it is beautiful to us. It is not the objects or people that are necessarily beautiful in and of themselves but how they make us feel. Would they even be beautiful if we were not around to take joy from them? The beauty would not even matter then. Kind of like the whole tree falling in the woods conundrum. Therefore I would say a beautiful life would be one rich in feeling. We have already discussed how painful experiences like Frida Kahlo's life are beautiful, and of course happy emotions are beautiful so I would say that just experiencing anything, being open, and not allowing oneself to become numb to one's feelings would make for a beautiful life.
As for the movies we watched in class, Life is Beautiful was a wonderful example of a beautiful film. The love of the characters and the sacrifices that they make for one another are all so emotionally charged that you can't help but find them amazingly beautiful. Both of the times I have seen that film I have been in class and it is so difficult to not openly weep while watching it because of the emotion it evokes in me, which may be why I find it so beautiful.

the anti answer :)
Name: Malorie
Date: 2005-04-27 23:00:00
Link to this Comment: 14917

I found a lot of these beautiful this semester. I enjoyed the things that we did, like going to the Barnes and talking together. What I really liked in this class was how if opened me up to knew ways of thinking of the world and the beautiful things in it. I think if you had asked me before the class what I thought was beautiful, I would have said something superficial, like a bowl or a flower. And while I believe you can say that those things are beautiful, I have realized that the word beauty can and should be described to a great many things. Also, I have realized that to be more careful now when I say beautiful. When I call someone beautiful, what am I basing that on? Looks? Personality? Both? I realize now more things I can classify as beautiful that I previously would not have given that label, for example my relationship with my mother.

I do not think that I can answer the questions what makes a body/ mind/ life/ world beautiful. There are things I could say that I would consider to fit in each category. For example, I think to have a beautiful life, you need people who love you and who you love. Is this a universal truth? I would not claim it so, even though it might be. Everyone is so different that what they find beautiful is also so different. And for myself, I think that I cannot possible put into words what it means to have a beautiful life, but I do know that I have one.

Generalizing beauty
Name: Rachel Usa
Date: 2005-04-27 23:47:26
Link to this Comment: 14920

I've thought alot about beauty and pain, and I think I will write my next paper about it so stay tuned, but here's a preview. I think pain and beauty so often surround the same circumstances because pain often elicits a sympathetic or empathetic response. The witness of suffering naturally has the urge to reach out and help the aflicted. I think we touched on this when we discussed mercy and justice; the empathetic response to suffering is as close to universal beauty as we have seen in the scope of this class.
This is why we found "A Beautiful Mind" and "Its a Beautiful Life" beautiful. Nash's and Gildo's life experiences of pain would not have been beautiful if they had not been framed with the receiving and giving of empathy and compassion.
My opinion about the public vs. private nature of beauty is still torn. In a significant way the public nature of this course has dissipated the beauty of many things for me. Yet, I know that beauty in its most lasting form is public, is shared, because beauty, as I have argued, is related to the empathetic or sympathetic response.
Beauty brings people together and tears them apart. Sharing a beautiful experience often culminates in friendships and even romance, but the attack of a person's standard of beauty can make life-long enemies because our perception of beauty is intrinsic to identity.

Name: Mo Rhim
Date: 2005-04-28 09:42:54
Link to this Comment: 14930

Beauty is not something that I can express adequately through the confines of words. Though I am a lover of texts, words, sentences, prose, poetry---none of these structures and solid entities are able to convey the sincerity, the depth and the intensity of my experiences of beauty. How can I describe the knot in my stomach, twisting, churning, beating, pulsing--do any of these words give another person a direct and complete insight into how I feel and what I experienced?
What does it do to distill these abstract emotions and experiences into the comparative flatness of a socially structured language? It weakens it for me. I don't want to talk, write, or sometimes even try to think and dissect my emotional responses to something. I want to just feel it, know it without doubt, and live in it everyday. I think that there are certain experiences that can be talked about and shared, but for me, there is something beautiful about keeping some things secret and untouched by anything concrete like language or even analysis. I want to think of these secrets, and smile.

Final Reflections
Name: Meera Jain
Date: 2005-04-28 14:08:27
Link to this Comment: 14935

When I first entered the class, I thought it would be about physical and social beauty..not the large array of topics we were lucky to discuss. I have now opened my mind to include everything as being beautiful if it makes the world a better place or, on a more personal level makes me have a profound sense of calm and happiness when experiencing that beauty. It could be glancing at a family picture and laughing, eating chocolate cake and not feeling guilty one bit, listening to Wonderwall at 10:30am on a cool breezy morning- all experiences that make me feel, think, love everything around myself. I think beauty enables me to be grateful and appreciative of all things around. The experience of beautiful things don't let negative judgements affect their beauty, or make me attached to them. I experience the beauty in such a state of hyper-awareness that I can really experience them without having to question, justify, feel guilty about having that BEAUTIFUL experience.
I now see beauty in thing that I wouldn't normally see, in chemistry, in the biology of the physical body, in the psyche of the human mind and in physical structures. Although I still find the women in magazines beautiful- its not because I want to be them, but rather I admire them for their hard work and dedication to beautify themselves. To experience beauty, one must come with an open mind and loving heart. The book that Annabella brought in I think had some great phrases about seeking love and I relate it to seeking beauty- we should stop looking for it and finding approval from other people about our own beauty, but rather find it on the inside. It is there in all of us waiting to be discovered, we ALL ARE beautiful and in our own ways, not just the conventional idea of beauty which is being physically beauty.
I appreciate the intellectual side of beauty, and can see the hard work that goes into being that type of beauty also...thanks for the enlightening experience and wonderful discussions. I really enjoyed the class!! =)

Name: Katy
Date: 2005-04-28 14:58:20
Link to this Comment: 14936

I was incredibly taken back by the student-made examples of personal beauty. From an adorable dog to rich little balls of chocolately goodness to dreamy music, it was definitely a beautiful experience. I think it was a wonderful way to close a most interesting semester in which we dug deep to analyze and experience a concept that has been ingrained in us since our earliest youth, yet has rarely been truly questioned or explored. From a fairly early age my own conceptions of beauty have been highly personal and individualized, so I have always sort of explored my own beautiful reality and questioned what has dogmatically been assigned as beautiful by the Establishment, such as blond, blue-eyed individuals; dangerously thin female physiques; muscular, broad-shouldered, hypermasculine men; classical music; children; or stuffy high-art galeries. I like to think that my own beautiful world is far less scripted and ordinary than that. I was surprised, however, by how much deeper the concept of beauty really flows than even unconventional perceptions of beauty. I've long suspected that John Lennon was right when he sang that "nothing is real," and maybe this applies to beauty as well. Maybe beauty is real only to individual entities, and it is thus an almost entirely subjective phenomenon. Each of the displays that we personally found beautiful this morning were so because they may have evoked or symbolized something beautiful to us personally. The idea of beauty being subjective is for me far more powerful than the idea of it being objective or fixed. If the latter were the case, would we really have enjoyed the displays in the same way as we did? I don't think we would.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-28 22:39:03
Link to this Comment: 14940

I've just put up my Photos of our "Beauty Surround"--and hope you'll enjoy looking @ them as much as I enjoyed taking and editing them. I was telling Lauren in her conference this afternoon what an interesting experience I had doing this: I started taking pictures of the objects each of you brought to class this morning--and then, because of that heightened, focused attentiveness, began to take notice of the beauty of the setting (you'll see where the pictures shift from what's on the tables to what's on the ground, what's in the sky...), and then I started to notice the beauty of you all, individually and in interactions w/ one another, and so started to photograph those....

Helen's typing up your written responses to one another's offerings, and we'll have those on-line sometime soon also. Til then--enjoy the images!

Beauty is Wonderful
Name: Catie Davi
Date: 2005-04-29 09:25:06
Link to this Comment: 14952

I am curious to hear about beauty from a blind person.

From all that we have talked about over the course of this class, I feel as though there is more. After watching the movies and sharing personal beauty items/experiences with one another I realized that a great reason why I enjoyed these experiences as much as I did is because I was able to see what was going on. I was able to watch the movies and appreciate what was going on through the images that were decoded through my eyes, a message or reaction was formed in my brain and sometimes sent shivers down my spine. I'm not saying beauty can only be experienced through vision, but think about it, a lot of our experience of beauty comes through our eyes... the sight of a beautiful landscape, paintings, the sight of people. I guess our reading on calli started to get into this sort of issue, but we never directly spoke about people with physical impairments...might be interesting...
Thursday's class was amazing. I remember listening to the music Amy brought in, the song is very beautiful by the way, thanks Amy, and watching people in the class as they interacted with eachother and with the beautiful objects/experiences. I saw so much beauty through others during that class period. That is probably one of the things I will take away from this class. Beauty is individual, but being able to share, in some sense, one's pleasure...can be beautiful.
But, really, I am curious to know how a blind man, or a deaf man for that matter, experiences beauty.

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-04-29 12:26:33
Link to this Comment: 14972

I wanted to wait until after the symposium to type this...

First off, thank you, everyone, for the beautiful experience this Thursday. I really felt myself surrounded by beauty---seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and *feeling.*

About the course... well, I've definitely enjoyed it. This class has near completely deconstructed my idea of what "beauty" is, but at the same time it's broadened the spectrum of what I do find beautiful. It's made me more receptive, in a way; I pay much closer attention to things that are described as "beautiful"---who's using the terms, what they mean, whether I agree---as well as to the everyday beauty in my life.

So what is a beautiful life, mind, person? I don't feel like I can say anything that hasn't been said already. Beautiful lives are the ones defined by love: love for others, love for self, and love for the world around them. That doesn't mean that everything needs to be peaches-and-cream all the time. Like we discussed after watching Frida, sometimes beauty is defined by, enhanced by, pain. It's the ability to continue loving life, no matter how much it hurts sometimes, that makes a life beautiful. I've been thinking a lot about religion lately, and it strikes me that the reason most religions find the concept of heaven so beautiful is because it's a direct contrast to the pain and suffering that so often accompanies life on earth. If we all lived in Eden from day one, we'd be happy, certainly, but I don't think we'd appreciate it as much.

As for beautiful minds/people, I consider the two one and the same. A beautiful person is one who somehow inspires the love that defines a beautiful life. Since no one's perfect and no one's the same, there are an infinite variety of ways to do this. For example, my mother is beautiful because of the way she inspires me, for her kindness and strength. For another example, James Joyce is beautiful---despite the fact that, personally, I've heard he was a real jerk---because of his amazing writing ability. At some level, probably, everyone is beautiful to someone, even if it's in vastly different ways. (I wouldn't want James Joyce as a parent, but I wouldn't want my mom writing bitter expatriot tragicomedies). It's our task to recognize that beauty; we're not only doing the other person a service, but enhancing our own appreciation of life.

Wow. That was sappy. But this is sappier: again, thank you everyone for what has really been a thought-provoking, interesting, and beautiful class. Have a great summer (relaxation = beautiful!)

my final thoughts
Name: Kara Rosan
Date: 2005-04-29 15:02:38
Link to this Comment: 14988

I certainly am pleased with where we have ended up in this class. I have to say that for the first few weeks I was concerned we would only be dealing with visual beauty, and there was so much more beyond that I wanted to get into. But I feel like we did thorough job this semester of focusing more on the "experience" of beauty rather than the beautiful thing that causes the experience. The conclusion that I have come to is that the experience matter much more than the thing of beauty. This is especially true since we all have such different ideas of what beauty is and where it can be found. The experience is what we have in common, because we all were able to find something beautiful and had similar reactions to whatever those things were for us. We all know what it is like to find something beautiful and derive enjoyment out of it. That feeling, and the persuit of that feeling, is what unified us all this semester, despite our differences in opinion about what specific things are beautiful or not.
This class also taught me a great deal about tolerance. Typically it is my goal in discussion-oriented classes to have a strong opinion, get that opinion across to my classmates, and try to change their opinion to match mine. This class, however, was different. I resigned myself pretty quickly to the fact that we all had strong opinions when it came to beauty and it would be impossible to make anyone else view the world the way I do in that respect.
The interesting thing about the topic of beauty is that it is not possible to know more than anyone else about it, so we all came into the class as equals as a result. Everyone's opinions were equally founded since no one can say they are better at recognizing beauty than anyone else, and so that sort of set the tone for the class. Everyone felt knowledgeable about the subject being discussed, and seemed to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, so it resulted a very enjoyable experience.

Beauty at Bryn Mawr
Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-05-02 10:55:16
Link to this Comment: 15012

This course has allowed me to be very self-reflective about beauty. I have been trying for a while to think if I could summarize the course, but realized that it's more than being able to tell what's beautiful and what's not. It's been a series of sensory experiences from movies to tastes during the last class to music to intense discussions. It has allowed me to see that a relationship can be beautiful or some words that a friend says can be beautiful. I think that all of this can be applied to Bryn Mawr May Day. Yesterday, it was dark and gloomy until we were all lined up with our hands linked, wrapped with toilet tissue for the May Hole. Looking around and seeing hundreds of beautiful, smiling women in white dresses is empowering. As we started shouting, "Hey ho, hey ho, the patriarchy has got to go!" the sun came bursting out. The flower petals flew in the area and women were running around, singing and dancing. But, it wasn't just the visual beauty that was beautiful, it was the sounds, the smells of the rose petals, the warmth of the sun, and importantly the feelings of friendship with the women and sisters that I danced with. It was a completely all-encompassing beauty.

May Day
Name: Marissa
Date: 2005-05-02 20:50:30
Link to this Comment: 15019

I would like to add to Amanda G's thoughts about beauty from May Day. I woke up worried, looking outside at the slight gray drizzle of rain falling. Sunday was my first May Day and though I had been assured that it "never rains on May Day," I wasn't entirely sure I believed it. Going through the beginning activities the rain stopped but a dark cover remained over the sky. A few hours later I circled up to participate in the May Hole, eventually ending up underneath a giant purple parachute that was bouncing rose petals. I looked up, and through the lavendar material I could finally see the sun!! Bursting out into the open I realized that the sky had magically cleared and the sun was out for the day. The rain never reappeared.
The beauty only continued, with music, food, and joyous activites where I was able to see the whole school decked out in May Day whites letting their hair down to take a break from finals worries. The culmination of May Day, the final step sing of the year, brough tears to my eyes with a different sort of beauty. The year is ending, the seniors are leaving, and somehow next year I am going to be a sophmore. How have I managed to get through the entire year? Reflecting on the changes in myself over the past year showed another sort of beauty, that of a story, a growth, a change. I find the ultimate beauty looking around at the campus and the students, finding the small ways they have changed in the past 9 months and wondering what beautiful changes the coming year will bring.

Name: Amanda G.
Date: 2005-05-08 22:10:04
Link to this Comment: 15085

I know we don't have class anymore but I thought that this might interest people.

new york article
Name: Amy Martin
Date: 2005-05-10 20:23:43
Link to this Comment: 15103

Even though the beauty class is over, it haunts me! hehehe...Seriously
>though, in New York magazine for this week (May 16, 2005), one of the
>featured articles is all about women who were obese, who then had stomach
>surgery and now have new skinny bodies - and how this change has shown
>them the complicated social implications of beauty.

The Success of our Survey
Name: Nancy
Date: 2005-05-11 10:39:59
Link to this Comment: 15108

I am still really pleased with the way our beauty survey (or whatever we decided to call it) went on the last day of class. All of the objects, music, and food that everyone brought in were beautiful in their own right, but I think we were creating another kind of beauty. Things can be beautiful on their own, but all the beautiful things in one place (and they played to many of the senses) and everyone wandering around with the mindset that we were looking for beauty created an experience closer to the sublime we read about.

I also thought it was interesting how curious I was to see who belonged to what object. They were nice to stand alone, but when I found out the two little girls in the photo were Amanda's or the necklace belonged to Muska, it changed the experience for me. I felt like things became more beautiful because of the personal aspect. I also thought it was great when everyone eventually clustered around the dog and the food!

so this is pretty late...
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-05-12 12:22:32
Link to this Comment: 15130

I've been reflecting on this class, trying to figure out what exactly I got out of it. I think the most important thing I learned was how varied people's experiences of beauty are. I just assumed that my aesthetics were common, even normal. However, I definitely found that was not the case. I still think the only useful definition of beauty, for me, is what gives one pleasure. So what were the most beautiful experiences I've had this past semester? Twice I invited several people to my house (I live off-campus). Both times, we shared fancy homemade food, played with the dog and just talked, without television or anything else interfering. Smelling and tasting the food, cuddling with my friends and listening to everyone laughing were all incredibly beautiful experiences to me; at times, it felt like a dream. Also, I spent a couple days doing almost nothing but reading Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons. I found that experience, lying alone with no sounds, completely immersed in this fictional world, to be beautiful. So what is beauty? I'm still stumped. But I am inspired to try and find it everywhere, not just in the realm of my aesthetic.

final reflections
Name: Alice S
Date: 2005-05-13 01:33:54
Link to this Comment: 15149

I have been thinking quite a bit about the clips we watched from "Life is Beautiful" and "A Beautiful Mind." I realized that there is a certain component of beauty that can never be captured or put into words. Those clips are beautiful just as they are. I liked the fact that we didn't talk about why they were so beautiful because I think it would have taken away from the powerful experience that it was. I am not sure that I even want to describe why I think those movies are so moving, and so beautiful. Looking around the room at people who were in tears or fighting back tears, I think we all understood the point without having to say anything. I find that the way our mind works, and the way that we choose to see beauty fascinating, and I think those clips illustrated those well.

Final Thoughts
Name: Krystal Ma
Date: 2005-05-15 13:29:08
Link to this Comment: 15191

I think what I found most beautiful this semester is the number of different things that people found beautiful. I thought it was beautiful that we all had so many different things we found beautiful that somehow managed to overlap in places. I think this is beautiful because it reflects the way that all of us are individuals with our little quirks and personalities, yet we are also the same in underlying ways that all makes us human. Sorry if I'm not making much sense.

I think the things that make a body, mind, life, and world beautiful are all the little variations. If everything was the same I don't think the world would be as beautiful. I think that is the contrasts that allow us to appreciate the various things around us.

I think the most surprising thing I took away from this class is the dualistic nature of the things people find beautiful. These things are often contrasting characteristics, such as simplicity and complexity, that can be both be found in something and contribute to its beauty. On second though, it makes sense because it kind of ties into the whole contrasting element that I mentioned above.

All in all I really enjoyed this class and learning how wide and varied, but similar :), the things that we find beautiful are.

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-05-18 11:56:45
Link to this Comment: 15214

I'm such a dork, posting this way way after the course is over... but this is really interesting:

Advertisement from the early 1900s. Isn't it interesting how back then the lefthand figure was considered the more "beautiful," and *now* the righthand figure is considered "ideal"?

Beautiful Women
Name: Annabella
Date: 2005-05-18 22:04:07
Link to this Comment: 15218

I don't know, but I find the left had figure much more beautiful. It the right hand figure considered more beautiful these days? Maybe I was born in the wrong age. I don't know.

Name: Brittany
Date: 2005-05-18 23:43:57
Link to this Comment: 15219

I agree... the righthand figure looks sickly to me. I didn't originally post my preference because I have friends who are naturally that skinny (though they're not malnourished-looking) and I didn't want to sound as if I thought they weren't beautiful, too...

This post came partly out of watching "America's next top model"---all the girls were just stick-y. And it always makes me wonder: were they born that way, like some of my friends, or do they torture themselves to be that way?

Just Curious...
Name: Susan L. R
Date: 2005-05-19 12:07:04
Link to this Comment: 15220

I was searching the Internet for information regarding the "coloration" and/or "decoration" of the male (of most) species vs. "plain, drab, or dreary" appearance of the female(s).

The question posed by one of my (yes, male) friends was "Why do human females decorate and/or adorn themselves, whereas the human male remains relatively plain in appearance?".

My short answer was (in nature) the male of the species needs to attract and distract predators away from (say) a nesting female, who remains camouflaged due to her drab appearance. Humans, who have the ability to think creatively, do not need to lure preditors away from (their) nesting female, so perhaps women adorn and decorate themselves simply to attract males (seems logical)...BUT don't men try to attract women also???

Your forum on "Beauty..." seemed a great place to leave this question so that I can get back to work...any comments?

Name: sahar zama
Date: 2005-06-09 02:07:58
Link to this Comment: 15317

i dont have any comments but i have a question about sierpinski triangle that i want to know this evening or sooner . pls help me . i want to write the algorithma or program of this triangle in mathematica software
pls help me ineed it thank u

Name: sahar zama
Date: 2005-06-09 02:10:45
Link to this Comment: 15318

i dont have any comments but i have a question about sierpinski triangle that i want to know this evening or sooner . pls help me . i want to write the algorithma or program of this triangle in mathematica software
pls help me ineed it thank u

origins of male beauty?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-06-28 18:14:17
Link to this Comment: 15367


I was pleased to see your query appear in the on-line forum for our course on Beauty. I've been asking around, since you posted, to see if there are any good answers to your question about reasons for the "coloration" of males and "drabness" of females among animals, and the reverse (?) among humans, the species "who have the ability to think creatively." Turns out--according to three biologists whom I've queried--that there is no simple answer for this distinction--or even simple agreement that such a distinction exists. Closest I can come to the beginning of a response is in one of the texts we used @ the end of the course, Julian Robinson's essay on "Traditions of Adornment," in The Quest for Human Beauty: An Illustrated History (1998). Robinson says, in part, that

anybody who has...seen the wondrous display of animal species would fully appreciate...a phenomenon which is usually referred to as dimorphism. In the animal world, it is quite normal for there to be considerable divergence in visual presentation, visual preferences, and visual messages between sexually mature males and their female counterparts, and this can be seen in all species, including our own, with the female in particular making very specific demands upon her suitors. And it is the visual manifestation of these demands that...we call masculine beauty....

....evolution has made all males of whatever species a breeding experiment from which the females may choose, and in other species the power of her choice has created many very strange, wonderful, and often bizarre visual forms....In the human species the male has also developed physical differences from the female that are at the root of his beauty....

Thanks again for writing--and be sure to let us know if you uncover some more information!


Name: Anonymous,
Date: 2005-07-25 22:30:14
Link to this Comment: 15646

Had to add my own two cents on the topic of male adornment. One of my friends is completely obsessed with this piece of work:

And another can't get enough of this boy (slightly more understandably ;) ):

I'd say human males adorn themselves just as much as females... example A, one Mr. Gerard Way of the shuddery gothic band "My Chemical Romance," is prone to wearing more white coverup than Johnny "Wonka" Depp and more fake blood than a haunted-hayride zombie. Example B (probably the more common amongst the human male population), otherwise known as Usher, regularly decks himself out in Armani and bling. Not to mention fast, sexy sports cars. It seems that human men "decorate" themselves in their own wealth, thus proving to their potential mates their ability to support a family (or an entire nation, in Usher's case). That's why, while girls aspire to be stick-thin, double-D, blonde and leggy, guys tend to blow their cash on muscle cars. As for Gerard Way... I just stuck him in there because he cracks me up. And to show that there are plenty of CoverGuys out there, and not all of them are stereotypically "crossdressing" or "effeminate."

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