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Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began (A McLellan Book) Paperback – April 12, 2012


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Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began (A McLellan Book) + Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why
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Product Details

  • Series: A McLellan Book
  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295991968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295991962
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The latest from Dissanayake (Homo Aestheticus; What Is Art For?) pursues two grand and simultaneous goals: the first is to show that aesthetic experience in all its variety (viewing paintings, playing concerti, observing sunsets, etc.) shares basic features with experiences we call "love"--whether parental, fraternal or romantic. The second is to place these features within a theory of natural selection as it worked on primates and early hominids. For Dissanayake, love and art minister to a "hierarchy of needs" that recall the terminology of mid-century psychology. The first term of the hierarchy ("mutuality") has its prototype in the bond between parent and infant; the last ("elaborating") explains why we sometimes want art for art's sake. The superb first chapter synthesizes studies of mother-infant bonding in people, chimps and apes, and rebukes other "evolutionary psychologists" who attend to how babies get made, but not to what happens after they're born. "Elaborating" in premodern societies, Dissanayake contends, took place most often through communal ceremonies; today, we find this sort of satisfaction primarily in sex or in works of art--one reason why society, and government, ought to be "taking the arts seriously." Provocative if not always convincing, Dissanayake knows she hasn't produced a fully fledged philosophical aesthetics and avoids the strident determinisms that often afflict "evolutionary psychology." The weakest parts of her book trail off into cultural jeremiads: video games are (surprise!) bad, handicrafts good. But the strongest elements bring welcome information from the social and natural sciences to readers who think, or want to think, about art in general. (July)

Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Ellen Dissanayake has the rare gift of being able to integrate the advanced findings of a half dozen disciplines in a way that is intellectually responsible while keeping her exposition intelligible to the lay reader. Yet Art and Intimacy will also appeal to scholars working on the frontiers of aesthetics and art theory. Her focus on the psychobiological roots of human artistic practices in the mother-child bond remains a signal contribution to today's renewed interest in developing a naturalistic aesthetics." -Larry Shiner, author of The Invention of Art: A Cultural History

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl on February 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I read Ellen Dissanayake's previous 2 books and found this current publication a little disappointing in comparison. She has developed a philosophy of the arts called 'consilience' based on her Darwinian (biosocial) perspective which unifies biological and cultural viewpoints. The chapters cover her theory of mother/infant mutuality, the need to belong to a group, finding meaning, hands-on competence (making things), and elaboration (making special) as they pertain to the evolution of the arts in human development. My concern is mainly focussed on her ideas of a 'Naturalistic Aesthetics' found in the appendix. She aims to emcompass all the arts (music, dance, drama, visual arts) in developing criteria for assigning aesthetic quality to the artistic process (or is it product??) but fails to convince me that these criteria span all of the arts. For instance, the criteria 'strikingness' is something I would attribute to visual arts but certainly not music where the visual component is not a sense priority. She rightly claims that the meaning of aesthetics is currently fraught with ambiguity in its association with the definition of 'beauty'. Beauty, to me, is highly subjective and not necessarily a universal characteristic amongst all cultural groups. I feel until 'aesthetics' is properly redefined (possibly as 'the power to communicate emotion and value systems') we as arts educators looking for philosophies to give us direction, will continue to beat down the wrong garden path. I can only hope that Dissanayake will receive enough constructive feedback from scholars of other arts disciplines so that she can round out her philosophical viewpoint.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G. B. Talovich on December 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been trying for some time to write a review of this book. I give up: I simply cannot do it justice in 1,000 words or less. The book is not flawless, but in the two years since I first read it, I have come back to it again and again, always learning something. It took a long time to read in the first place, because every few pages I would run into an idea that required a few days' thought.
The book is illustrated with wonderful photos. Nobody can look at those babies in Chapter 1 without smiling, thus proving Dissanayake's points. My particular favorite is the little girl in Sudan absorbed in her drawing (p197). Some photos I wish had been bigger. The mbari house on page 153 is barely distinguishable.
Anybody interested in human affairs will benefit from this book. Even those outside human concerns should read it, simply to see how perceptive and stimulating the ideas are.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a lot of great material in this book about cultural anthropology and the way art is weaves in the discussion. I wish more attention to the eastern art dynamic was articulated to help our western sensibility open up to multiple points of view on placing value in the arts. Overall still a compelling read.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Myers on November 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
None of these books were what i was looking for! This was the only time that I have struck out with my impulsive book buying on amazon.
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