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Research

My research centers primarily on contemporary philosophy of art, with a particular focus on how the performing arts (particularly dance) are practiced, experienced, and appreciated. In addition I am interested in considering new discourse and philosophic methodologies for philosophy that are more collaborative and constructive than the critical/adversarial model currently employed by most philosophy conferences. I have begun to work on this with other another dance philosopher and a dance ethnographer. For the full text of the articles below (plus a few more) see: http://works.bepress.com/aili_bresnahan/. For my work in progress, for my book reviews, and for my list of my conference and other presentations, see my Curriculum Vitae page on this site.

For my Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on "the philosophy of dance" see: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dance/.

For my DancePhilosophers Fb page see: https://www.facebook.com/DancePhilosophers/. To join the DancePhilosophers Google group request membership through that page or through: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/dancephilosophers.

For some informal opinion pieces on some of my thoughts on the philosophy of dance see:

For a short, general-audience video of a presentation on the philosophy of dance I did for Dayton's Pecha Kulcha, No. 28, event see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpcycRl1QFg.

For a brief panel discussion on the UD First-Year Immersion experience to see the Dayton Ballet's Romeo & Juliet see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AaWePpadzI

Selected Publication Abstracts

Co-authored with Michael Deckard. “Beauty in Disability: An Aesthetics for Dance and for Life.” In Dance and Quality of Life, Social Indicators Research Series, edited by Karen E. Bond and Sally M. Gardner. Netherlands: Springer. [Forthcoming]

To what extent does dance contribute to an ideal of beauty that can enrich human quality of life? To what extent are standards of beauty predicated on an ideal human body that has no disability? In this chapter, we show how conceptions of proportionality, perfection, and ethereality from the Ancient Greeks through the 19th century can still be seen today in some kinds of dance, particularly in ballet. Disability studies and disability-inclusive dance companies, however, have started to change this. The disabled person can be beautiful, we will show, in dance and in life, under a disability aesthetics that follows Edmund Burke (1730-1797) and that suggests an alternative standard of beauty, which we call “beauty-in-experience,” where beauty is perceived in the qualitative experience of abled and disabled dancers moving together in dance. 

“Dance Appreciation: The View from the Audience.” In Aesthetics: A Reader in the Philosophy of the Arts, 4th edition, edited by David Goldblatt, Lee Brown, and Stephanie Patridge. London: Routledge. [Forthcoming]

Dance can be appreciated from all sorts of perspectives: For instance, by the dancer while dancing, by the choreographer while watching in the wings, by the musician in the orchestra pit who accompanies the dance, or by the loved-one of a dancer who watches while hoping that the dancer performs well and avoids injury. This essay considers what it takes to appreciate dance from the perspective of a seated, non-moving audience member. A dance appreciator in this position is typically someone who can hear and see, who can feel vibrations of sound through their skin, and who can have other human, kinaesthetic responses and perceptions as well as the cognitive ability to process them. This appreciator is also someone who is a person with a history that may or may not include experiences of dance that have conditioned his or her responses to watching dance. Based on both this experience, and the skill and capacity to focus, pay attention, make judgments, and convey those judgments, there are different types and levels of audience appreciation. This chapter focuses on three of these levels.

“Dancing in Time,” in The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Temporal Experience. Edited by Ian Phillips. London: Routledge, 2o17, 339-348.

This chapter analyzes the experience and, in particular the conscious experience, of dancing in time from the perspective of the trained dancer while performing. The focus is thus on the experience and consciousness of a dancer who is moving her body in time rather than on the experience of a seated audience member or dance appreciator who is watching a dancer move. The primary kind of “experience” that is the focus of my discussion of temporal experience comes from classical pragmatists William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey. My account of the experience of dancing in time also includes conscious aspects of this experience (what-it-feels-like-to-the-dancer herself) as well as any sensorimotor pre-conscious or non-conscious processes of which she is not aware by virtue of her bodily engagement with the world.

“How Artistic Creativity is Possible for Cultural Agents,” in Pragmatism, Metaphysics and Culture: Reflections on the Philosophy of Joseph Margolis, Nordic Studies in Pragmatism 2. Edited by Dirk-Martin Grube and Robert Sinclair. Helsinki: The Nordic Pragmatism Network, Nov. 2015, 197-216. 

This essay concerns Margolis’ theory of the creative artist as cultural agent as supplemented with an account of the nature of the human being as a raw set of genetic materials and capacity for acquiring cultural competence. My claim is that this is the site for an adequate account ofhow some encultured persons are able to create exceptional innovations in artistic domains and others are not.

“Improvisation in the Arts,” Philosophy Compass 9, No. 10 (September 2015): 573-582. 

This article focuses primarily on improvisation in the arts as discussed in philosophical aesthetics, supplemented with accounts of improvisational practice by arts theorists and educators. It begins with an overview of the term improvisation, first as it is used in general and then as it is used to describe particular products and practices in the individual arts. From here, questions and challenges that improvisation raises for the traditional work-of-art concept, the type-token distinction and the appreciation and evaluation of the arts will be explored. This article concludes with the suggestion that further research and discussion on improvisation in the arts is needed, particularly in the areas of non-jazz improvisation.

“Toward A Deweyan Theory of Ethical and Aesthetic Performing Arts Practice.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology 1, No. 2 (November 2014): 133-148. 

This paper formulates a Deweyan theory of performing arts practice that relies for its support on two main things: 1) the unity Dewey ascribed to all intelligent practices (including artistic practice) and 2) the observation that many aspects of the work of performing artists of Dewey’s time include features (“dramatic rehearsal,” action, interaction and habit-development) that are part of Dewey’s characterization of the moral life.  This does not deny the deep import that Dewey ascribed to aesthetic experience (both in art and in life) but it does suggest that we might use his theory of ethical practice in conjunction with his theory of art as experience in order to create a more robust and unified Deweyan theory of what the performing artist does. 

“Censorship As Catalyst for Artistic Innovation.” Journal for Peace and Justice Studies 23, No. 2 (2014): 98-116

One kind of government-supported censorship of the arts targets not the expressive content of any particular artwork but instead seeks to suppress the activity of a group of people based on some feature of the group’s human identity such as race, gender or class. Using examples from the history of the development of black music in the United States that followed from the legal oppression of slavery and from evidence of changes in the Punjabi theatre in Pakistan following state-sanctioned suppressions of women this paper demonstrates that human-identity-related arts censorship can actually serve to spur and enhance, rather than suppress, artistic innovation.

“Improvisational Artistry in Live Dance Performance As Embodied and Extended Agency.” Dance Research Journal 46, No. 1 (April 2014): 84-94. 

This paper provides an account of improvisational artistry in live dance performance that construes the contribution of the dance performer as a kind of agency. Andy Clark’s theory of the embodied and extended mind is used in order to consider how this account is supported by research on how a thinking-while-doing person navigates the world. I claim here that while a dance performer’s improvisational artistry does include embodied and extended features that occur outside of the brain and nervous system that this can be construed as “agency” rather than “thought.” Further I claim that trained and individual style accounts for how this agency acquires its artistic nature. This account thus contributes to the philosophy of improvisation in dance performance in a way that includes motor as well as cognized intentions.
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