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Art as Experience

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  2,875 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Based on John Dewey's lectures on esthetics, delivered as the first William James Lecturer at Harvard in 1932, Art as Experience has grown to be considered internationally as the most distinguished work ever written by an American on the formal structure and characteristic effects of all the arts: architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and literature.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Perigee Trade (first published 1934)
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Why, in all my courses on aesthetics and art history, have I not been assigned this? Might it be because Dewey takes down Kant and his continental successors with a little common sense and a few grammatically legible sentences? Well, it sure doesn't hurt. I say, "legible," but that doesn't mean the reading here is not dense. Every page is work and reward; therefore, you may find yourself poking along at a snail's pace, five or ten pages at a time. I don't think Dewey's book can be read any more ...more
Perhaps this is anachronistic in our current mash-up culture (or maybe it isn't?), but I think writers should do some reading in aesthetic theory. Dewey's book, originally delivered as a series of lectures in 1932, is one I'd recommend, either to argue with or from which to seek inspiration. I first read this for a philosophy seminar and that kind of systematic studious reading is far different from how I read it now, which is to open it at random and read for a bit and then see where that takes ...more
The greatest book written by an American in the 20th Century. It's not just about aesthetics. He claims, in an even harder book to read, (I know, I know, but its worth the effort) Experience and Nature, that experience itself exhibits aesthetic characteristics (rhythm, flow, spatial and temporal relationships) and only when we understand this will we understand the nature of thinking, joy and fulfillment. This book goes with that insight and further elaborates on on the form of experience best s ...more
Chris Bass
Every page is brilliance--seriously, I am not exaggerating. Dewey's insights and thoughts are as refreshing and relevant to us today as when the lecture was presented at Harvard (1932). As I read through the first few chapters, I found myself copying pages of each chapter to use in my classroom. He provides necessary theory to challenge and discuss the relevancy of education and function of English Education.

Nice thoughts:

"The moment of passage from disturbance into harmony is that of intense li
"Mountain peaks do not float unsupported; they do not even just rest upon the surface. The ARE the earth in one of its manifest operations."

"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." (17)

"'Spontaneity' is the result of long periods of activity, or else it is so empty as not to be an act of expression." (75)

"There are values and meanings that can be expressed only by immediately visible and audible qualities, and to ask what they mean in the sense of something that can be put into words is to deny their distinctive existence." (
I would give this 6 stars if I could. Had to read most of it twice because John Dewey was way smarter than I might ever be! Killed 8-10 highlighters on this one.
Dewey shows how Art is not a specialized realm, but is rather at play in all ordinary experience.
Profound and sensible.
Aug 28, 2009 Kaveri rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: art
Many books on aesthetics treat art as mere grist for philosophy's mill. The results are sometimes thought-provoking, but too often seem tangential to the real-life problems and pleasures of art. "Art as Experience" is different. It is philosophically ambitious, and its ideas do come together within a larger world view, but its arguments always feel rooted in the actual empirical experience of making and viewing art. It's also engagingly written; devoid of academic jargon and full of vivid, illum ...more
Nelson Zagalo
Masterpiece. Thanks John Dewey for writing this book, even more because it was written in 1934.

This should be obligatory read for anyone studying/researching Art Communication. Before the domain of Communication Sciences even existed, before Emotion Studies were seriously accepted by the academy, Dewey has written a profound and dense work on the subject of Art Experience. It was done from a philosophical approach, however Dewey, clearly influence by his Pragmatics companion, William James, the
Super verbose to the point where he'd spend pages to get to a single point. The author's writing style was also very dry and hard to wrap my head around. I had to read this for a class, and I was reading it early and I'm glad I did because I could not be able to finish this quickly. I often could only read a few pages a day and call it major progress. If I wasn't reading this for a class, I'd never ever read this book and do not recommend it.
Andrew Gonzales
A reminder of the highest responsibilities that art, society, and individual experience have always owed each other.
Evelyn Boksebeld
Favourite book EVER.
Lifestyle art
Apr 09, 2007 michelle rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all artists, philosophers, lovers of life
I am still in the progress of reading this book. My first experience with Dewey was a couple small quotes in a book about Arte Povera. Then I read a few passages from this book when it happened to be included in the textbook for my Aesthetics class in college. It has partially inspired artworks of my own, and I think it is beautifully thought out and beautifully written (although, like most philosophy, it is dense and therefore slow reading).
Caleb King
Jun 05, 2011 Caleb King added it
Shelves: art-books
Very well thought out and argued position. I found myself at times totally agreeing with Dewey and then disagreeing, only to then come around and agree again. It is hard not to see from his perspective and not to have that challenge your own views on the subject.

Though sometimes difficult to suss out the specific meaning he is attempting to convey, this is hands down one of the best books I've read in years.
Regina Andreassen

What a wonderful book! Aesthetics, as perceived by John Dewey, is more than just philosophy; is, as Baumgarten stated, the science of perception, while Art is perhaps the most sublime expression of human aesthetics. Moreover,Dewey reminds us that art is not exclusive to art galleries, museums, or expensive collections but is born in our daily experiences. A brilliant work, written in an elegant, dynamic style!
I found this book leading me to new thoughts on almost every page -- and it's a long book. Even when I thought I knew what Dewey was going to say, he often surprised me with insights that I would have missed.

That said, Dewey's prose is obtuse. It would seem he's never met a grammatical construct he doesn't like. Getting through the book was a slog, but well worth it for the content.
OK, so I didn't read the whole thing. But I read the first three chapters for a grad class this summer, and it took me longer to do that than to re-read the entire Twilight series. So I'm counting it towards my books this year.

Ideas: amazing.

Style: sucks.

Readability: omygod.
Constance Dunn
Used it as one of the theory foundations for my thesis. Although idealistic at first skim, pragmatic at its core. A true genius of aesthetic theory and absolutely on point about those individuals who think aesthetically, and deeply, being the foundation of a solid democracy.
This is an excellent book about art, useful and inspiring to both the artist and the viewer. Published in 1934, it's as relevant today as then, or even more so as we're slipping into an age where art in the purest sense of translating a felt human experience is disappearing.
Another text that has changed my understanding about art and living. This text helped me to continue to emphasize the importance of the arts and the imagination in school. Dewey clearly demonstrates how art is a natural and important part of life.
I thought it was an insightful book, but realize I will have to read it many times before catching all that might speak to me. I may have had too high of expectations. At times it became rather dry and difficult to keep my enthusiasm up.
Simply incredible book. Very difficult to explain and requires a close, persistent reading, but it's a life-changer if you get it. Simply a different way to think about yourself and how you interact with the world.
"(...)Quando a arte é bem sucedida, ela se alia à filosofia na mediação entre o passado teimoso e o futuro insistente, ajudando a dar à luz o mundo ainda não nascido" (John Dewey - 1946) Pag.46 deste livro.
What an experience. You'll never finish it. It is so full of existential lessons it will amaze you. It is not an easy read though. But nothing in life that is good for you is easy.
I am not a scholar in art history so each page took like 2 minutes to read, it is a tad dense but totally worth the "walking through water" experience of reading it.
Aug 11, 2008 Stephen marked it as books-interrupted  ·  review of another edition
Purchased for an Aesthetics survey, I read and promptly forgot the assigned pages. The book nevertheless evokes for me the faint but pleasant aftertaste of saltines.
This is a book I read for a lecture on Arts in Society. I found the topic very interesting but the book is incredibly dense and difficult to get through.
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John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, is recognized as one of the founders of the philosophy of pragmatism and of functional psychology. He was a major representative of the progressive and progressive populist philosophies of schooli ...more
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Experience and Education Democracy and Education How We Think The School and Society/The Child and the Curriculum The Public and its Problems

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“Like the soil, mind is fertilized while it lies fallow, until a new burst of bloom ensues.” 11 likes
“Every art communicates because it expresses. It enables us to share vividly and deeply in meanings… For communication is not announcing things… Communication is the process of creating participation, of making common what had been isolated and singular… the conveyance of meaning gives body and definiteness to the experience of the one who utters as well as to that of those who listen.” 4 likes
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