The Arts and Human Development: A Psychological Study of the Artistic Process

By Howard Gardner | Go to book overview

sensitive to the relationship among the feelings and modes articulated within given work.

The education of the feeling system depends in large measure on the individual's increasing ability to perceive significances at the variety of levels on which a work of art proceeds. Someone able to appreciate fine features of the code, variations of form, allusions to recondite subject matter should experience a greater variety of feelings than one for whom the work's meaning is univocal. Depth of "felt" affect may be no different but extent will be; in this way, the feeling system follows upon the discrimination system. Strong affective experiences may also sensitize the individual to aspects of art objects he has never noticed before, as when the loss of a loved one heightens sensitivity to tragedy. In this case, feelings have helped to structure perceptions. Correlatively, excessive self- consciousness or intellectualization about work may result in a dulling of the individual's feeling system.

Incorporation of one's feelings into significant art works is by no means a straightforward matter. In trying to account for the failure of some students to realize their literary promise, one writer comments:

What was missing for many . . . was simply stimulation: something to write about. The best works arose from chance encounters--some starlings nesting near the school led to a particularly rich harvest of writing and painting, and once a boy's clay portrait led to an impressive series of heads and masks. Work of true quality was rare, because so little school work ever captured real experience on the wing.

Skill alone is not enough: Absence of strong feelings and suggestive experiences will thwart the creative spirit, but the providing of the right stimulus can evoke a torrent of creativity. One sixth grade teacher, for example, called the attention of her class to a spider crawling up the wall of the classroom. This apparently insignificant yet suggestive detail inspired several of the students to extremely interesting initial poetic efforts. One of the poems has been reprinted at the close of this chapter.


CONCLUDING REMARKS

This review of aesthetic education has not provided any foolproof methods for producing genius, but it has suggested a number of guidelines. Individuals concerned with training in the arts should become familiar with the nature and developmental course of the principal psychological systems, and should devise tasks that conform to, rather than undercut, these structures. Finding ways that encourage the productive interaction

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The Arts and Human Development: A Psychological Study of the Artistic Process
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures, Tables, and Works of Art viii
  • Preface and Overview xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Introduction to the Paperback Edition xxi
  • One - The Relationship of Art to Human Development 1
  • Two - The Three Systems in Animals and Infants 53
  • Three - From Mode to Symbol 88
  • Four - The World of Symbols 125
  • Summary 172
  • Five - Experimental Research on Artistic Development 178
  • Six - Achieving Mastery 242
  • Concluding Remarks 292
  • Seven - The Relationship of the Arts to Science, Illness, and Truth 301
  • Bibliographical Notes 351
  • Author Index 383
  • Subject Index 389
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