Dora Stock

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dora Stock: self portrait. Original hangs in the Kügelgenhaus in Dresden

Dora (Doris, Dorothea) Stock (6 March 1760 – 30 March 1832) was an artist of the 18th and 19th centuries who specialized in portraiture. She was at the center of a highly cultivated household in which a great number of artists, musicians, and writers were guests; and her friends and acquaintances included some of the most eminent figures of her day, including Goethe, Schiller and Mozart.





She was born in Nürnberg to a copper engraver named Johann Michael Stock (1737–1773). Stock had in 1756 married a widow five years his senior—Maria Helen Endner, née Schwabe (1733–1782)—who already had a son, Georg Gustav, by her previous marriage.[1] Dora was the first of two surviving children born to this marriage; two years later her younger sister Anna Maria Jakobina, called Minna (11 March 1762–1843), was born.

When Dora was five years old, her father took up a position in Leipzig working as an engraver and illustrator for the Breitkopfprinting and publishing firm, and his family followed him to Leipzig a few months later.[2] The Stock family was not well off. They lived in fifth-floor attic rooms in a building whose lower floors were occupied by Breitkopf printing facilities. The father worked in the front room, where there was ample window lighting, surrounded by his family.[2]

As was common for children at the time (especially girls) Dora did not go to school; however, a local minister taught her basic skills of reading and arithmetic, and her mother taught her music; there was a modest piano in their home. The wealthy Breitkopf family also frequently invited her into her home, where she played with children receiving more substantial educations.[2]


Starting when Dora was six, her home was very frequently visited by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who would eventually become the preeminent figure of German literature, but at the time was a 16-year-old studying jurisprudence at the university. Goethe had signed up with Dora's father for lessons in drawing and engraving.[2]

The young Goethe taught Dora about the theater and led household performances in which Dora took parts. On the whole, however, his presence in the Stock household was disruptive and upsetting. In one typical episode, at Christmas time Goethe induced the family dog to eat the candy Christ-child. Goethe also required Dora and Minna to serve as lookouts whenever he entertained female company, and (to the family's concern) he took the father out drinking in Auerbachs Keller, a scene later immortalized in Faust.[2]

Goethe met the adult Dora and Minna a number of times in later years and remained on friendly terms with them. She never painted his portrait, however.[2]


The teenage Goethe had offered advice to Dora's father about how to raise his daughters: "[train them] in nothing but the art of housekeeping, let them be good cooks, that will be best for their future husbands."[3] Her father however had no such intentions, and Dora assiduously learned the arts of drawing and engraving at his workbench; she was evidently his star pupil.[4] Later Dora studied with Adam Friedrich Oeser and (perhaps) Anton Graff, both painters. After the death of her father in 1773, Dora was able to help keep the family afloat, along with her older half-brother, by continuing the family's business relationship with Breitkopf.[2]

[edit]Love life

In the late teenage years, she had two suitors, both of whom she turned down. In 1780, at age 20, became engaged to a 16-year-old, the future writer Ludwig Ferdinand Huber. Since Huber had no means of supporting a family, the engagement was a very long one. In 1788, Huber left for a diplomatic position in Mainz;[5] however, rather than making the marriage possible, it led to its cancellation: Huber embarked on a relationship with Therese Forster, the abandoned wife of Georg Forster, which Dora found out about only in 1792. Following this event, which Siegel characterizes as devastating,[6] Dora made no further plans to marry and remained single for the rest of her life.[7]

Minna Körner, as portrayed by her sister Dora. Original is in the Körnermuseum in Dresden.

[edit]Stock and the Körners

Throughout her life Dora was very close to her younger sister Minna. Minna was engaged to Christian Gottfried Körner shortly after he finished his university degree. Minna and Körner were unable to marry due to the strenuous objections of Körner's well-off father, who could not bear the thought of his son Gottfried marrying a "shop-keeper's girl".[8]

In 1785 Körner's father died, leaving his son a substantial inheritance. This made it possible for Gottfried and Minna to marry. They did so on 7 August, and moved to Dresden, where Körner had earlier taken up a junior legal position (he eventually rose to a senior rank, consistorial councillor). Following their honeymoon, Dora moved in with them, occupying a small bedroom and setting up her painting apparatus in the common living area.[9]

Gottfried, Minna, and Dora soon had made their home into an important cultural center. Robert Riggs writes:

The Körner household in Dresden ... became a literary and musical salon. Plays and essays were read; Singspiele and chamber music were performed; and lectures on art were given. Guests and participants included Johann Gottfried von Herder, Goethe, Wilhelm von Humboldt, the Schlegel brothers,Ludwig Tieck, Novalis, and the musicians Johann Naumann, Johann Hiller,Karl Zelter, Mozart, and Weber.[10]

The Körners had two children who survived past infancy.[11] Both had short but high-achieving lives: Emma Körner (1788–1815), who became a skilled painter, and Theodor Körner (1791–1813), who became a renowned soldier-poet. Dora helped raise and educate both children, and painted portraits of them.[7]

Stock's portrait of Friedrich Schiller from 1787

[edit]Relationship with Schiller

Starting in 1784 Dora, Huber, Minna, and Körner together befriended the poet Friedrich Schiller. The friendship began with an idea of Dora's, sending an anonymous package of token gifts (Dora's contribution was a miniature portrait of each of the four). This gesture greatly heartened Schiller, boosting his spirits at a difficult early phase of his career.[12] In 1785 he visited the group and vacationed with them in Loschwitz, a rural village outside Dresden,[13] eventually living for two years in the Körner household and remaining a lifelong friend. Dora produced three Schiller portraits.

In the Körner home Gottfried had built a small theater for family theatrical productions, which according to Siegel were good enough to attract professional theater people to the audience. Since Schiller was a close friend, this theater served as the venue for the (private) premieres of a number of his yet-unpublished plays; Siegel notes that Theodor Körner was the first to play the part of William Tell, and Stock herself was the first Joan of Arc (in The Maid of Orleans). Stock also served as "director, stage manager, and the children's coach."[14]

[edit]Artistic life

Dora Stock's art consisted almost entirely of portraits. Stock's biographer Linda Siegel describes and assesses these paintings in detail; in outline, she judges them as deeply thoughtful works, notable for their honesty and realism and not always flattering to their subjects. An anonymous reviewer of Siegel's book says of Stock that she "recoiled from vanity or exaggeration, values that are evident in her extremely competent and brutally honest portraits."[15]

Dora Stock's posthumous portrait (1815) of her nephewTheodor Körner. He is shown in his Freikorps uniform, standing under an oak.

Stock worked with three favorite media: pastels, oils, and silverpoint. She was a gifted copyist, and according to Siegel "could not keep up with the number of requests for copies of works in the Dresden Paintings Gallery."[16]

She was a member of the Dresden Academy of Art; her work was exhibited there five times during the years 1800–1813.[15]

[edit]Later life

The years 1813–1815 were difficult and tragic ones for Stock. Dresden was in chaos from the terminal stages of the Napoleonic wars, with the homes (the Körner home included) taken over by French soldiers and great numbers of civilian deaths.[17] Stock's nephew Theodor, who had volunteered for the Freikorps to fight against Napoleon, died in action (1813); and niece Emma died of a short illness two years later, leaving the Körners childless. Stock, who had been like a second mother to her sister's children, was as devastated as Minna and Gottfried were.[18] Finally, Gottfried fell into conflict with Frederick Augustus, the ruler of Saxony, and lost his job.[19]

In 1815 the three moved to Berlin, where Gottfried had found a position as a civil servant, and there she spent the remainder of her life. She ceased to paint or draw after about 1821, due to illness.

[edit]The Mozart portrait

Probably the most famous of all Stock's portraits is her rendering of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This may be the last portrait of Mozart made from life, and it is widely reproduced.

Dora Stock's 1789 portrait of Mozart

In April 1789, when she produced this portrait, Dora Stock was living in Dresden with Minna and Gottfried, still imagining herself to be engaged to the distant Huber. At this time, Mozart was passing through town and giving concerts, as part of the Berlin journey he made during Spring 1789. On either 16 or 17 April, 1789, Mozart made a social visit to the Körner home. Stock took the occasion to sketch a portrait of Mozart in silverpoint on ivory board, shown here.

Apparently silverpoint was not widely practiced at the time; Dora may have learned the medium from her father.[20]

The portrait is quite small: 7.6 by 6.0 centimeters.[21]

[edit]History of the portrait

Albi Rosenthal, the picture's one-time owner, indicates that the portrait was kept by Friedrich Körner (whom he does not identify) for some 50 years after it was made.[22] Its further history was given by the German newspaper Die Welt: "the picture passed from the Körners to the conductor Carl Eckert;[23] later it was possessed byHenri Hinrichsen, the owner of the C. F. Peters music publishers ofLeipzig. He was murdered in Auschwitz in 1942. His heirs gave the picture to the Rosenthal family in thanks for their help."[24]

Albi Rosenthal died in 2004.[citation needed] At the end of 2005, his heirs sold the picture to the Mozarteum in Salzburg for 250,000 British pounds. Being very fragile, it is kept in the museum's protective vaults; only a replica is on display.[25]

[edit]Stock's Mozart anecdote

Long after her death, Gustav Parthey published a book called Jugenderinnerungen ("Remembrances of youth", 1871). He related a tale about Mozart's visit that Dora Stock had told him during her lifetime:

Mozart himself, during his short stay in Dresden, was an almost daily visitor to the Körners' house. For the charming and witty Doris he was all aflame and with his south German[26]vivacity he paid her the naïvest compliments. He generally came shortly before dinner and, after he had poured out a stream of gallant phrases, he sat down to improvise at the pianoforte. In the next room the table was meanwhile being set and the soup dished up, and the servant announced that dinner was served. But who could tear himself away when Mozart was improvising! The soup was allowed to grow cold and the roast to burn, simply so that we could continue to listen to the magic sound which the master, completely absorbed in what he was doing and unaware of the rest of the world, conjured from the instrument. Yet one finally grows tired even of the highest pleasures when the stomach makes known its demands. After the soup had grown cold a few times while Mozart played, he was briefly taken to task. "Mozart", said Doris, gently laying her snow-white arm on his shoulder, "Mozart, we are going in to dine; do you want to eat with us?" But it was precisely Mozart who never did come; he played on undisturbed. Thus we often had the rarest Mozartian musical accompaniment to our meal, Doris concluded her narrative, and when we rose from table we found him still sitting at the keyboard.[27]

Deutsch (reference below) notes that the anecdote probably exaggerates the number of times that Mozart visited the Körner home. The house was on the street in Dresden now called the Körnergasse.[28]


  1. ^ Siegel 1993, p. 1
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Siegel 1993, chap. 1
  3. ^ Quoted in Siegel 1993, 5; originally from Biedermann, Goethes Gespräche ("The conversations of Goethe"
  4. ^ Siegel, Chapter 1
  5. ^ Siegel 1993, 27
  6. ^ For discussion and some of Stock's letters from this time, see Siegel 1993, 39–43
  7. ^ a b Siegel 1993, chap. 2
  8. ^ Siegel 1993, 13
  9. ^ Siegel 1993, 18
  10. ^ Riggs (1997, 600)
  11. ^ Johann Edward, the first-born (24 July 1786) died at seven months; Siegel 1993, 23.
  12. ^ Siegel 1993, 14–15
  13. ^ Siegel 1993, 22. It can be noted that 1785 is the date of Schiller's celebrated Ode to Joy; the time spent with his new friends was indeed according to surviving correspondence a joyful time for the poet.
  14. ^ Siegel 1993, 49
  15. ^ a b Anonymous (1999)
  16. ^ Siegel 1993, 8
  17. ^ Siegel, chapter 10
  18. ^ For a letter from the time describing the bereaved family, see Siegel (1993, 108).
  19. ^ Siegel 1993, 108
  20. ^ Primary source for this section: Deutsch 1965
  21. ^ Speyer 1916
  22. ^ Rosenthal 1995
  23. ^ See also Siegel (1993, 31)
  24. ^ Issue of 4 November, 2005; downloaded from 10 December 2007. German original: "Die Zeichnung ging von den Körners an den Dirigenten Carl Eckert, dann besaß sie Henri Hinrichsen, der Eigentümer des Leipziger C. F. Peters Musikverlags. Er wurde 1942 in Auschwitz ermordet. Seine Erben schenkten es als Dank für ihre Hilfe der Familie Rosenthal."
  25. ^ Issue of 4 November, 2005; downloaded from 10 December 2007.
  26. ^ Mozart was from Salzburg, now part of Austria. At the time Salzburg was a quasi-independent country, one of the hundreds of small states collectively referred to at the time as "Germany".
  27. ^ From Deutsch (1965, 568–569). The German original can be found in Burmeister.
  28. ^ Source for this section: Deutsch 1965


The major biography in English of Dora Stock is Siegel (1993), cited below. It is the primary source for this article.

  • Anonymous (1999) Review of Dora Stock, portrait painter of the Körner circle in Vienna. Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1. (Spring – Summer), p. 67. Available on JSTOR.
  • Burmeister, Klaus (2006) "Besuch aus Wien: Mozart in Dresden während seiner Reise über Prag und Leipzig nach Berlin,"Philharmonische Blätter, Dresdner Philharmonie, January–March issue. In German.
  • Deutsch, Otto Erich (1965) Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • German Wikipedia, article "Dora Stock". On line at de:Dora Stock.
  • Riggs, Robert (1997) "'On the Representation of Character in Music': Christian Gottfried Körner's Aesthetics of Instrumental Music," The Musical Quarterly vol. 81, No. 4. (Winter, 1997), pp. 599–631.
  • Rosenthal, Albi (1995) "Laughing Stock," letter to the editor, The Musical Times, Vol. 136, No. 1833, (November), p. 572. Available on JSTOR.
  • Siegel, Linda (1993) Dora Stock, portrait painter of the Körner circle in Dresden (1785–1815). Lewiston, N.Y. : E. Mellen Press.
  • Speyer, Edward (1916) "Mozart at the National Gallery," The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 28, No. 156. (March), pp. 216–217+220–222. Available on JSTOR.

Richard Shusterman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard Shusterman.

Richard Shusterman is an American pragmatist philosopher, currently the Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy atFlorida Atlantic University. He is internationally known for his contributions to philosophical aesthetics.



[edit]Biography and career

Richard Shusterman was born December 3, 1949, to a Jewish family living in Philadelphia, USA. At age 16 he left his home and went to Israel, where he continued his education, studying English and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from which he received his B.A. degree in English and Philosophy, and M.A. degree in philosophy (all awarded magna cum laude). He also served in Israeli Military Intelligence (1973-1976) achieving the rank of first lieutenant. During his Israeli education he got interested in analytic philosophy and this stage of his intellectual development culminated in the doctoral dissertation The Object of Literary Criticism which he wrote under the supervision of J. O. Urmson at St John's College, Oxford and defended in 1979 (it was published under the original title in 1984). After teaching at different Israeli academic institutions, receiving tenure at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (with an episode as a visiting fellow at St. John’s College, Oxford University during academic year 1984/85) in 1987 he became an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Temple University (tenured in 1988), where he was promoted to full professor in 1991 and became a chair of the Philosophy Department (1998-2004). In 1988, as a result of both the evolution of his philosophical interests (as evidenced in his second book T. S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism, 1988) and personal experiences,[1] Shusterman made a conversion from analytic philosophy to pragmatism and started his own project of developing John Dewey’s aesthetics. The third book he authored, Pragmatist Aesthetics (1992) was a big breakthrough in his academic career. The original approach to the problems of the definition of art, organic wholes,interpretation, popular art and the ethics of taste he presented there brought him international fame (which is clearly evidenced by the fact that Pragmatist Aesthetics has already been translated into 12 languages). Shusterman’s position was only strengthened by his next works: Practicing Philosophy (1997), Performing Live (2000) and Surface and Depth (2002) in which he continued the pragmatist tradition, raising significant interest, provoking numerous critiques and stimulating debates not only among professional philosophers. In 2004 Richard Shusterman left Temple University to become the Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton.

Richard Shusterman is a member of many editorial boards: e.g. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Metaphilosophy,Poetics Today, Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Theory, Culture, and Society, Body and Society, Akademie Verlag (Berlin) series in Philosophische Anthropologie. He has also received important grants and fellowships, e.g. Senior National Endowment for the Humanities and Fulbright Fellowships; and his current research in somaesthetics is supported by an Alexander Humboldt Foundation Transcoop Grant (2006-2009).

One should also mention that one of the important factors influencing Shusterman's philosophy has been his internationalist career: for instance, his work in France (with Pierre Bourdieu and with the College International de Philosophie) has allowed his pragmatism to engage and deploy the contemporary French philosophical tradition, while his Fulbright Professorship in Berlin enabled his pragmatism to intersect more closely with contemporary German philosophy. Similarly, his year as a visiting research professor in Hiroshima helped introduce him to Asian philosophy and Zen practice.

To complete the picture, it has to be underlined that Shusterman’s activity is not confined to the professional academic life: in 1995 he was a delegate member of the UNESCO project Philosophy and Democracy in the World and for several years he directed the UNESCO project MUSIC: Music, Urbanism, Social Integration and Culture; in the period 1998 – 2004 he hosted “Dialogues on the Square”, a philosophy discussion series at Barnes and Noble, Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia. As a somatic educator and therapist, he is also a certified practitioner of the Feldenkrais method.

He lives in South Florida with his second wife and a daughter. He has two sons and a daughter from his first marriage.

[edit]Key ideas

[edit]Shusterman's place in the Contemporary Pragmatism

It is widely agreed that contemporary pragmatism divides into at least two currents: the neo-classical and the neo-analytical[2].

The latter, best exemplified by Richard Rorty, can be roughly described as an amalgam of the elements of classical pragmatism and analytic philosophy, which is sometimes supplemented, especially in Rorty’s case, by the ideas of continental thinkers(Martin Heidegger, e.g.)[3].The former, represented, among others, by Susan Haack, is more conservative in its development of the classical tradition and adopts a critical stance toward Rorty’s interpretation thereof.[4]

Assuming this description is correct, we would have to locate Shusterman’s pragmatism somewhere in the middle between the above mentioned positions. Although his analytic background and acceptance of some of Rorty’s ideas (he even subsumes his and Rorty’s thought under a common category of “reconstructivist genealogical-poetic pragmatism”[5]) seemingly makes him a neo-analytic pragmatist, the stress he puts on the importance of the notion of experience, which Rorty would like to substitute with the notion of language, chimes perfectly with the neo-classical stance.

Besides classical pragmatism and analytic philosophy among Shusterman’s inspirations there are many different traditions and disciplines: continental sociology (Pierre Bourdieu[6])and philosophy (Michel Foucault, Michel de Montaigne, Friedrich Nietzsche[7]), American body therapy (Moshe Feldenkrais, F. Matthias Alexander[8]) as well as East-Asian thought (Confucius)[9]. It is worth noticing that this diversity of inspirations finds its reflection in the scope of Shusterman’s philosophical work which embraces not only aesthetics, but also metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of language, political theory as well asmetaphilosophy in which latter field he advocates the idea of philosophy as the art of living.


Despite the fact that experience serves as a basic category in Shusterman’s pragmatism, both in terms of methodology (the pragmatist should always work from experience[10]) as well as ontology or epistemology (experience “is a transactional nexus of interacting energies connecting the embodied self and its environing world”[11]), Shusterman, contrary to his philosophical hero John Dewey, practically does not engage in constructing a general metaphysical conception thereof. He has, however, made considerable efforts to refine Dewey’s insights[12]and to defend the latter’s idea of immediate, nondiscursive experience against the criticism put forward by Richard Rorty.[13]

While Rorty shares Dewey’s commitment to debunk epistemological foundationalism, he believes that the notion of language is better suited to achieve this goal than the notion of immediate, nondiscursive experience preferred by Dewey. Moreover, according to Rorty, Dewey’s theory itself collapses into a version of foundationalism where immediate, nondiscursive experience serves as justificational evidence for particular knowledge claims. To this Shusterman replies that: (a) the antifoundationalist thrust of the notion of language is not as clear as Rorty sees it (in fact language has been frequently used as a foundationalist category); (b) Dewey never really intended his theory of experience to be a kind of epistemological foundationalism, but rather wanted to celebrate the richness and value of immediate experience, including “the immediate dimension of somatic experience” and to emphasize the positive role such experience can play in improving the quality of human life. (The inspiration of body theorist-therapist F. M. Alexander is important here). Although he argues that Dewey’s theory was ultimately spoiled by a kind of foundationalism (not the one Rorty accuses Dewey of but rather one asserting that the specific quality of immediate experience is the glue that makes coherent thought possible), Shusterman believes that the philosophical value of experience can and should be reaffirmed in an antifoundationalist form. He also underlines that even if, as Rorty claims, Wilfrid Sellars’s critique of the myth of the given proves that immediate, nondiscursive somatic experience cannot be integrated into epistemology, it does not preclude that this experience may be usefully deployed in philosophy as such, because to think otherwise would be to wrongly conflate all philosophy with one of its subdisciplines, i.e. theory of cognition. And the fact that we can hardly imagine any form of application of the immediate somatic experience in the realm of philosophy is not a proof that this is impossible, but rather indicates that our conception of philosophy is dominated by an idealistic paradigm, naturally hostile to the body as such. The will to change this situation has been one of the reasons why Shusterman has introduced a new philosophical subdiscipline devoted to the body and its experience: somaesthetics.

[edit]Definitions of art

Shusterman has contributed to the philosophical problem of defining art by presenting both metatheoretical insights as well asdefinitions of his own coinage.

On the metatheoretical level he criticizes essentialist, classificatory definitions of art (preferred by the traditional analytic philosophy) which he calls “wrapper definitions” since they aim “at the perfect coverage” of the logical extension of the notion of art.[14] Shusterman (a) finds these definitions problematic given art’s contested value and nature as well as its unpredictable development in the future; and (b) argues that there is a goal for art definitions which is more important than the conceptual coverage: namely a directional/transformational one of “illuminating the special point and value of art or […] improving art’s appreciation”.[15]

It has to be understood that according to Shusterman these two goals may indeed converge, but since they may as well not he finds it unacceptable to exclude any definitions only on the basis that they do not satisfy the standards of taxonomical validity, like e.g. evaluative definitions which nevertheless can be useful in their own way. Besides discussing the issue of wrapper definitions in general, Shusterman has also criticized particular definitions of that kind invented by George Dickie and Arthur Danto.[16]

Shusterman advocates a definition of art as experience he has adopted from Dewey, albeit not without making some important corrections to it. While Shusterman accepts the majority of the elements central to the Dewey’s conception of this experience (e.g., that it cannot be reduced to the private mental world of the subject being rather an interaction between the subject and the object), there are some he finds questionable (e.g. Dewey’s insistence on the unity and coherence of aesthetic experience which Shusterman would like to supplement with aesthetics of rupture and fragmentation). Secondly, he claims that Dewey was wrong to treat his definition of art as experience as a traditionalist wrapper definition, thus making it vulnerable to the valid charges that it is both too narrow and too wide (there are some artworks which do not engender aesthetic experiences and, conversely, in some cases aesthetic experience accompanies phenomena which simply cannot be redefined as art, like natural beauty, e.g.). What he should have done instead was to assign to it the directional and transformational role mentioned above. Conceived this way, Shusterman argues, the definition of art as experience has an undeniable value because even though it cannot embrace the whole extension of the concept of art it “underlines a crucial background condition, direction, and valued goal of art” (i.e. aesthetic experience) and also helps to widen “the realm of art by challenging the rigid division between art and action that is supported by definitions that define art as mimesis, poiesis, or the narrow practice defined by the institutional art world".[17]

Shusterman also advocates a definition of art as dramatization, which supplements the definition he has inherited from Dewey not only by illuminating art’s nature from a slightly different angle, but also by serving a different, yet equally important purpose – the reconciliation of two prominent and at the same time conflicted aesthetic accounts of art: historicism and naturalism. Since the notion of dramatization involves and harmonizes two important moments: of putting something into a formalized frame (e.g. “the frame of a theatrical performance”[18]) and of intense experiential content that is framed, it presents itself as a potential synthesizing formula for historicism and naturalism which, as Shusterman argues, can be reduced to emphasizing the formal institutional frame of art (historicism) or experiential intensity that characterizes art as such (naturalism).

Both of Shusterman’s definitions have become the subject of many commentaries and criticisms.[19]


Among the many debates galvanizing contemporary humanities one of the most important (if not the most important) is devoted to the problem of interpretation. Shusterman has participated in it by co-editing a fundamental anthology The Interpretive Turn, as well as by voicing his own opinions which will be discussed in this section.

Shusterman’s account of interpretation is constructed in opposition to both analytic aesthetics and deconstruction, which are often said to constitute two opposite poles of the contemporary interpretive theory. As he claims, both of them share “a picture of understanding as the recapturing or reproducing of a particular […] [“separate and autonomous”] meaning-object”, yet they differ as to whether such act is possible. Deconstructionists, assuming their protean vision of language as “systematic play of differences”, claim it is not, and hence deem every reading a “misreading”, while analytic aestheticians think otherwise, usually construing the objective work-meaning as “metaphysically fixed in the artwork” and identifying it with the intention of the artist or “semantic features of the work itself”[20].To avoid both these extremes Shusterman proposes a conception of textual meaning inspired by late Wittgenstein(and his notion of language games) in which meaning is thought of as a correlate of understanding, the latter term being conceived as “an ability to handle or respond to [something] in certain accepted ways”[21]which, although shared and legitimized by the community, can be quite different and constitute many diverse “interpretation games”. Interpretation, thus, is not an act (be it successful or inherently condemned to failure) of discovering the meaning of text, but rather of constructing it, or, as Shusterman would like to put it, of “making sense’” of text. One of the corollaries of this account is that correctness of interpretation is always relative to the “rules” (typically implicit) of a given interpretation game. Since there are many different incommensurable games existing at the same time and since some of them have undergone some significant changes over history (and some may even have disappeared from use), we can speak of a plurality of correct interpretations of the same text both in synchronic and diachronic dimensions. Another consequence of this theory is Shusterman’s logical pluralism which claims not only that there can be different (even contradictory), yet equally true interpretations (that would be only a cognitive pluralism), but also that there are legitimate forms of approaching texts which do not even aim at interpretational truth or plausibility, but rather aim at other useful goals (e.g., providing pleasure or making an old text more relevant to contemporary readers)[22].

Another of Shusterman’s contributions to the theory of interpretation is his critique of a widely held view he calls ‘hermeneutic universalism’ and attributes to Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alexander Nehamas and Stanley Fish, among others. Agreeing with basic antifoundationalist thrust of the hermeneutic universalists’ position, Shusterman simultaneously rejects their thesis that “to perceive, read, understand, or behave at all intelligently […] must always be to interpret” and seeks to refute it with many original arguments. He also insists that the notion of interpretation needs a contrasting category to guarantee its own meaningfulness. If everything is interpretation then the concept loses its point. Shusterman argues that immediate, non-interpretive understanding can serve that role of contrast. Hence, inspired by late Wittgenstein and Heidegger’s theory ofhermeneutic circle, Shusterman proposes to distinguish (while underlining the functional rather than ontological character of this distinction) between

“the immediacy of uninterpreted understandings of language (as when I immediately understand simple and pertinent utterances of a language I know well) and the mediacy of interpretations (as when I encounter an utterance or text that I do not understand in terms of word-meaning or contextual relevance and then have to figure out what is meant)”[23].

Among Shusterman’s achievements in the theory of interpretation there are also the accounts of literary criticism he created in his earlier, analytic period , as well as his pragmatist arguments against interpretational intentionalism and his genealogical critique of deconstructionist (Harold Bloom’s, Jonathan Culler’s), analytic (Joseph Margolis’) and neopragmatist (Richard Rorty’s, Stanley Fish’s, Walter Benn Michaels and Steven Knapp’s) literary theories which, as he claims, are all governed at their core by an ideology of professionalism.

[edit]Popular art

According to Shusterman, one of the most pressing sociocultural problems of today is the aesthetic legitimation of popular art. Although popular art may now seem to be socially justified, its artistic value is still questioned which is the constant cause of the following problems:

  • popular art is “deprived of artistic care and control” which could protect it against the negative influence of the market, and, as a result, it often becomes “brutally crude in sensibility”[24]
  • satisfactions provided by this kind of art cannot be full since they are diminished by a sense of humiliation which is induced in its audience by official art institutions’ explicit disapproval of popular art forms.
  • this situation in turn “intensifies painful divisions in society and even in ourselves”[25].

A sincere advocate of popular aesthetics, Shusterman is nevertheless careful to distinguish his stance from one-sided apologia and he would rather characterize it as ‘melorism’ which “recognizes popular art’s flaws and abuses but also its merits [while also holding] that popular art should be improved because it can and often does achieve real aesthetic merits and serve worthy social ends”[26]. Putting his meliorism into practice, Shusterman seeks to win aesthetic legitimation for popular art in two ways:

  • on a general theoretical level:
    • he promotes the definition of art as experience, assuming that it could “effect the artistic legitimation” of popular art (e.g., “rock music”) “which affords such frequent and intensely gratifying aesthetic experience to so many people from so many nations, cultures, and classes”[27];
    • provides counterguments to the most influential criticisms of popular art (e.g., Theodor W. Adorno’s and Allan Bloom’s[28]);
    • analyzes (both on conceptual-etymological as well as genealogical level) the phenomenon of entertainment to highlight the crucial positive role it plays in human existence[29];
  • Shusterman also engages in the aesthetic criticism of particular genres of popular arts and of its concrete works, arguing for artistic value of country music and rap[30].What is worth stressing, Shusterman was probably the first art philosopher ever to write about rap[31], and despite the fact that the accuracy of his treatment of this music genre is sometimes questioned[32], his groundbreaking role in this regard cannot be denied and it has been appreciated worldwide.


Somaesthetics’ is a term coined by Richard Shusterman to denote a new philosophical discipline he has invented as a remedy for the following problems:

  • According to Shusterman our culture’s growing preoccupation with the body has not yet found an appropriate response in the realm of philosophy which simply neglects the somatic or textualizes it or reduces it to gender or racial difference, and thus is unwilling or unable to counteract the negative aspects of the current body boom (such as the tendency that “contemporary aesthetic ideals of body remain enslaved by shallow and oppressive stereotypes that serve more to increase profits for the cosmetics industries than to enrich our experience of the varieties of bodily charms”[33]).
  • Despite the relative abundance of humanist disciplines devoted to the body they lack
    • a conceptual framework that could integrate their efforts (and also allow for their better cooperation with natural sciences and various somatic methods);
    • “a clear pragmatic orientation, something that the individual can directly translate into a discipline of improved somatic practice”[34].
  • Philosophical aesthetics has paid very little attention to the body as a result of “the willful neglect of the body inBaumgarten’s founding text of modern aesthetics, an omission reinforced by subsequent intellectualist and idealist theories (from Kant through Hegel and Schopenhauer and on to contemporary theories that emphasize disinterested contemplation)”[35].

The above mentioned conditions have determined the nature of somaesthetics as a grounded in philosophical aesthetics yet interdisciplinary project of theory and practice which can be defined as:

“the critical, meliorative study of the experience and the use of one’s body as a locus sensory-aesthetic appreciation (aisthesis) and creative self-fashioning […], devoted [also] to the knowledge, discourses and disciplines that structure such somatic care or can improve it.”[36].

To clarify the terminological issues one needs to mention that Shusterman has intentionally put the term ‘soma’ (instead of the more familiar ‘body’) in the name of his disciplinary proposal to emphasize one important feature of his conception of corporeality. For Shusterman, who is a true disciple of Dewey in this regard, bodily and mental (as well as cultural and biological) dimensions of human being are essentially inseparable and to signify this unity (this “sentient perceiving «body-mind»”) he prefers to use the term ‘soma’ which, unlike ‘body’, does not automatically connote passive flesh contrasted to dynamic soul or mind.

Although Shusterman’s project may at the first glance seem utterly innovatory and even iconoclastic, its various elements, as Shusterman himself admits, can be traced to many respected traditions: ancient Greek philosophy and the later Western philosophies (Michel de Montaigne, John Dewey, Michel Foucault), but also East-Asian wisdom such as Confucianism. Somaesthetics divides into three fundamental branches:

  • analytical somaesthetics which is a “descriptive and theoretical enterprise devoted to explaining the nature of our bodily perceptions and practices and their function in our knowledge and construction of the world. Besides the traditional topics in philosophy of mind, ontology, and epistemology that relate to the mind-body issue and the role of somatic factors in consciousness and action, analytic somaesthetics also includes the sort of genealogical, sociological, and cultural analyses advanced by Beauvoir, Foucault [and] Pierre Bourdieu”[37];
  • pragmatic somaesthetics which (in “contrast to analytic somaesthetics, whose logic is essentially descriptive”) “has a distinctly normative, often prescriptive, character because it involves proposing specific methods of somatic improvement or engaging in their comparison, explanation, and critique”[38];
  • practical somaesthetics which “involves actually engaging in programs of disciplined, reflective, corporeal practice aimed at somatic self-improvement”[39].

Shusterman himself works in all three somaesthetic subdisciplines:

  • within the analytic field he theorizes body’s status as the basic medium of human existence and the fundamental role it plays in the realm of cognition, ethics, politics and aesthetics[40];
  • in pragmatic somaesthetics
  • As a certified practitioner of Feldenkrais Method and a somatic therapist he gives workshops on somaesthetics that include practical exercises and demonstrations, but also has experience in treating different cases of somatic disabilities.

While undeniably a new phenomenon, somaesthetics, which by now forms the center of Shusterman’s philosophical inquiries, has already influenced many scholars working in fields as diverse as philosophy, art education, dance theory, health and fitness studies[45].

[edit]Books by Richard Shusterman (selection)

  • The Object of Literary Criticism (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1984).
  • T. S. Eliot and Philosophy of Criticism (London and New York: Duckworth and Columbia University Press, 1988).
  • Analytic Aesthetics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989) – editor.
  • The Interpretive Turn: Philosophy, Science, Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991) - edited with D. Hiley and J. Bohman.
  • Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living beauty, Rethinking Art (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992) – translated into 12 languages: Chinese, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Finnish, Spanish, Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian, French and Polish.
  • Practicing Philosophy: Pragmatism and the Philosophical Life (New York: Routledge,1997) – translated into German, French, Chinese and Polish.
  • Interpretation, Relativism, and the Metaphysics of Culture (New York: Humanity Books, 1999) – edited with Michael Krausz.
  • Bourdieu: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999) – editor.
  • La fin de’l experience esthetique (Pau: Presse Universitaire de Pau, 1999).
  • Performing Live (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000) - translated into German.
  • Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art, 2nd edition with a special introduction and a new chapter, (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000).
  • Surface and Depth: Dialectics of Criticism and Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002).
  • The Range of Pragmatism and the Limits of Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell,2004) – editor.
  • Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008) - translated into French.

[edit]Secondary literature

  • Abrams, J. J., “Pragmatism, Artificial Intelligence, and Posthuman Bioethics: Shusterman, Rorty, Foucault,” Human Studies, 27, 2004.
  • Abrams J. J., “Aesthetics and Ethics: Santayana, Nietzsche and Shusterman”, The Modern Schoolman, vol. LXXXI, no. 4, May, 2004.
  • Altieri Ch., “Practical Sense – Impractical Objects: Why Neo-Pragmatism Cannot Sustain an Aesthetics”, REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature, vol. 15, 1999.
  • Arnold P. J., “Somaesthetics, Education, and the Art of Dance”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 39, no. 1, Spring, 2005.
  • Barnes T. J,“American pragmatism: Towards a geographical introduction,” Geoforum, vol. 39 (2008) - available at the author's website, see:
  • Bourmeau S., “Le corps au coeur”, Les Inrockuptibles, no. 629, 18 Dec. 2007.
  • Ghosh R. K., “Art as Dramatization and the Indian Tradition”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 61, no. 3, Summer, 2003.
  • Grabes H., “The Revival of Pragmatist Aesthetics”, REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature, vol. 15, 1999.
  • Guerra, G., “Practicing Pragmatism: Richard Shusterman’s Unbound Philosophy”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 36, no. 4, 2002.
  • Haskins C., “Enlivened Bodies, Autheniticity, and Romanticism”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 36, no. 4, Winter, 2002.
  • Higgins, K., “Living and Feeling at Home: Shusterman’s Performing Live”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 36 no. 4, 2002.
  • Jay M., “Somaesthetics and Democracy: Dewey and Contemporary Body Art”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 36, no. 4, Winter, 2002.
  • Johnston J. S., “Reflections on Shusterman’s Dewey”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 38, no. 4, Winter, 2004.
  • Leddy, Th., “Moore and Shusterman on Organic Wholes”, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol.49, no.1, Winter, 1991.
  • Leddy Th., “Shusterman’s Pragmatist Aesthetics”, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, vol. 16, no.1, 2002.
  • Maher G. C., “Brechtian Hip-Hop. Didactics and Self-Production in Post-Gangsta Political Mixtapes”, Journal of Black Studies, vol. 36, no. 1, September, 2005.
  • Maleuvre D., “Art and Criticism: Must Understanding Be Interpretive?” , Substance, vol. 30, no. 3. (rev. of Pragmatist Aesthetics).
  • Mullis E. C., “Performative Somaesthetics: Principles and Scope”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 40, no. 4, Winter, 2006.
  • Nehamas A., “Richard Shusterman on Pleasure and Aesthetic Experience”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 56, no. 1, Winter, 1998.
  • Rorty R., “Response to Richard Shusterman”, in M.Festenstein and S.Thompson (eds.) Richard Rorty. Critical Dialogues(Cambridge: Polity Press 2001).
  • Säätelä S., “Between Intellectualism and «Somaesthetics»”, XIVth International Congress of Aesthetics, Proceedings Part II, ed. A. Erjavec, L. Kreft and M. Bergamo, 'Filozofski Vestnik, 2/1999.
  • Soulez A., “Practice, Theory, Pleasure, and the Problems of Form and Resistance: Shusterman’s Pragmatist Aesthetics”,The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, vol. 16, no.1, 2002.
  • Taylor P. C., “The Two-Dewey Thesis, Continued: Shusterman’s Pragmatist Aesthetics”, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, vol. 16, no.1, 2002.
  • Tupper, K.W. “Entheogens & education: Exploring the potential of psychoactives as educational tools”, Journal of Drug Education and Awareness, vol.1, no.2, 2003.
  • Welsch W., “Rettung durch Halbierung? Zu Richard Shsutermans Rehabilitierung ästetischer Erfahrung”, DzPhil, Berlin 47 (1999)1.
  • Zerbib D., “Richard Shusterman: les effets secondaires d'une philosophie douce”, LE MONDE DES LIVRES 29.11.07.
  • Zerbib D.,“Richard Shusterman: intelligence du corps”, LE MONDE DES LIVRES 29.11.07 (a review of Richard Shusterman's Conscience du corps: pour une soma-esthétique).

[edit]See also


  1. ^ See the preface to R. Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics. Living Beauty, Rethinking Art (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), p. xvii.
  2. ^ See, e.g., T. Rockmore, “On Classical and Neo-Analytic Forms of Pragmatism”, Metaphilosophy vol. 36, no. 3, April, 2005.
  3. ^ See, e.g., R. Rorty, “Truth without Correspondence to Reality”, in Philosophy and Social Hope (London: Penguin 1999), p. 24-27.
  4. ^ Cf. S. Haack, “Pragmatism, Old and New”, Contemporary Pragmatism, vol. 1, no. 1, June, 2004.
  5. ^ R. Shusterman, “Pragmatism and Culture: Margolis and Rorty”, in Surface and Depth. Dialectics of Criticism and Culture, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002).
  6. ^ See, e.g., R. Shusterman, “Cultural Analysis and the Limits of Philosophy: The Case of Bourdieu” in Surface and Depth.
  7. ^ R. Shusterman, “Somaesthetics and Care of the Self: The Case of Foucault”, Monist, 83, 2000; R. Shusterman “Entertainment: A Question for Aesthetics”, British Journal of Aesthetics, 43, 2003.
  8. ^ R. Shusterman, “The Somatic Turn” in Performing Live (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000).
  9. ^ R. Shusterman, “Pragmatism and East-Asian Thought”, Metaphilosophy, 35, 2004; R. Shusterman, “Pragmatist Aesthetics and East-Asian Philosophy”, Naked Punch (online edition), May, 2006;
  10. ^ See R. Shusterman, Performing Live, p. 96.
  11. ^ R. Shusterman, “Intellectualism and the Field of Aesthetics”, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 220, 2002).
  12. ^ R. Shusterman, “Pragmatism Between Aesthetic Experience and Aesthetic Education”, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 22, 2003.
  13. ^ See R. Shusterman, "Somatic Experience. Foundation or Reconstruction?", in Practicing Philosophy: Pragmatism and the Philosophical Life (New York: Routledge,1997).
  14. ^ See R. Shusterman, Surface and Depth, p. 179-181
  15. ^ R. Shusterman, “Pragmatism Between Aesthetic Experience and Aesthetic Education”, p. 405.
  16. ^ See R. Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics (2000), p. 38-44. Cf. R. Shusterman, “Art in a Box: Danto” (chapter 10 of Surface and Depth).
  17. ^ R. Shusterman, “Pragmatism and Criticism: A Response to three critics of Pragmatist Aesthetics”, Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 16, 2002, p. 29.
  18. ^ R.Shusterman, “Art as Dramatization,” in Surface and Depth.
  19. ^ E.g., Thomas Leddy and Paul C. Taylor defend Dewey’s original theory of art as experience against Shusterman’s criticism, while Ranjan Ghosh points out that the definition of art as dramatization is significantly consonant with the Indian concept of Rasa (see the secondary literature listed above). Cf J. J. Stuhr, "Practice, Semiotics, and the Limits of Philosophy", Journal of Speculative Philosophy, vol. 19, no. 1, 2005, p. 79-80.
  20. ^ R. Shusterman, Surface and Depth, p. 67.
  21. ^ R. Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics (2000), p. 90.
  22. ^ See R. Shusterman, “Logics of Interpretation: The Persistence of Pluralism”, in Surface and Depth, p. 49.
  23. ^ R. Shusterman, "Pragmatism and Criticism", p. 32.
  24. ^ R. Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics (2000), p. 168.
  25. ^ R.Shusterman, “Popular Art and Education”, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 13, 1995, p. 203.
  26. ^ R.Shusterman, “Popular Art and Education”, p.204.
  27. ^ R. Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics (2000), p. 58.
  28. ^ See chapter 7 of Pragmatist Aesthetics (2000).
  29. ^ R. Shusterman, "Entertainment: A Question for Aesthetics", British Journal of Aesthetics, 43, 2003.
  30. ^ R. Shusterman, “Affect and Authenticity In Country Musicals” in Performing Live (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000); “The Fine Art of Rap” in Pragmatist Aesthetics (2000); “Art in Action, Art Infraction. Goodman, Rap, Pragmatism (New Reality Mix)” inPracticing Philosophy: Pragmatism and the Philosophical Life; "Pragmatism, Art, and Violence: The Case of Rap”, in T. Yamamoto (ed.), Philosophical Designs for a Socio-Cultural Transformation (Tokyo and Boulder: E.H.E.S.C. and Rowman & Littlefield, 1998).
  31. ^ His „Fine Art of Rap” was first published in 1991: New Literary History, 22, 1991, p. 613-632.
  32. ^ See T. Brennan, “Off the Gangsta Tip: A Rap Appreciation, or Forgetting about Los Angeles”, Critical Inquiry, 20, 1994; G. C. Maher, “Brechtian Hip-Hop. Didactics and Self-Production in Post-Gangsta Political Mixtapes”, Journal of Black Studies, vol. 36, no. 1, September, 2005.
  33. ^ R. Shusterman, “Somaesthetics and the Revival of Aesthetics”, Filozofski Vestnik, vol. XXVIII, no. 2, 2007.
  34. ^ R. Shusterman, “Somaesthetics and the Body/Media Issue” in Performing Live, p. 141.
  35. ^ R. Shusterman, “Somaesthetics and the Revival of Aesthetics”
  36. ^ R.Shusterman, “Somaesthetics and Care of the Self: The Case of Foucault”, Monist, 83, 2000, p. 532-533.
  37. ^ R. Shusterman, “Somaesthetics and The Second Sex: A Pragmatist Reading of a Feminist Classic”, Hypatia 18, 2003, p. 112.
  38. ^ Ibidem, p. 112.
  39. ^ Ibidem, p. 114.
  40. ^ R. Shusterman, “Somaesthetics and the Body/Media Issue”
  41. ^ R. Shusterman, “The Somatic Turn: Care of the Body in Contemporary Culture”, chapter 8 of Performing Live.
  42. ^ See e.g., R. Shusterman, “Somaesthetics and Burke’s Sublime”, British Journal of Aesthetics, 45, 2005;“William James, Somatic Introspection, and Care of the Self”, Philosophical Forum, 36, 2005; "The Silent, Limping Body of Philosophy”, in T. Carman and M. Hansen (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Merleau-Ponty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
  43. ^ “Asian Ars Erotica and the Question of Sexual Aesthetics”,Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 65, no. 1, 2007.
  44. ^ R.Shusterman,“Somaesthetics and Education: Exploring the Terrain”, in Liora Bressler (ed.), Knowing Bodies, Moving Minds: Towards Embodied Teaching and Learning (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2004); “Thinking Through the Body: Educating for the Humanities”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 40, no. 1, 2006.
  45. ^ Cf. the secondary literature listed above

[edit]External links