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Credit: Alex Schröder & Royal Conservatoire

LUCAS Reading Group #2 'The Role of Experience in Arts of Criticism, Rhetoric, and Aesthetics'

Fr 16 Dec 2022 13:00 – 15:00, Meeting Reading Group - Online & Leiden, please contact organizer

Please join the LUCAS research group The Role of Experience in Arts of Criticism, Rhetoric, and Aesthetics, dedicated to the examination of affective, embodied-enactive, and new materialist approaches to the arts, for its monthly reading group. It's open to anyone interested in experiential interactions between art, its makers, and their audiences.

Meetings are scheduled alternately on Thursdays and Fridays. Our second on-campus meeting (Leiden) will take place on Friday, 16 December, from 13.00 – 15.00 hrs (venue to be announced). After our first session, which was devoted to Shaun Gallagher’s enactivist criticism, we will this time discuss two classics on affect theory by Brian Massumi and Simon O’Sullivan. Those wishing to participate online are also welcome.

If you are interested, please contact Madeleine Kasten for more information: m.j.a.kasten@hum.leidenuniv.nl


Background of the Group

The “Experience” research group will examine affective, embodied-enactive, and new materialist perspectives to explore the role of experience in the arts of criticism, rhetoric and aesthetics that we study across LUCAS, and explore ways for doing so – analytically, empirically, experimentally.

While affect, experience, and animation have been undervalued in modern studies professing critical distance, they transcend reification, and poststructuralist and cognitive-linguistic function. New materialism indicates that the cognitive-experiential is co-constituted by the agency of the material; recent affective and embodied-enactive perspectives show experience to be of moment in any cognitive acts, including those of criticism-rhetoric-aesthetics (and our own research).

Experience is, therefore, a vital dimension that still needs bolstering and cultivating between our diverse expertise, from aesthetic experience to the Sublime, rhetoric, verbal allegory, material agency, classical-through-to-contemporary (literary) criticism, and philological thinking.

Our group enables scholars to learn more about materialism, affect theory, enactivism/embodied cognition, new materialism, and their links to action, attention, and perception. Engaging these approaches can be daunting, so that affective-enactive-agential understandings remain unacknowledged in one’s research, while they are momentous and ready at hand. Indeed, much non-contemporary criticism-rhetoric-aesthetics still needs reading with an experientialist eye. If we do, these arts of criticism-rhetoric-aesthetics become a body of experiential understandings to learn from, and share in interdisciplinary-interfaculty collaborations.

Current experience-related LUCAS research interests:

  • The Sublime (De Jonge, Bussels) 
  • Ancient Literary Criticism (De Jonge, Nijk) 
  • Agency of objects, buildings and materials 
  • Ancient and Early Modern theories of Vividness and Enargeia 
  • Affective operations of allegory as a narrative strategy in children’s literature (Kasten)
  • The reenactment of a dead author’s voice via literary reception (Pieper)
  • (Critical use of) Empirical methods (for instance eye-tracking) to study affective responses to art (Crucq) 
  • Vivacity and experience in Septentrional philology; possibilities for an enactivist criticism; (my) artistic practice co-constitutive of (my) research (Romburgh)
  • Experientiality and 4E cognition in narrative comprehension of Latin literature (linguistic and narratological operationalizations of experientiality in close reading) (Adema)
  • Patience as experience: testing this Social Sciences paradigm for antiquity, and investigating to what extent empirical domains related to experience were used to conceptualize patience (Castelli)
  • The notion of 'resonance', developed by the German sociologist Hartmut Rosa, that emphasizes the role of experience in the realms of, among other things, politics and aesthetics; experiences of resonance within the context of popular music; the role of bodily suffering and the experience of compassion in the moral theories of Schopenhauer and Adorno (Peters)

Our reading group gatherings are open to all interested, and will culminate in a symposium/conference, publication, and funding applications. We will expressly seek collaborations with colleagues focusing on arts of criticism-rhetoric-aesthetics at ACPA, LUCL, and LIAS, and colleagues expert in archaeology, anthropology, and 4E-cognition, for instance, who may benefit from our experience in the Sublime, enargeia, allegory’s hands and feet, bringing ancient words to life, and the colours of rhetoric generating sensorimotor resonance. Thus, for scholar and student alike, our group will contribute to a better attentiveness to, and recognition of the irreducibility of experience, also in data-driven contexts in science and society.

With our core group at LUCAS, we will create a hub for interdisciplinary-interfaculty collaboration at Leiden, nationally, and internationally. Thus, we will also create a haven for learning about experience and arts of criticism-rhetoric-aesthetics, and for learning from one another’s diverse expertise, as scholar, student, alumnus, artist, professional, or community member. In our increasingly data-driven society, it is important for the University, which may to the general public seem to be merely interested in models, facts and functions, to keep asserting that ultimately, data and analyses are not separate from experience and that, in fact, it is their entanglement that makes academic knowledge, and makes academic knowledge always astir: our knowledge is an ongoing live event.

Experience Theory

(by Sophie van Romburgh)

Varela, Thompson & Rosch,
Stockwell, Gallagher, Caracciolo,
Massumi, Cave, Bolens, Santini, De Cuypere,
Lakoff & Johnson, Rietveld & Kiverstein
Ramachandran, Sheets-Johnstone, Malafouris, O’Sullivan,
Starr, Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Thompson & Do:

Informing all, is the study of lived experience,
It was paired
with Buddhist philosophy
to include lived experience in cognitive science
and develop an enactive approach:
claiming that
world and self – mind and world – have no ground,
but “co-arise in mutual dependence,”
emerging in ongoing, dynamic coupling.

Cognition is embodied
with all the body can be, have and suffer.

Cognition is enactive,
“responding to the world
in dynamic perception–action loops,”
for action,
and, for interaction with others.

Cognition is embedded
in a “rich landscape of affordances”
that the form of life (that is us)
has the abilities to use;
maintaining its culture,
open to creativity,
by training its skills of attention.

Cognition is extended
extending to books, and other cognitive systems
such as science, and research institutes.

To these 4E’s of cognition, new materialism adds
understandings of material engagement:
that “matter shapes intentionality”;
“experience is co-constituted by the agency of material.”

And then, there’s affect theory’s autonomous affect,
the intensity of its impact-moment non-linear,
causing static, shock, a hole in time
that complicates 4E-cognition’s ongoing dynamics;
and raises a question, also, where the Sublime may be
in these experiential constellations.

Kinesthesis, pattern, rhythms, gestures,
alertness, acuity and calibration,
situatedness, metaplasticity,
livingness and homeostasis,
and always:
somatosensory sensorimotor
resonance in response.

These affective, enactive, agential understandings
must be, and should be consequential
for our scholarship,
granting that people in different cultures
experience differently
expressing experience in the arts.

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