The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method:
THE AESTHETIC REALISM OF ELI SIEGEL AS
||This pendant illustrates the Aesthetic Realism principle that "All
beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is
what we are going after in ourselves."
The pendant has energetic color, and it is orderly. The figure is angry. His teeth are bared in a growl and he has the hot color red on him. Yet his hands are tied behind him with blue cord—blue is a cold color. As his hands are behind, his feet are walking ahead. Every person, of whatever culture, wants to be energetic yet orderly, passionate yet controlled
My concluding example in the field of linguistics also points to human universals. I chose phonetics because it is a subject which I found quite boring when I learned it. And it took about two years before I began to have lively classes in teaching it. Aesthetic Realism says that every sound has the structure of the world in it, whatever culture it comes from. This, when understood, makes the sound profoundly interesting and entertaining. All the philosophic reasons why this is so cannot be gone into here, but the fundamental reason is in Eli Siegel's sentence which has the basis of Aesthetic Realism in it: "The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites." If sounds have an aesthetic basis, why can't they excite a class the way music does? Well, they can. Take the two classes of consonants—stops and continuants. They are opposites corresponding to rest and motion. A prominent stop is "p" and a prominent continuant is "m." They are opposites.
If you say "puh" to a person telling you about some witty remark, that's disapproval. If you say "mmmm," that's approval, the opposite. The "p" is prominent in many contempt words, including poo, puke, pish. In the Trobriand Islands of the South Pacific, "popu" is insulting. While "mmm" approves, the second nasal continuant disapproves or negates: "nnnn" as in no, never. Again, living opposite emotions are in the sound itself.
After the bilabials and the "n," the consonants go deeper in the mouth one by one—t, d, k, g—until they go deepest of all, the "h": "hhh." The "h" sound, so deep, coming from the center of the body, is the sound that begins the word "heart" and the word "hope."
I believe that the unconscious has made choices so that, as Alexander Pope said of poetry, "the sound must seem an echo to the sense." These are poetic choices, and every student can perceive them and be excited by them. The more I learn about poetry and care for poetic music, the better I teach phonetics. It surprises students and myself to see how sounds in many languages correspond to feelings and word—pictures in oneself.
Perhaps a good conclusion would be lines of English poetry showing what sound can do. First is a picture of the world as caressing, with m's and b's that approve, in Tennyson's "Come Down, 0 Maid," from The Princess:
| ... sweet is every sound
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.
... neither joy …
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.
The greatness of Eli Siegel as educator is apparent in the diversity of subjects Aesthetic Realism is true about, for the structure of the world is in all subject matter.
Arnold, M. "Dover Beach." In Van Doren and Lapolla (eds.) The World's Best Poems. New York: World, 1929.
Benedict, R. Patterns of Culture. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1934.
Pope, A. "Essay on Criticism." In Ward (ed.) The English Poets, Vol. 111. New York: Macmillan, 1903.
Siegel, E. Aesthetic Realism and Anthropology. Lecture, Aesthetic Realism Ethical Study Conference, Society for Aesthetic Realism, New York, 1969.
—. Four Statements of Aesthetic Realism. New York: Terrain Gallery, 1960.
—. "The Equality of Man." In The Modern Quarterly: Beginnings of Aesthetic Realism, 1922-1923. New York: Definition Press, 1969 (reprinted from 1:3 The Modern Quarterly, 1923).
Tennyson, A. "Come Down, 0 Maid." From "The Princess: A Medley." In
The Poetic and Dramatic Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Boston: HoughtonMifflin,
Writers opposing racism include Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws and anthropologist Ashley Montague. But the writing that explains, opposes, and CHANGES racism has been done in our time only. It is by those persons who understand the cause of this ugly disposition in humanity—the drive to have contempt—and how it can be stopped. And their knowledge is in Aesthetic Realism alone.
You must see writing by Ellen Reiss in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known—which you can read online, including her "Difference and Sameness: The Human Question" and "Racism Can End," as well as "Art versus Racism," which has these sentences:
"We are serializing the great lecture Hail, Relation; or, A Study in Poetry, which Eli Siegel gave in 1972. And I will comment on a matter that has to do centrally with relation, and is a horrible mis-seeing of relation. That matter is racism. Since June 17, when 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat among the men and women there, then opened fire, murdering nine people—racism has been talked of in the media with somewhat more urgency. The need to end it has always been vitally, utterly urgent." > Read more >
Further articles that I esteem greatly are also online. Visit the page of sources titled " How Aesthetic Realism Opposes Racism." These practical and deeply insightful articles include "On Racism & How to End It" by Nancy Huntting; Allan Michael's "It Is In Contempt That the Root of Racism Lies"; Alice Bernstein's "Poems by Eli Siegel about Martin Luther King and America" and the book she edited: Aesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism. Other articles include, "The Genome & Equality"; "Words, Truth, & the Confederate Flag"; "Fascism, Understood At Last!"; "Aesthetic Realism: The Solution to Racism"; "Contempt, the Cause of Racism"; "Queen's Visit to Amritsar" by Christopher Balchin.
For educators to teach character education, which always means anti-prejudice education if it's honest, see are the articles by New York teachers who show how the standard curriculum, K-12, can—at last—be used to encourage kindness, justice. They include: "Prejudice Changes to Respect" and "Students Learn, Prejudice Is Defeated!"
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