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Progressivism's Aesthetic Education: The Bildungsroman and the American School, 1890-1920 Paperback – 26 Jul 2019

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Product details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 2018 edition (26 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3030079236
  • ISBN-13: 978-3030079239
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Boxed-product Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item

Product description


“Jesse Raber’s fine book at once exposes the veiled coercion of the Bildung ideal at the core of progressive education, and redeems its promise. Wrestling productively with the tension between the claims to authority of professional educators and the hope for an aesthetic education for a more fully democratic society, he does not resolve it but, with the help of John Dewey, leaves it a much more creative tension than it now stands.” (Robert Westbrook, University of Rochester, author of John Dewey and American Democracy)

“How have educational institutions in the United States resolved the problem of affirming the cultural value of a civic and humanistic education in a democratic society grounded in the notion of individual autonomy?  Raber’s pathbreaking study examines how notions of an aesthetic education―education thought in relation to the teaching and experience of literature and the arts―figure in the writings of educators, novelists, and cultural theorists during the formative years of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  This book makes necessary reading for anyone interested in how pedagogical thought negotiated the tension-riddled notion of cultural formation or "Bildung" as the modern American educational system was developing during the Progressive Era.” (Marc Redfield, Brown University, author of Phantom Formations: Aesthetic Ideology and the Bildungsroman)

“Jesse Raber’s fascinating study offers a fresh way of thinking about the intersections between literary production and educational theory in the Progressive Era. By reading the work of prominent American writers (Abraham Cahan, Willa Cather, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman) alongside the education movements that most closely mirrored their particular intellectual philosophies, Progressivism’s Aesthetic Education shows how writers and educators jointly contributed to the reimagination of aesthetic education as means to social action.” (William Gleason, Princeton University, author of The Leisure Ethic: Work and Play in American Literature, 1840-1940)

“Working across aesthetic philosophy, cultural history, and a set of early twentieth-century American novels, Jesse Raber reasserts the centrality of education to the making of democratic citizens.  Progressivism’s Aesthetic Education illustrates how debates during the Progressive Era about cultural authority and public education continue to resonate today.” (Russ Castronovo, University of Wisconsin Madison, author of Beautiful Democracy:  Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era)

“Public education in the United States has long sought to establish cultural authority as a way to achieve social cohesion while also cultivating individuals with the ability to express themselves freely. In this innovative and sophisticated book, which blends educational history, literary criticism, and aesthetic theory, Jesse Raber shows that balancing these two pedagogical ideals has been nearly impossible. And yet, Raber also convincingly argues that such an ideal is not hopeless: the key to reconciliation is found in aesthetic education of the type John Dewey theorized.” (Andrew Hartman, Illinois State University, author of A War for the Soul of America)

“What’s the use of aesthetic education? In this fascinating book, Jesse Raber blends literary history and philosophical analysis to show how Americans in the Progressive Era answered this question, and how their answers illuminate contemporary problems about cultural authority and democratic schooling. Clearly written and cleverly organized, Progressivism’s Aesthetic Education presents a lively account of what aesthetic education has meant in both theory and practice, and imagines how we might reclaim its promise anew.” (Nicholas Gaskill, Rutgers, co-editor of The Lure of Whitehead)

From the Back Cover

During the Progressive Era in the United States, as teaching became professionalized and compulsory attendance laws were passed, the public school emerged as a cultural authority. What did accepting this authority mean for Americans’ conception of self-government and their freedom of thought? And what did it mean for the role of artists and intellectuals within democratic society? Jesse Raber argues that the bildungsroman negotiated this tension between democratic autonomy and cultural authority, reprising an old role for the genre in a new social and intellectual context. Considering novels by Abraham Cahan, Willa Cather, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman alongside the educational thought of John Dewey, the Montessorians, the American Herbartians, and the social efficiency educators, Raber traces the development of an aesthetics of social action. Richly sourced and vividly narrated, this book is a creative intervention in the fields of literary criticism, pragmatic philosophy, aesthetic theory, and the history of education.

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