In what ways does Leslie Marmon Silko represent John Dewey's theory of "art as experience" in her work Ceremony?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Trying to link Dewey's analysis of art and experience to any work will take much more than the space allotted here.  This should be stated on the outset.  If we are looking for broad strokes, I think that one of the first locations to be asserted would be the notion of how art represents nature as experienced by the artist.  Silko's work picks up on Native American identity at a point in American consciousness where erasure is a distinct possibility.  The events and themes brought out in Silko's work helps to bring the idea that Native American identity in American society has to be reasserted and revisited.  In this way, the construction of art is an experience that has to resonate in the mind of the reader.  Silko's work and how it reflects Native American society, in particular how different this is from what American society has become, is something that the reader has to absorb and apply in a reciprocal manner to their own setting.  For Dewey, this triadic relationship constitutes the basis of how art is an experience in that the artist, the art, and the audience all share in the communication experience.

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