Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes from and Why

Ellen Dissanayake, Author
Ellen Dissanayake, Author Free Press $24.95 (297p) ISBN 978-0-02-907885-3
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-295-97479-8
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Making art is a biologically innate need as fundamental as the need for food, warmth or shelter, asserts Dissanayake, who teaches at Manhattan's New School for Social Research. In a provocative manifesto that extends the thesis of her previous book What Is Art For? she argues that art was central to human evolutionary adaptation and that the aesthetic faculty is a basic psychological component of every human being. In her view, art is intimately linked to the origins of religious practices and to ceremonies of birth, death, transition and transcendence. Drawing on her years in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea, she gives examples of painting, song, dance and drama as behaviors that enable participants to grasp and reinforce what is important to their cognitive world. Her illustrated treatise sets forth a plausible Darwinian perspective on art as a primal, indispensable activity. (May)
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