The Haptic Arts: The Aesthetics of Worldliness.

Date/Day: 26 January 2023, Friday

Time: 2.30pm to 4.30pm

In-Person Attendance


Venue: SHHK Auditorium

Register: here

Virtual Attendance


YouTube Livestream: here


This presentation works to supplement our received notions of the arts – particularly Kantian notions of the “disinterested” nature of aesthetic experience – by focusing on the ways aesthetic experience is involved with our situation in the world, what it describes as “worldliness.”  Received notions of aesthetic experience focus on experiences of sight and sound in “traditional” art-forms of music, narrative, the plastic arts.  This presentation focuses on art-forms based upon – or related to – touch, and to what neuroscience calls “proprioception,” the “sense,” possessed by animate creatures, of their place in the world. This analysis is based upon the assumption that the arts in general – that aesthetic experience in general – builds upon adaptive (and thereby interested) social functions organized around hearing, seeing, touching in order to expand what has been described as disinterested experiential sense-perception awareness.  The opposition between interested and disinterested art parallels the opposition between “performative” and “constative” language in speech-act theory.  The presentation focuses on ballet, music, ekphrastic poetry, and, in passing, it touches upon caricature and gastronomy as well.  Furthermore, it discusses these art-forms in the context of the analysis of sign-functions in the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce in order to uncover the haptic element – “worldly” elements, including motives for action – in aesthetics.

About the Speaker:

Ronald Schleifer has taught at the University of Oklahoma since 1975.  He was appointed Adjunct Professor in the College of Medicine in 2000 and George Lynn Cross Distinguished Research Professor of English in 2001.  His research and teaching focus on 20th century literature and culture (“modernism”), linguistics and semiotics (the formal study of meaning), and the health humanities (how engagement with literature improves healthcare).  Bringing together literature, language, and clinical medicine – focusing on “narrative knowledge” in clinical interactions – his work, in collaboration with Dr. Jerry Vannatta former Dean of the OU College of Medicine, has helped transform healthcare education at OU.  His books in the health humanities include:

  • Literary Studies and Well-Being: Structures of Experience in the Worldly Work of Literature and Healthcare, Bloomsbury 2023, an open access book;
  • Literature and Medicine: A Practical and Pedagogical Guide written with Dr. Jerry Vannatta, Palgrave Macmillan 2019;
  • Pain and Suffering, Routledge 2014, Chinese translation 2017;
  • The Chief Concern of Medicine: The Integration of the Medical Humanities and Narrative Knowledge into Medical Practices written with Dr. Jerry Vannatta, 2013;
  • Intangible Materialism: The Body, Scientific Knowledge, and the Power of Language, University of Minnesota Press, 2009;
  • Medicine and Humanistic Understanding: The Significance of Narrative in Medical Practices, written with Sheila Crow and Jerry Vannatta, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005: a DVD-ROM publication.

He has also published

  • “Practical Reasoning: How the Experience of the Humanities can Help Train Doctors,” chapbook series, The Pragmatics of Art, number 2, Jen Webb, series editor; published by The Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, Canberra University, 2017; and recently
  • “Burnout, Resiliency, and the Duty to Do No Harm: The Role of Moral Injury in our Professional Epidemic” (co-authors Edgar LeClaire MD MS, Aneesh Pakala MD, Dee Wu PhD, Gideon Hallum, and Sara Vesely, PhD), The Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association 116, no. 6 (Nov-Dec 2023): 220-25.

He is also author of a series of books on “the culture of modernism” published by Cambridge University Press: Modernism and Time: The Logic of Abundance in Literature, Science, and Culture, 1880-1930 (2000), Modernism and Popular Music (2011), and A Political Economy of Modernism: Literature, Post-Classical Economics, and the Lower Middle-Class (2018).

He is Series Co-Editor, Humanities and Healthcare: Practical and Pedagogical Guides, published by Palgrave-Macmillan, 2022-.