Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ellen Dissanayake

"Ellen Dissanayake is an independent scholar and lecturer who brings together theories about aesthetics, human development, psychology, and evolutionary biology in order to understand why humans have an "aesthetic imagination." Arguing that there are fundamental similarities between play, ritual, fantasy, and the more highly valued activity of "art-making," Dissanayake maintains that all of these behaviors of "making special" have an essential evolutionary value. In so doing, she argues that the humanities are not separate from, but are rather a part of, the human sciences. 
Cover of Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why by Ellen Dissanayake...
Her three books, What Is Art For (1988), Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why (1995), and Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began (2000), explore the consequences of the argument she makes in "The Core of Art," that the need to "make special" is part of humanity's genetic profile. ...Dissanayake asks her readers to rethink the place of art in their lives and to consider the possibility that the ongoing survival of the species may depend on the ability of its members to "make special."

-excerpted from The New Humanities Reader (

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