Knight, A. (2013). Reclaiming experience: the aesthetic and multimodal composition. Computers and Composition30(2), 146-155.

“So extensive and subtly pervasive are the ideas that set Art upon a remote pedestal, that many a person would be repelled rather than pleased if told that he enjoyed his causal recreations, in part at least, because of their esthetic quality.”–John Dewey, Art As Experience

new york lightsRecent scholarship points to the rhetorical role of the aesthetic in multimodal composition and new media contexts. In this article, published in Computers and Composition: An International Journal, I examine the aesthetic as a rhetorical concept in writing studies and imagine the ways in which this concept can be useful to teachers of multimodal composition. My treatment of the concept begins with a return to the ancient Greek aisthetikos (relating to perception by the senses) in order to discuss the aesthetic as a meaningful mode of experience. I then review European conceptions of the aesthetic and finally draw from John Dewey and Bruno Latour to help shape this concept into a pragmatic and useful approach that can compliment multimodal teaching and learning. The empirical approach I construct adds to an understanding of aesthetic experience with media in order to render more transparent the ways in which an audience creates knowledgeor takes and makes meaningvia the senses. Significantly, this approach to meaning making supports learning in digital environments where students are increasingly asked to both produce and consume media convergent texts that combine multiple modalities including sound, image, and user interaction. 

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