Friday, November 11, 2005

Ed psych kitsch

Here is a novel perspective on a popular ed psych text. It's Anita Woolfolk's text I used in grad school.

So why don’t I like it? Why do I belittle it as kitsch? Kitsch, after all, usually refers to something of tawdry design or appearance created to appeal to nondiscriminating tastes—for example, those portraits of Elvis or bullfighters painted in neon colours on black velvet. But the Woolfolk text can hardly be accused of tawdry design or appearance. Indeed, measured against its competitors, it is presumably the crème de la crème.

Miseducative kitsch. In name-calling the Woolfolk text “kitsch,” I have in mind a less obvious, but perhaps more definitive, meaning of the term suggested by writer and critic Robert Fulford. In a recent CBC radio interview, Fulford dismissed so-called “victim-based art” as kitsch, but not necessarily because of any cheap or garish aesthetic qualities. Rather, Fulford argued, this “art” is kitsch because it seeks, by design, to compel the viewer to experience certain predetermined responses to it—in this case, sorrow, sympathy, compassion, and, perhaps, guilt. Fulford went on to liken victim-based art to the kitschy Saturday Evening Post cover art of Norman Rockwell, the artist whose slice-of-Americanlife paintings are typically unambiguously and irresistibly “cute” and, hence, admit of no other viewer response. For Fulford, what makes both victim-based and Norman Rockwell’s “art” quintessentially kitsch is that both contrive to over-determine and, consequently, to limit the viewer’s range of intellectual and emotional response. Neither allows for any interpretive or responsive ambiguity; both attempt to coerce thought and feeling.


Anonymous said...

I read your blog as a concerned parent. I'm also a school librarian. Look at this article from Edutopia:

Anonymous said...

Oops--meant to comment on a later entry.