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Reconsidering the Democratic Potential of John Dewey's Theory of Art while Reading Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station

Schoof, Kim

Adam, the main character in Ben Lerner’s novel Leaving the Atocha Station, spends a few months on a fellowship in Spain to write poetry about the Spanish Civil War. Reflecting upon the difficulties he experiences with this project, he thinks about what it means to have “a profound experience of art” (Lerner 9). In this paper, I argue that Adam’s considerations pose a specific problem to the democratic potential of John Dewey’s influential art theory as formulated in Art as Experience (1934), and that it is Jacques Derrida’s conception of literature in relation to democracy that may eliminate this problem.

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