Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Inspired by philosopher Richard Rorty’s assertion that we need poetic imagination to move beyond modernity, this pragmatist inquiry seeks to understand the poetic, not as it is rationally defined, but rather as a historically situated discursive practice. In western cultures modernist discursive practices are characterized by rationalist reasoning. Traced to Aristotelian re- interpretations of mimesis (this is that), which structure modernist forms of representation, mimesis operates on a principle of equivalency between the specific and the universal, based on Euclidean, geometric reasoning. Likewise, mimesis underlies poetic representation as an imaginative expression of an objective reality, ideally, a form that moves one to think in universal terms. Obscured from a modernist view of the poetic is a prior pre-Socratic mimesis, in which are embedded the concepts of poiesis (to create, to make, to do) and paideia (cultural education). Mimesis here is linked to poetic “re-presentations” as performances of epic poems. Poiesis, etymological root of the word poetic, is related to making meaning through interactions with others, with the environment/ cosmos, and reflexively to develop a sense of being-in-relation. Knowledge, in this schema, is fluid, evolving, situated, communal, and is based on patterns. As a form of reason, pragmatist logic addresses the failure of modern rationalism to theorize the implications of evolution, creativity and entropy; it also questions logical relationships that exist between representation and mathematics, and the metaphysical assumptions underlying them. Pragmatist logic, based on triadic reasoning, draws on poiesis as an organizing principle of reason and its representation, and is a bridge to complexity theory. Findings of this inquiry suggest (1) re-reading progressive educationist John Dewey in light of poiesis, rather than modernist or Aristotelian views of the poetic; and (2) consideration of a poiesis of curriculum, one that emerges as a complex living process, out of guided inquiry, and from the reflections of students on their interactions with their environment, with others, and with the greater world outside the classroom.



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Committee Chair

William F. Pinar

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