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By Lynne Conner (auth.)

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It is this question of how we learn to “appreciate” an arts event that interests me (and comprises an underlying theme of Part II of this volume). Engagement Perhaps the best way to explain engagement with an arts event is to describe when it doesn’t happen, a task I leave to playwright Bertolt Brecht and his description of the German bourgeois theater: “Let us go into one of these houses and observe the effect which it has on the spectators. Looking about us, we see somewhat motionless figures in a peculiar condition .

Rather, it is to suspend your opinions and to look at the opinions—to listen to everybody’s opinions, to suspend them, and to see what all of that means. If we can see what all of our opinions mean, then we are sharing a common content, even if we don’t agree entirely. It may turn out that the opinions are not really very important— they are all assumptions. And if we can see them all, we may then move more creatively in a different direction. 37 This definition of truth—one that arrives from listening and observing—is extremely appealing in an arts context, since it serves the idea and ideal of multivalence.

28 For Lynes, the acquisition of taste was not inherently based on class, as most postwar arts workers and their audiences had been socialized to believe, but instead was made up of three common aspects of American life: “One is education, which includes not only formal but informal education and environment. Another is sensibility, which Webster’s defines as ‘the ability to perceive or receive sensation’. ”29 Lynes’ postwar version of cultural egalitarianism posited that Americans of all classes had the right to express their taste (opinions), as long as they agreed to properly prepare themselves for the task.

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