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Making Sense

Beauty, Creativity, and Healing

Edited By Bandy Lee, Nancy Olson and Thomas Duffy

Regardless of field, from the art world to healthcare delivery, there is a growing need for practically useful theory and theoretically informed practice. The time is ripe for a collaborative, creative conversation among thinkers and doers who are concerned about the larger world and our role in it. Making Sense: Beauty, Creativity, and Healing is a collection of essays and creative expressions written and produced in relation to a colloquium that tried to address these matters at the Whitney Humanities Center of Yale University. Beginning with a powerful essay on the individually and globally therapeutic qualities of art and beauty by Elaine Scarry of Harvard University, this volume brings together a diversity of theoretically minded scholars, scientists, artists, and healers. In the form of critical and reflective essays, alongside images, poetry, and fiction, this book allows the reader to experience the bursts of ideas and sensory triggers that respond to and extend the artistic installations and performances of the colloquium – and welcomes the reader into the conversation.
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Beauty and the Pact of Aliveness


by Elaine Scarry

Some discuss beauty in its relation to the healing of an individual; I will be describing beauty and its relation to the healing of large numbers of people. Of course they’re immediately related subjects, whether it is the question of an individual or of public health.

Now I want to speak about the way in which beauty presses us to a greater concern for justice. Both beauty and justice have in English a shared synonym, which is the word “fairness”. We speak in the realm of beauty, of fair faces and fair skies and fair vistas, but we also speak in the realm of justice of fair arrangements and fair playing fields. It may be surprising to be reminded that the word fair as in fair play and fair practice, that is the words for justice, in fact come etymologically from the esthetic word fairness meaning loveliness of countenance or perfection of fit.

Both beauty and justice also have a shared opposite and that is the word “injury”. In the case of justice, this is literally the case. The second syllable of the word injury is the same syllable as that in the word justice, and injustice means injury—and I believe that the most accurate opposite for the word beauty is the word injury. In my book, On Beauty and Being Just, I was sometimes faulted for never having used the word “ugliness”. Ugliness is a word that...

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