learn about opposites in reality, literature and themselves
Roosevelt Junior High School, West Orange, is one of the first schools
in New Jersey to introduce a new educational approach, that of Aesthetic
Realism, as it is taught by the 20th-century poet and critic, Eli Siegel.
Barbara Allen and Patricia Martone, who teach English to the ninth grade,
have found their new approach makes clear that crucial relation between
literature and a person's life outside the classroom.
Aesthetic Realism states, "The world. art and self explain each other:
each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites."
Miss Allen, who is also one of the 18 Aesthetic Realism consultants,
teaches in seminars and consultations at the Terrain Gallery, New York
In their classes, Miss Allen and Miss Martone have asked their students
questions like these:
"How does Romeo see the world as his parents fight with the Capulet
"What does the power of language come from?"
"Does the structure of poetry say that the world as it is can be liked?"
Their two colleagues lectured at Roosevelt Junior High School this past
year: Margot Carpenter, consultant and poet, talked on the Aesthetic Realism
approach to poetry, including such poems as Vachel Lindsay's "Santa Fe
Trail" and Christina Rossetti's "Who Shall Deliver Me?"
Said Miss Carpenter: "Aesthetic Realism sees poetry as the oneness of
the permanent opposites in reality as seen by an individual and given musical
form. It is the first flawless criterion for differentiating true poetry
from writing which is not true poetry. I see knowing poetry as a beautiful
necessity in every person's life, whether he knows it or not."
Actress and teacher, Anne Fielding, spoke on the Aesthetic Realism way
of seeing acting and the drama, including Eli Siegel's important lecture
on Romeo and Juliet.
Miss Fielding said, "The most necessary thing for people to hear is
what I learned from Eli Siegel: Drama doesn't fight reality, it shows what
reality is, by showing it as a oneness of opposites. Drama should be used
to know the world and people better, not to escape or be superior. Drama
and our families are more friendly than we know.
All this has encouraged students to see that literature has to do with
their very selves. Aesthetic Realism, as an educational method, fights
the tendency towards contempt, which can be defined, "There is a disposition
in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside
"The value of studying contempt in the classroom," says Miss Allen,
"is that it combats the very thing that is most against learning, and encourages
students to want to know the world, literature, and people."
Gary Schoenholtz, ninth grade student, wrote in his consideration of
Romeo and Juliet, "This conflict and this play help you to understand other
people's emotions, and thereby your own."
His, and other students' remarks, begin to show the value of this approach.
Say Miss Hansen and Miss Martone, "We feel Aesthetic Realism meets what
we've been looking for."