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Aesthetic learning : an exploration of a radical aesthetic in feminist documentary film Rogers, Pamela A.


This study emerged from a curiosity about the powerful affect of feminist documentary film and an interest in transformative learning approaches. Three films of Studio D—the former feminist production unit of the National Film Board of Canada [NFB] were explored: Goddess Remembered (1989), Burning Times (1990), and Full Circle (1992). For methodology, I used an adaptation of autobiography, film and literary criticism and I explored the aesthetics of these films. Beginning with an in-depth look at the characteristics and criticisms of feminist documentary film, I identified the feminist perspective as having a transformative influence on traditional documentary styles. In my analysis, I defined and articulated the aesthetic quality of the films. This quality is defined as a radical aesthetic. The definition also includes a suggestion that an asethetic experience is spatial. I argue that the radical aesthetic, in its spatiality and feminist analysis, is able to evoke yearning, creative inspiration and a sense of place in viewers, particularly women. The analysis identifies the characteristics of the radical aesthetic and the significance of this on transformative learning experiences for women. The study claims that this radical aesthetic enhances two crucial stages in transformative learning. One, since an aesthetic experience is spatial, a space in which a learner can think, imagine and act is created. Two, in its provocative quality, a radical aesthetic assists women to become aware of and connected to a subterranean layer of self-knowledge that is seldom acknowledged in typical transformative learning approaches. I discuss the importance of this layer of knowledge in stimulating and sustaining transformative learning. Implications for practice include a discussion on the need to understand the role and the power of aesthetics in learning. Here a set of questions was created that can be used to explore the aesthetic experience of other films. Recommendations were made for further study on the relationship of aesthetic learning and feminist pedagogy. Given the spatial experience of aesthetics and the importance of space for women, other research was suggested to look at the role of place in learning.

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