Ellen Dissanayake

Ellen Dissanayake

Author and Lecturer

Affiliate Professor
School of Music
University of Washington

Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters
Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore
May 20, 2013


From the preface to 1995's Homo Aestheticus:

At first glance, the fact that the arts and related aesthetic attitudes vary so widely from one society to another would seem to suggest that they are wholly learned or 'cultural' in origin rather than, as I will show, also biological or 'natural.' One can make an analogy with language: learning to speak is a universal, innate predisposition for all children even though individual children learn the particular language of the people among whom they are nurtured. Similarly, art can be regarded as a natural, general proclivity that manifests itself in culturally learned specifics such as dances, songs, performances, visual display, and poetic speech.