Artistic and Literary Representations of Alzheimer’s Disease: Philosophical Reflections on Embodiment and Selfhood   Pia K...
Embodied Selfhood:  Theoretical Bearings <ul><li>Theoretical bearings: </li></ul><ul><li>Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of ...
Alzheimer Expressions or  Expressions Despite  Alzheimer’s? <ul><li>Thematic Categories : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The painte...
The Painterly Hand:  The Cases of Willem de Kooning and William Utermohlen
de Kooning Woman 1948
de Kooning Woman 1950-52
de Kooning Woman VI 1953
de Kooning Untitled V 1982
de Kooning Untitled XII 1982
de Kooning Untitled XV 1982
de Kooning   Untitled XVII 1984
Utermohlen 1996
Utermohlen 1997
Utermohlen 1997
Utermohlen 1998
Utermohlen 1999
Utermohlen 2000
<ul><li>“ I t is by lending his body to the world that the artist changes the world into paintings”. </li></ul><ul><li>The...
Familial Recognition   <ul><li>In early August I make my first visit to Mother since installing her in the Special Care Un...
Familial Recognition   <ul><li>I return in mid-April and see for myself that her legs have become sticks, her ankles like ...
<ul><li>Merleau-Ponty understands mother and infant as one flesh. </li></ul><ul><li>There is an intercorporeality to the m...
Immutable Gentilities   <ul><li>Words pour out of her as they always have and with the same vivacity and hunger for your a...
Immutable Gentilities   <ul><li>And as with her speech, so it is with her behaviour. Surrounded by the senile and by the w...
Immutable Gentilities   <ul><li>‘ How are you mother’? I begin. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Oh, in a fast muff’, she says briskly....
Immutable Gentilities   <ul><li>‘ We basent had any consedery other than a bull’, she chats on, ‘which we’re not getting. ...
Immutable Gentilities   <ul><li>… receive him with her social smile and call for [her husband] in those unhurried slightly...
<ul><li>Dispositions and forms of know-how function below the threshold of cognition and are enacted as practical sense at...
Humiliation <ul><li>I return to the nursing home that afternoon to find Lil in her room surrounded by nurses doing an inta...
<ul><li>“ habitus  tends to favour experiences likely to reinforce it…to protect itself from crises and critical challenge...
Embodied Selfhood:  Pre-reflective Sources <ul><li>Selfhood has two distinct sources: </li></ul><ul><li>the primordial bod...
<ul><li>Broadening understanding of selfhood beyond the narrow confines of cognition is ultimately in the interest of huma...
<ul><li>Narrative, drama and other arts-based approaches lend themselves particularly well to “humanistic teaching”. </li>...
<ul><li>Implicit in the current Alzheimer’s construct is the assumption that only the mind relates us to the world and giv...
Acknowledgments <ul><li>Canadian Institutes of Health Research, New Investigator Award (MSH 87726, 2009-2014) </li></ul><u...
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Artistic and Literary Representations of Alzheimer’s Disease: Philosophical Reflections on Embodiment and Selfhood presented by Pia Kontos

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Artistic and Literary Representations of Alzheimer’s Disease: Philosophical Reflections on Embodiment and Selfhood presented by Pia Kontos

  1. 1. Artistic and Literary Representations of Alzheimer’s Disease: Philosophical Reflections on Embodiment and Selfhood Pia Kontos, PhD Research Scientist Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Assistant Professor Dalla Lana School of Public Health University of Toronto
  2. 2. Embodied Selfhood: Theoretical Bearings <ul><li>Theoretical bearings: </li></ul><ul><li>Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of non-representational intentionality and the primordial body </li></ul><ul><li>Bourdieu’s concept of habitus , which links bodily dispositions to structures of the social world </li></ul>
  3. 3. Alzheimer Expressions or Expressions Despite Alzheimer’s? <ul><li>Thematic Categories : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The painterly hand </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Familial recognition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Immutable gentilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humiliation </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. The Painterly Hand: The Cases of Willem de Kooning and William Utermohlen
  5. 5. de Kooning Woman 1948
  6. 6. de Kooning Woman 1950-52
  7. 7. de Kooning Woman VI 1953
  8. 8. de Kooning Untitled V 1982
  9. 9. de Kooning Untitled XII 1982
  10. 10. de Kooning Untitled XV 1982
  11. 11. de Kooning Untitled XVII 1984
  12. 12. Utermohlen 1996
  13. 13. Utermohlen 1997
  14. 14. Utermohlen 1997
  15. 15. Utermohlen 1998
  16. 16. Utermohlen 1999
  17. 17. Utermohlen 2000
  18. 18. <ul><li>“ I t is by lending his body to the world that the artist changes the world into paintings”. </li></ul><ul><li>The body is “an intertwining of vision and movement”. </li></ul><ul><li>Painting is a bodily form of consciousness. </li></ul>The Primordial Depths of Painterly Practice
  19. 19. Familial Recognition <ul><li>In early August I make my first visit to Mother since installing her in the Special Care Unit. When I arrive, she looks at me with slow astonishment, some kind of recognition rippling across her face. It’s not exactly that she knows who I am. By any known measure of the term, she had forgotten. To ‘know’ who someone ‘is’, I have learned, is not a simple move of cognition. Mother would have to know what a daughter is, for a start, and that ‘Elinor’ and this idea of a daughter belong together, that this woman hugging her is both ‘Elinor’ and a ‘daughter’. But she knows me at another level and bursts into joyful sobs and hugs and kisses me. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Familial Recognition <ul><li>I return in mid-April and see for myself that her legs have become sticks, her ankles like wrists. There is food under her cracked fingernails. Her hair hangs in long strings. She wears white elastic stockings up to her thighs for circulation. Her teeth are lost, her lips sunken. She sits for long hours with her eyes closed. How is she ‘coming back’? But when I walk in, she suddenly opens them and greets me with a little whoop of recognition – that ho-ho-ho of hers – and joyful tears. ‘Is that the…the…baby?’ she cries hoarsely, picking up my hand and covering it with kisses. ‘Is that…is that…the one I love’? </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Merleau-Ponty understands mother and infant as one flesh. </li></ul><ul><li>There is an intercorporeality to the mother-infant relationship that gives a primordial attunement to each other, an understanding that is intertwined with touch, sight and movement. </li></ul>The Primordial Depths of the Mother-Daughter Bond
  22. 22. Immutable Gentilities <ul><li>Words pour out of her as they always have and with the same vivacity and hunger for your attention. But to listen to they are utterly bewildering, following the sense like trying to track a particular ripple in a pelting torrent of talk. </li></ul><ul><li>Still despite this formless spate of loquacity she remains recognizably herself, discernible in the flood those immutable gentilities and components of her talk which have always characterized her…So that now, with no story to tell (or half a dozen), she must needs still tell it as genteelly as she has ever done but at five times the speed, her old work politeness detached from any narrative but still whole and hers, bobbing about in a ceaseless flood of unmeaning; demented, as she herself might have said, but very nicely spoken. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Immutable Gentilities <ul><li>And as with her speech, so it is with her behaviour. Surrounded by the senile and by the wrecks of women as hopelessly, though differently, demented as she is, she still clings to the notion that she is somehow different and superior. Corseted in her immutable gentilities she still contrives to make something special out of her situation and her role in it. “He’ll always give me a smile”, she says of an impassive nurse who is handing out the tea. “I’m his favourite”… </li></ul><ul><li>Her life has been made meaningful by frail, fabricated connections, and now, when the proper connections in her brain are beginning to break down, it is this flimsy tissue of social niceties that still holds firm. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Immutable Gentilities <ul><li>‘ How are you mother’? I begin. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Oh, in a fast muff’, she says briskly. ‘Getting gout of the wet ditches’. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Wet ditches, well, that’s interesting’. </li></ul><ul><li>She’s off and running. ‘Oh, I’m in a dedeford. There they’re having a befurz. I mean, they’re having a cressit. And would be considered hajardi. Would be picking dependent stuff’. Her tone of authority is undiminished. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Well’, I ask, ‘are you recovered now from your fall where you had to have stitches in your forehead’? I always gave her the words she might need to flip back a response… </li></ul>
  25. 25. Immutable Gentilities <ul><li>‘ We basent had any consedery other than a bull’, she chats on, ‘which we’re not getting. They’ve got the meat in the vettery, so they feel things aren’t by any means all wet’… </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Do you have some friends there?’ I ask. </li></ul><ul><li>She is dismissive. ‘Oh, they have the thogs here with the wolfit beef. But they’re still rather concerned about the westerd stuff being westered. They feel rather patz to that’. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Uh-huh. And how’s the Professor, that nice man in the wheelchair?’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Oh, the one in the fossilic? He’s in habalik’. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Immutable Gentilities <ul><li>… receive him with her social smile and call for [her husband] in those unhurried slightly gracious tones which married couples automatically use with each other in the presence of a stranger. In the same way, she deals instinctively with more complex social situations, seeming to follow the conversation and smiling, prepared to bridge a silence by asking a question. Usually, the same question: Where do you come from? or What are you doing now? - questions that get repeated many times in the course of a social event. </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>Dispositions and forms of know-how function below the threshold of cognition and are enacted as practical sense at a pre-reflective level. </li></ul><ul><li>Social practice does not derive from rules, principles or calculations. </li></ul><ul><li>Habitus does not mechanically constrain action; it permits an element of inventiveness and creativity. </li></ul>The Socio-Cultural Logic of Storytelling and the Art of Conversation
  28. 28. Humiliation <ul><li>I return to the nursing home that afternoon to find Lil in her room surrounded by nurses doing an intake examination. She is stripped naked and slowly being rotated. They note every discoloration or crack in the skin, the way my car dealer inspects my car before a tune-up: both want to protect themselves from lawsuits. The nurses ask Lil to lift her arms, spread her legs, bend over. Mother tries to smile and laugh but tears run down her face. She understands, I think, that she has become a ‘case’. </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>“ habitus tends to favour experiences likely to reinforce it…to protect itself from crises and critical challenges by providing itself with a milieu to which it is as pre-adapted as possible”. </li></ul>An Affront to Dignity
  30. 30. Embodied Selfhood: Pre-reflective Sources <ul><li>Selfhood has two distinct sources: </li></ul><ul><li>the primordial body ( the corporeal foundation of selfhood) that facilitates existential expressiveness </li></ul><ul><li>socio-cultural dispositions instilled in the pre-reflective body </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>Broadening understanding of selfhood beyond the narrow confines of cognition is ultimately in the interest of humanizing interactions with persons with dementia and their care. </li></ul><ul><li>The imagination transcends assumptions about the diminishing humanness of persons with Alzheimer’s disease. </li></ul><ul><li>In the context of dementia embodied selfhood must be a source of the imagination. </li></ul>Practical Implications
  32. 32. <ul><li>Narrative, drama and other arts-based approaches lend themselves particularly well to “humanistic teaching”. </li></ul><ul><li>With dramatic performance we can foster awareness and deeper understanding of the ways in which persons with dementia remain connected to the world. </li></ul>Nurturing the Imagination
  33. 33. <ul><li>Implicit in the current Alzheimer’s construct is the assumption that only the mind relates us to the world and gives it meaning. </li></ul><ul><li>The concept of embodied selfhood entails a shift in the current preoccupation with treating selfhood as a product of reflective thought, to treating the body as itself having creative and intentional capacity. </li></ul>Conclusion
  34. 34. Acknowledgments <ul><li>Canadian Institutes of Health Research, New Investigator Award (MSH 87726, 2009-2014) </li></ul><ul><li>Toronto Rehabilitation Institute receives funding under the Provincial Rehabilitation Research Program, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in Ontario </li></ul>

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