Doctoral Candidate Lucy Schultz has accepted a tenure-track position in philosophy at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. Midwestern State University is a public liberal arts university that enrolls approximately 6000 students and is one of 27 institutions that comprise the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). Schultz is currently finishing her dissertation, Creative Climate: East-West Perspectives on Art, Nature, and the Expressive Body, which defends the need for a renewed conception of nature as seen through the lens of an artist engaged in artistic creation. By exploring the embodied foundations of the relationship between artists and their media as recounted by Kant, Hegel, Schelling, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Nishida, and Watsuji, she offers a way of thinking about artistic expression that recognizes the active, expressive character of artistic media and, more broadly, nature itself. Her work has appeared in journals such as Philosophy East and West and Environmental Philosophy.
I was never trained in any “traditional” dance styles, so I felt really comfortable entering into the MF classroom since I didn’t expect that kind of background. I understood immediately that what we were doing was more than a dance class. We were learning about our skeletal construction, how our body moves, and even how to cultivate healthy attitudes toward ourselves and our bodies. Upon leaving, I knew that I had undergone invaluable training that would stick with me for a very long time.
I am pursuing a PhD in philosophy, and I hope to be a college professor of that subject.
A lot of my research examines theories of the body and philosophies of art with a special interest in spatiality and movement. My dissertation explores the body as the site of the dialectical intertwining of the natural and the artistic—two categories that have traditionally been taken to be mutually exclusive. I experience the MF curriculum as a kind of studio philosophy class where students were able to practice and experiment with the ideas we were learning about. Of course, the classes involved the cultivation of artistry, and as a visual artist, integrating the awareness of bodily movement while painting into my art was deeply inspiring to me and still continues to be. Besides my professional research and artistic practice, I think about what I learned about in MF when exercising and doing “self care”—things like stretching, meditation, healing, etc. What I learned in MF has fully transformed the way I experience my embodiment.
Wow, this is not an easy task. Truthfully, I can only describe the philosophy that I developed through taking MF courses, but I will do my best to connect it what I perceive the goals of the curriculum to be. First of all, like I’ve already alluded, I found it to be a deeply theoretical studio experience—much more than any usual dance class. The emphasis on “fundamentals” means that students rediscover their bodies in a radical way. By stripping away the chatter in popular discourse about what bodies are and how they should be, the student is free to have a genuine and immediate experience of his or her body in its interaction with others. When the intellectual mind is quieted and allowed to listen to what originates in the moving body—breath, weight, momentum, lightness, all the connections of the lines of movement, etc.—I found that the body actually teaches me things that I would otherwise be unable to learn. With the guidance of Prof. Hawley, MF courses provide a space for that knowledge to arise. In more advanced courses, the turn toward choreography and performance allow this knowledge to be applied toward meaningful expression. After re-encountering the body in this immediate way and learning to strengthen and expand movement possibilities, the student is empowered to develop his or her own artistic expression in collaboration with others.
If I had to sum up the MF curriculum’s philosophy it would be like something as follows: Through a radical rediscovery of the nature of one’s embodiment, students gain the tools to enable their own physical and mental flourishing. Once the student becomes conscious of the body’s potential, he or she is encouraged to utilize this awareness for the generation of art in the studio and on stage. However, the radical overhaul and/or renewal of one’s relation to the body extends beyond dance performance. Since we inhabit our bodies in everything we do, there are endless applications of the MF curriculum in all realms of life.
Well, beyond everything that I’ve described above, I think what was most valuable to me about the curriculum was the support of the people that I got to know and work with. For me, doing this kind of work has a spiritual dimension, and so to work closely with others on things that are so meaningful to me was extremely profound. Personally, I was deeply effected by my relationship with Jane Hawley who has been a very important mentor for me. I guess what I’m saying is that the academic knowledge has been extremely useful to me, but more than that, the personal growth that I underwent taking classes from Jane was perhaps the most valuable part of my MF education.
Thanks for collecting this data—I hope that your efforts have a positive outcome, and I look forward to the prospect of collaborating in some way in the future.