Xavier Journal of Undergraduate Research

Article Title

John Dewey and the Ashcan Artists


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Although the disciplines of art and philosophy are often studied in the context of political history, rarely are the two combined as a lens through which to view political events. In the case of the Progressive Era, cultural and political events are so integrally tied that the work of artists, politicians, and philosophers can be aligned to provide a deeper understanding of the American public in a time of national transformation. Separately, John Dewey’s pragmatism and the Ashcan School of art are both significant cultural developments of the Progressive age. Examined together, the two go beyond the progressive reform impulse to question the very foundations of their respective disciplines, not only driving cultural changes but providing a radical reevaluation of American democracy. This essay explores links between Dewey’s pragmatism and the Ashcan artists in terms of politics, aesthetic philosophy, and cultural impact, emphasizing art history as an essential and often underutilized method for understanding political and philosophical developments.

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