International Journal of Education & the Arts

Volume 2 Number 10

December 10, 2001

Partial Stories:
An Hermeneutic Account of Practicing History

Essay Review of Janice Ross's Moving Lessons: Margaret H'Doubler and the Rise of Dance in American Education.

Donald S. Blumenfeld-Jones
Arizona State University

Janice Ross (2000). Moving Lessons: Margaret H'Doubler and the Rise of Dance in American Education. University of Wisconsin Press.
ISBN 0-299-16930-8 $60 (Cloth)
ISBN 0-299-16934-0 $25 (Paper).

          There are many reasons for writing a history. One might write a history in order to correct misunderstandings of the past. One might be interested in understanding a history in different terms (perhaps in "social conditions" terms rather than "great people acting" terms). One might want to write a history that memorialized or enshrined or celebrated some past. Or one might write a history to find out about one's own past, to come to understand oneself in the light of that past. There are many, many reasons, of which these are only a few possibilities. Additionally, there are many approaches to practicing historical thinking. Thomas Carlyle (1993) developed the idea of history as the story of great people. In this vision a history is told as the actions of particular, powerful individuals who move events along and telling such a history teaches the rest of us how to act in the light of these heroic individuals. Fernand Braudel (1972), on the other hand, called such history "trivial" and wrote that history is contextualized within geographical, social, economic, and cultural parameters which then make the human actors, as he wrote, "more acted upon than actors" (p. 19). Herbert Kliebard (1995) laid out a variety of approaches to educational history, writing of "house history" (a form of celebratory history) used to initiate teachers into a wonderful tradition, revisionist history which seeks to set aside such celebrations in favor of a more politicized vision, and radical revisionist history which sought to expose the place of conflict in the development of U.S. education.

          In all these cases the historian is practicing a partial historical practice in multiple ways: partial in the sense of having a viewpoint to develop, presenting only a portion or part of the story, wanting or desiring (being partial to) a certain kind of story. This is not to say that one could ever not be partial but only to recognize that one is inevitably, irreducibly partial. Within this notion of "partial" I will, in the following essay review of Janice Ross's excellent history of dance in higher education, develop some ideas about writing and practicing history. Along the way I will draw out the strengths and weaknesses of Ross's work, noting at the outset, however, that I have no general argument with what she has accomplished. Indeed, she has produced a very well-done critical history of dance education, showing us an important way to proceed with such work. Additionally she should be thanked for having done this work in the first place as the history of dance education has been a long neglected subject. My comments are designed to extend all of our thinking about the practice of historical thinking and writing rather than criticize her work. Let me begin by briefly describing her book.
          Ross's book divides into two sections. In the first three chapters, she lays out a cultural history of early 20th Century attitudes toward dancing, learning to dance, women's bodies, women's sexuality and health and how women were positioned vis à vis physical education and activity. In these chapters she instructs us about the highly gendered character of this time-period. Women were seen as people to be controlled and made docile in order to prevent the nature of their bodies from breaking forth into civilization and disrupting the progress of humankind. In this atmosphere Ross shows us how women, in subtle ways, subverted these notions while appearing to accept them. As a significant example, Ross discusses women's use of spas for rest and relaxation. While these spas appeared to inculcate women with the cultural value of indolence and lassitude, women also used them to gather themselves into single-gendered environments in which they might create community. Thus, while women were positioned against activism of any sort, here was a place to actually briefly escape the oppression of being made second-class while appearing to accept their situation.
          In the remainder of the text, Ross uses this cultural history to analyze how two University of Wisconsin physical educators, Blanche Trilling (the Director for women's physical education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Margaret H'Doubler (a faculty member in Trilling's department) created the first dance education program in the U.S. The book especially focuses on H'Doubler, who became both the leading spokesperson for dance as an important educational experience and the creator (at the behest of Trilling) of not only the first university program but for many years the most important program (even after programs developed at other universities). Of great importance was H'Doubler's insistence that the educational value of dance was distinct from and opposed to dance as an art form. Her ideas, especially as expressed in Dance, A Creative Art Experience (1940), influenced a generation of dance people trying to establish the legitimacy of dance in the university. H'Doubler's important move was to use Dewey's educational theory to develop her ideas about both dance education practice and dance as a distinctive educational good.

Margaret H'Doubler, 1917

          In the end Ross shows us how both women worked against cultural stereotypes while also being caught up in them. She provides a complex history of success and capitulation, of resistance and acceptance. Further she shows that H'Doubler's influence quickly waned after other universities and colleges established their own programs. These new dance educators did not want to promote dance as a general education good (and themselves as being interested in dance education) but, rather, as artists and the maker of artists for the professional field. For the most part within university and college dance education programs, dance education majors are, even now, second-class citizens to the dance artist-students. This was antithetical to H'Doubler's project. Given this present day fact, one would have hoped, through Ross's work, to understand how H'Doubler's approach might have prepared the ground for its own surpassing.
          There are hints of this possibility but only hints. I would suggest that the practice of history may be most important in how it enables us to understand the present not as idiosyncratic or anomalous but as an extension of previous activities. My first issue with Ross, therefore, is that I don't feel she sufficiently connects the present with the past. This may be due to her particular and partial orientation, due to the fact that no history can be complete and is inevitably partial. The rest of what I have to write hinges on an understanding of my use of the word "partial."
          As I wrote at the outset of this essay, "partial" can be construed in several ways. It can mean "only part of the whole" and it can mean, as it often does, "biased." These two ideas are not unrelated. To be "only part of a whole" is to be able to view the whole only from that part which necessarily skews or "biases" what one knows of the whole. "Partial" may also mean "partial to X," meaning having a particular liking for X. This, too, is related to the first two meanings as when I dwell within the confines of my part of the world, I may have a fondness for that part of the world and I may wish to see the world from that vantage point. I am partial to my "part of the world" (partial) which acts as a "vantage point" (partial).
          What does this have to do with history writing? It is obvious that histories are always partial. Scholarly thinkers cannot hope to encompass all that could be said or written about an historical subject. Rather, they have particular areas or angles from which they are exploring, areas and angles to which they may be particularly partial. These angles necessarily limit what they (and we) can know as well as limit the ways in which we will come to know it. In Ross's case, for instance, she pursues a feminist history of H'Doubler's work at the University of Wisconsin, placing much of what H'Doubler accomplished within the confines of a reaction to Victorian ideas about women and their bodies, coupling it with H'Doubler's working out of John Dewey's educational ideas (a man leading her thinking). Although Ross provides a wealth of insights into what H'Doubler had to overcome to accomplish her feats, she does not, for instance, bring into play the issue of social class. Ross avers that H'Doubler insisted on a certain public presence which was always well-groomed and, in a strong sense, refined. This desire may say as much about how H'Doubler's social class affected the development of her dance ideas as it does about her reaction to how women were viewed in late Victorian times. Ross does allude to this in her discussion of H'Doubler's rejection of certain forms of dance (folk, popular, and theatrical) as being not worthy of a university campus, but the point is not developed. We might understand this as an absence in Ross's work; but it is, of course, not necessarily that she intended this idea but missed the mark. Rather, she had her own questions to answer, which do not deal with the world tout courte. So, with social class we may say that this is not one of Ross's questions, but we may also ask what the consequences of its not being a question could be for how Ross understands the history of which she writes.
          It is important, I think, for historians to note for us what it is they might have pursued but have chosen not to pursue for good reasons, a sort of "absent presence" which is, in any case, at least acknowledged. Although I would understand a criticism of my position based on the fact that the historian would have difficulty acknowledging all the elements for which he or she has not accounted as there would be too many to enumerate, I would argue that without such demurrals the work takes on the guise of a final and complete account. Given that we have now come to know that a scholar's standpoint is always partial and situated, not to acknowledge one's own standpoint is to ignore a central aspect of how one works or what one's work means. Without this acknowledgement, we fall back into the modernist ethos of grand theories. I am not saying that Ross has done so here, but there is a quality of speaking for the whole in her work, rather than exploring an important and illuminating aspect of her subject.
          Historical thinking and history writing are hermeneutic practices in that the historian is engaged in the act of interpreting events and people of the past. Hermeneutic theorists, especially Hans-Georg Gadamer (1988) and Paul Ricoeur (Reagon & Stewart, 1978), teach us that an individual chooses to encounter a text, an event, sets of events, and so forth because that person has some questions to which he or she seeks an answer or answers. He or she lives in the hope that this particular text or event or sets of events, once understood, will yield those answers. We project our questions onto the text or event and formulate questions of it in the light of our initiating questions. The text or event provides the opportunity to concretize our questions and to ask new questions of which we may not have been previously aware.
          Questions, however, are never formulated de novo. They always emerge out of a context. Hermeneutic theorists call this context horizon. The interpreter stands inside the circle of the horizon and looks out on the world/text/event/events in question from the limitation of the horizon itself. That is, we cannot see beyond the horizon so our interpretation is always limited and partial. "Partial" is important here because, as Gadamer argues in many places, we can only make interpretations based on what we already know. We are never without "prejudice" or partiality, indeed could not know anything except that we know something else first. For another's interpretation to be understood we must, perforce, understand the horizon out of which the interpretation arose. To make the situation still more complex, our understanding of the interpretation is set within our own various horizons; and we, too, bring partiality (in its triple meaning) to the task of interpreting the interpretation. We must be wary, then, of making conclusive statements. We must accept the limitations of these horizons nested within each other.
          Out of these two considerations (questions and horizon) we may inquire into Ross's animating questions and horizon. Here an immediate difficulty arises. Ross does not provide us with either a discussion of her horizon (what she brings to the project) or her questions which she hoped to answer.

Margaret H'Doubler

          Why is understanding Ross's horizon important? Because Ross does not tell us about herself and her own history with dance and dance education (what her personal relationship was or is with dancing), we do not know what she sought to understand in her personhood. We do not know why she sought to understand H'Doubler and, perhaps most importantly (from my perspective), we do not know out of what kind of dance tradition she is working so that we might better understand how she understands H'Doubler and the history which she writes.
          It is possible, for instance, to examine this history from a ballet point of view, a contemporary modern dance point of view or a classical modern dance perspective (a Graham or Holm or Humphrey or Weidman perspective). I will briefly play out three of these possibilities: ballet, Graham and Holm.
          From a ballet perspective H'Doubler's work might be seen as inadequate to the making of artists (while not H'Doubler's desire, ballet people would probably not understand any other reason to teach or study dancing). They might even find it terrifying. I was asked, at one time, to teach a modern dance class to a regional ballet company. As part of my teaching, I always include improvisation. When we arrived at that point in the class, the ballet dancers clustered against one wall and were clearly quite afraid of trying to improvise. This was entirely foreign to their way of thinking. Given H'Doubler's strong reliance upon improvisation (as described by Ross), a ballet person's reaction to this history would be quite negative. From a Graham perspective (a very formal approach), H'Doubler's ideas might also bring about trepidation; and Graham people would, perhaps, take an equally negative view of her work. For them, the Graham forms are essential to understanding the body as artistic. Most Graham trained dancers continue to draw strongly upon Graham's dance vocabulary in much the same way that ballet choreographers draw upon the classical ballet vernacular.
          Perhaps the only modern tradition which would understand H'Doubler is the German expressionist tradition. Indeed, Ross tells us that H'Doubler felt an affinity for this tradition, and she did bring Louise Kloepper, a dancer with Hanya Holm (who had, in turn, brought Mary Wigman's German Expressionist modern dance to the U.S.) to UW—Madison to teach. I, too, studied with Hanya Holm and my own reading of H'Doubler has always been quite sympathetic, finding in her strains of my artistic tradition. Were I writing this history, I might feature the nascent artistic qualities of H'Doubler's approach even though H'Doubler might not have seen them in that way. For instance, where Ross sees, in a memo from H'Doubler about choreography, H'Doubler ignoring art in favor of a biological approach to choreography, I find just the sorts of sentiments of my own education in choreography. H'Doubler wrote that

[t]he creative act is a building process that constructs out of consciously evaluated experience . . . a dance is a designed entity–an embodiment of emotional experience transformed by thought and consciously given a movement form upon which the principles of composition have been imposed by the personality which was the subject of the experience. (p.223)
          When I studied choreography with Alwin Nikolais (one of Hanya's most important students), Murray Louis and Phyllis Lamhut, they stressed the notion of embodying an experience (rather than acting it out in symbolic terms) and finding those movements which developed from an inner state. For instance, if I were making a dance dealing with abandonment, rather than act out being abandoned, I would place myself in a state of being abandoned and make motion in that state. What would emerge would be the abstracted state of abandonment placed into motional terms. These motions, in turn, would have to be organized through time, space and shape principles and compositional understanding. We were fully engaged in an aesthetic endeavor. Therefore, to characterize H'Doubler's memo as not being engaged with art mystified me.
          In the above using different horizon states, I have developed alternative construals of H'Doubler. The "meanings" of the actual events of H'Doubler's work become quite different from these different perspectives. In turn, not knowing Ross's horizon causes difficulties when we try to understand her particular set of analyses. Ross's provision of documents (written and pictorial) and subsequent interpretations laid alongside the reader's interpretations of these documents may cause a dissonance in the reader (as they did in me on a number of occasions) if the reader doesn't understand the document in the same way. This dissonance lies within differing horizons; but since Ross does not provide us with her horizon, we are unable to determine whether or not her interpretation is reasonable. This makes it more difficult to credit her interpretations. This is not to say that I do not find what she has done credible—I do—but, rather, that when I had difficulties with her interpretations I had no way of understanding why she would state things in the ways that she did, except to think that there were certainly other ways of understanding that document, and why were they not present for our consideration?
          Another example makes the point perhaps more concrete. At one point Ross interprets the photograph of a woman dancing in a pageant of 1914 at the University of Wisconsin (an event which predates the development of the dance program at the school). Ross describes the young woman in the photograph as follows:
. . . poised on one foot with her head held stiffly, one arm reached outward and the other up holding a flute. The pose looks designed, as if arranged to mimic a statue of Pan rather than arrived at from some inner understanding of movement impulses. . . . The University of Wisconsin women here have the stiffness of figures in family snapshots caught in the midst of a silly good time they are not quite sure they want documented. (p. 87)
          Ross is ascribing a negative feeling to the participation of these women: discomfort, artificiality, embarrassment, failure to produce a true connection with nature. The opposite attributes of comfort, naturalness, ease and connection with their natural bodies are simply not available to them at this historical moment when the style of good theatrical work was to be precisely, clearly artificial. Ross is writing as if these women should have known of some values to which, in fact, they could have little or no access. Therefore, I would argue that Ross is projecting her own feelings of what she might have felt were she participating in the same event. The problem here is not her interpretation, but, rather, the way in which her horizon makes this interpretation possible and yet remains invisible.
          Let me provide an alternative interpretation of the photo in question. The woman stands as Ross describes and is clearly not skilled (her hip is lifted arching her back rather than having her leg move more freely from her hip as she extends it to her back) and even appears stiff. This may be, however, as I have already written, an artifact of the performing style of her time: artificial, highly self-conscious, and so forth. Further, the aesthetic ideology of the time linked conscious symbolism (think here of the symbolist poets, for instance) with experience, not inner motivation. Perhaps this young woman is actually experiencing a return to nature in her terms.
          In like fashion, we do not know the questions that animated Ross's work. We must, therefore, infer them from her text. The two writers of the opening material (not Ross) provide possibilities for us. Sally Banes, in her Foreword to the book, writes that "Ross takes a nuanced critical approach to the history of women's bodies . . . that is a very welcome corrective to monolithic narratives of female victimhood" and that Ross has "enriched . . . dance history . . . feminist studies and the history of education in America" (p. xiv). Anna Halprin, who Ross names as the "original inspiration for this study" (p. xxi) writes in her reminiscence of Margaret H'Doubler, "At last someone has written extensively about Margaret H'Doubler . . . this book stands as a firm tribute to a woman who brought the field of dance to its rightful place among the great philosophical, aesthetic and scientific inquiries" (p. xix).
          We have, it appears, history as a corrective to previous histories and history as hagiography. Ross may have set out on exactly those two tracks as they are quite evident in her book as she attempts to make us understand how ground-breaking H'Doubler's work was and, yet, how H'Doubler was set within conditions against which she did not fully rebel (although she might and perhaps ought to have, except that she was too politically astute to sacrifice the whole project for personal reasons). From Banes and Halprin, we are able to say that Ross may have originally wanted to write a history that no one else had written but which deserved to be written (Halprin's happiness at Margaret H'Doubler's story being told at last). Ross's questions about H'Doubler seem to have been connected with the historical tradition of resurrecting a previously hidden history so as to correct what has been told (which had been detrimental to those whose history has been ignored). In this case, Ross connects the history of social attitudes toward dance and women (both of which Ross portrays as negative) with the development of the Wisconsin dance program and major, revealing how H'Doubler fought the stereotypes (while also accepting them by distancing herself from that other dance which had brought upon itself such social opprobrium).
          What might Ross's questions be? Perhaps these. First, history as hagiography: In what ways does H'Doubler, an important figure in our history who deserves our respect, merit our reverence, and in what ways does she fall short and why? Second, history as corrective: Are women the victims of social imposition so often portrayed in other histories? Third, history as social conditions: In what ways is the development of dance at the University of Wisconsin an expression of social conditions? To these questions, Ross has provided a splendid set of answers with history coming off as neither merely critique nor mere hero worship but, rather, as a confluence of streams of influences which channel through H'Doubler and on which H'Doubler brought her own personhood to bear so that the influences became expressed in specific ways. We find a woman who is neither a product of her times nor a perfectly free individual. She was flawed, ignoring important possible congenial developments in dance (rejecting out-of-hand all dancer performers rather than seeing what she had in common with Isadora Duncan) and misinterpreting her most important theoretical influence, John Dewey. Ross works to show that H'Doubler had her detractors, even among her own students, so that Ross avoids the purely unreal heroic figure able to convince everyone of the rectitude of her project. In the end we come to see what H'Doubler accomplished, what she left to others, and how her legacy has played out in dance in higher education. That is, if indeed the above are her questions.
          I continue to wonder why she wrote the book in the first place, what she wanted for herself, how all of this is meaningful to her. I am also left wondering why I or others ought to read the book. It is not that we shouldn't read this book, but, rather, what is the point of doing such work? Let me take a different tack which may make this question clearer.
          As a reader I, too, have my horizon and my questions (and my relationship to this history, as I was a professional modern dancer for many years, taught dance at the university level, have read H'Doubler's Dance, a Creative Art Experience and have done my own writing on H'Doubler's work (Blumenfeld-Jones, 1990). My questions relate to a desire to find my own history. I think of the people of this history as sharing my own life, having been involved with this practice. In that sense, I am the inheritor of their histories. How, you may ask, could their histories be my history since I was involved so much later in the century? My search for an answer starts with a consideration of Southern slavery. My family came to the United States in the very late 19th Century. Even though my family had nothing to do with slavery and even though for much of the 20th Century my family and my "people" (the Jews) were considered dark-skinned and dangerous and have only recently been "resuscitated" into the ranks of white people, the fact that I am now considered "white" means that I have benefited from slavery, from what was torn from the lives of people so that white people, including myself, could prosper. Similarly, the struggles that were undergone to establish dance in the university that predate my own entrance into higher education established the ground upon which I stood as I taught. Without those who went before, my issues, my battles would have been quite different and, perhaps, not even possible.
          When I entered the academic side of dance (teaching at a university) I had already spent seven years studying and dancing professionally in NYC with, as I have written, Alwin Nikolais, Phyllis Lamhut, Murray Louis, and perhaps most importantly for this review, with Hanya Holm, one of the four founders of the modern dance tradition in the U.S. One of my first moves while teaching at the university was to begin reading biographies. I began with Hanya's biography because, although I knew her well as an artist and teacher, I did not know how she had arrived at the place at which I knew her (she was already 80 years old and 20 years young when I first encountered her). I looked for an understanding of myself as an artist and teacher by looking into her life. I wanted to connect with what moved her, what animated her imagination, not so I could imitate her (one of H'Doubler's strongest criticisms of theatrical dance) but so that I could imagine myself in a different place and look back upon myself and my history in a new light. After that I turned to work on Martha Graham (whose technique I had first studied when I began dancing and whose choreography I didn't well understand but hoped to understand through reading about her) and Lester Horton (in whom I was interested because he was an iconoclast who isolated himself in California rather than dance in NYC, something I saw myself doing by teaching at Duke University, far away from my heritage). I wanted to know about all these people: how they felt in their bodies, how they thought through their bodies, how they felt about what they did, and more. In so studying, I was animating my own possibilities. This is something H'Doubler, according to Ross, would never have understood for she seemed to fear all influence, believing that dance arose out of the innocence of the isolated individual, almost akin to a Kantian notion of internal forms which become manifest in specific ways in the world. I did not fear influence, indeed, I sought it out.
          I also felt, in reading their stories, a firm connection to them, that I was carrying on a tradition, extending and discovering it simultaneously. I found this in my body as well as in my mind. I explored and examined my own connections to dance: why I danced, what I hoped for, what could pass for "real dance" for me. I always did this within a context of complete devotion to dancing (akin to H'Doubler's complete devotion to her dance program and its proper development).
          This brings me to think about questions I have about H'Doubler, even after having read Ross's book. Who was this person, Margaret H'Doubler? What drew her to physical education? Given her response to Blanche Trilling's request (upon H'Doubler's request to take a sabbatical year at Teachers College in New York ) to bring back a dance education worthy of a university, why did H'Doubler pursue that request with such avidity? (She had been, until that time, a successful and devoted basketball coach and wept when she thought of giving that up.) Why did she wish to study aesthetics in New York? What was her life like outside of the dance studio? Did she have a life outside of the dance studio (thinking of the "dance studio" as representing her entire involvement with the university and university life)?
          For myself, an even more important set of questions relates to H'Doubler as a physical person. As portrayed by Ross, H'Doubler appears to be primarily a "theory machine," all head and no body. Ross tells us consistently that what actually transpired in her classroom physically was of much less importance than the ideas which she had and which she communicated to and developed through her students. The tremendous irony is, of course, that H'Doubler taught dance and ostensibly believed in the importance of the body. H'Doubler's physical presence is hardly felt in Ross's text. At one point Ross does describe her entrance into the dance studio; at another, she mentions the pleasure H'Doubler took in riding her horse (horses and the feminine); still again, Ross briefly describes H'Doubler's striding across campus. Other than those moments (and several photographs of H'Doubler at the beginning of her dance life and near the end of her University work) there is nothing of H'Doubler's investment in movement or what drew her to physical education or dance. Perhaps it was an abstract passion and perhaps focusing upon dance was simply a fortuitous concatenation of historical opportunities. I would contend, however, that the kind of passion and dedication displayed by H'Doubler within this particular field cannot be successfully explained by abstract passion. Or, if it can be, then the case needs to be made.
          It is true, I think, that Ross did not set out to write a history about people so much as a history of ideas as manifested through people. But, how does a history of ideas develop except through the people who generate, manipulate, and actualize those ideas within local contexts? Further, given the emphasis on Dewey in Ross's text, how did H'Doubler go about the kind of development which Dewey recommends: experimentation, reflection, adjustment and more experimentation, reflection, and adjustment. I would have expected that H'Doubler would have had difficulties in her practice—especially given that she had no dance experience herself—that would call for changes in her educational practice, all of this arrived at through a Deweyan experimentalism. In Ross's text, there is almost the feeling that H'Doubler's approach sprang fully formed from her mind (as Athena sprang fully mature from the forehead of Zeus) and that she spent her career simply promoting it (and working on small internal problems, thus stopping her students in the hall to share her latest thoughts on what to do in class). This, I feel, cannot be the case, especially as there were no models from which to work. Therefore, important questions remain: how did H'Doubler change? What brought about such changes? What were the results of these changes?
          As an educator, I am instructed by other's struggles, by their successes, their thoughts on their struggles and successes and the like. As an artist, when I discovered that Hanya Holm had turned to Broadway choreography when her concert work was not being well-supported, I got the image of alternative forums for my own work, a thought that had not previously occurred to me. When I read about the kind of choreography that she did, it brought me to see her and myself in a new light and helped me think about how to choreograph for different kinds of bodies and in response to music in different kinds of ways. When Hanya confronted the Western states and spoke of how geography changed how she thought about choreography, I began to think about how North Carolina could affect my choreography and dancing. When I read about Lester Horton, I began to understand my own iconoclastic tendencies, and his story helped me think about how to pursue my own desires. In other words, it is through my relationship to the subject at hand that I gain some personal knowledge, which is, I believe, a fundamental reason for doing any of this kind of work. When I did my work on H'Doubler's ideas, in which I aligned her major book with strong cultural dichotomies (body/mind, nature/culture, freedom/discipline, to name three), I was actually working out my own relationship to those dichotomies, and they informed my own thinking about dance.
          In the end, I read Ross's work with fascination and admiration. I am grateful, like Halprin, that someone has, at long last, paid attention to an important figure in dance history. Ross attempted to straddle the related historical disciplines of biography and cultural history; she is especially successful at the latter, adumbrating the history within a cultural context so that the decisions H'Doubler made became more understandable. Further, Ross is clearly a thorough and engaging scholar, helping readers formulate new questions out of her work rather than leaving them with a sense that there is nothing more to do. So, if she did not answer my questions, it is clear that they may not have been her explicit questions. If she did not deal with issues of horizon, it may be because she was not aware of these issues. If she did not expose her own standpoint and personal investment as the context for the history, this may be because that is not a tradition in historical scholarship. I have been trying to provide good reasons for why acting hermeneutically by dealing with questions, horizon, standpoint and personal investment ought to be the norm rather than the exception in historical work. Whatever concerns I have voiced about her work do not so much weaken what she has done as suggest possible considerations for all of our future work.


Blumenfeld-Jones D. (1990). Body, pleasure, language and world: A framework for the critical analysis of dance education. Doctoral Dissertation. University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Braudel, F. (1972). The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II, 2nd Ed. (trans. Siân Reynolds). New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

Carlyle, T. (1993). On heroes, hero-worship, & the heroic in history / notes and introduction by Michael K. Goldberg ; text established by Michael K. Goldberg, Joel J. Brattin, and Mark Engel. Berkeley, CA: U. of California Press.

Gadamer, H.-G. (1988). Truth and method. New York: Crossroad.

H'Doubler, M. (1940). Dance, a creative art experience 2nd Ed. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Kliebard, H. (1995). The Struggle for the American curriculum: 1893-1958, 2nd Ed. New York: Routledge.

Reagon, C. E. & Stewart D. (Eds.) (1978). The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An anthology of his work. Boston: Beacon Press.

About the Reviewer

Donald S. Blumenfeld-Jones

Donald Blumenfeld-Jones is an Associate Professor of Curriculum Studies at Arizona State University. His main research interests are the relation between the arts and educational research, critical social theory and curriculum, hermeneutics and curriculum, and the place of authority in education as a curricular issue. He was, for 20 years, a professional modern dancer. He continues to write poetry and dance on occasion.

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