Chapter 3 Sport and the Body

An Aesthetic Inquiry

In: Somaesthetics and Sport
Author:
William J. Morgan
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Abstract

I argue that the aesthetic significance and value of modern sport is mainly owed to the special exemplary agency that is its stock and trade. What is special and exemplary about sport in this agential sense is that by creating its own rules, norms, and standards of excellence, it is able to carve out a space for participants to express their bodily being and for onlookers to witness such expression in ways not otherwise open to them outside of its cloistered confines. The kinetic beauty and dramatic force of the agency of the Michael Jordan(s) of the basketball world and the Roger Federer(s) of the tennis world, is thus no accident but, importantly, enabled by the internal rules and norms of their chosen sports. Just then as the wondrous productions of a Picasso and a Proust enabled by the internal rules and norms of painting and literature move, captivate, and inspire us, so too, I contend, do the wondrous productions of a Jordan and Federer enabled by the internal rules and norms of their sports do the same. And just as, Richard Rorty opined, “great works of literature [are] inspirational … not because they are true but because they make their readership ‘shudder with awe’,” and thereby make apparent to them there is more to life “than they ever imagined,” I opine great athletic performances are inspirational not because they are true, put us in touch with the cosmos, but because they make their much larger spectatorship ‘shudder with awe,’ and thereby make apparent to them there is much more to life as bodily beings “than they ever imagined.”

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