By Trisha Speed Shaskan
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We talk all day long, in person, through a wire, digitally, in groups, alone, online. Most people like to talk out of the urge to share their feelings, ideas, and reactions to something they’ve recently undergone; talking is a way of processing experience. It is also a mechanism for formulating an opinion about that experience; talking facilitates the human need (and desire) to make meaning. Where does this need to talk come from? ”33 In other words, we can make meaning with improved capacity when we develop and use a shared system of language.
As illustrated later in the chapter, the results of class mixing and class segregation are major themes in period accounts of the historical audience, and clearly they have a great deal to do with how audience cohorts worked, separately and together, to make meaning. Still, as cultural sociologist Richard Butsch warns, “Discourses on audiences, whether academic, elite, intellectual, journalistic, or popular, are neither innocent description nor private opinion, but are filled with political implications that sustain mainstream conceptions of citizenship and worthiness.
Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop As Dickens playfully indicates, it is not by accident that the English word taste refers both to the gustatory sense and to a sociocultural process—both usages have their roots in the Latin taxare, meaning to evaluate or to handle. Defining one’s aesthetic taste is a complicated process that cannot be reduced to immediate sensation, whether 26 Audience Engagement a nd Rol e of A rts Ta l k physiological or emotional. You can’t sip Hamlet, for example, and expect to come away with a legitimate sense of taste about tragic drama.