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Langer, Susanne. Feeling and Form; a Theory of Art Developed From Philosophy in a New Key
1953, Charles Scribner’s Sons.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Content: Langer offers a theory of art according to which artworks are purely perceptible forms which embody some sort of feeling. Objects are art if they have ‘significant form’ which is understood as a form symbolic of human feeling or clearly expressing our internal lives. A discussion of different types of symbols and ways to symbolise follows to explain how art can symbolise feeling. The book discusses different arts, where they create different ‘primary illusions’, e.g. ‘virtual time’ is characteristic of music, while ‘virtual space’ – of visual arts. Thus arts are alike in that they all create forms symbolic of human feeling, but differ in what kind of illusions they create.

Comment: Langer is likely the most well-known female author of a major theory of art, and thus teaching her work can be particularly valuable in the context of curriculum diversification. The most interesting discussion points of this book will likely relate to the understanding of what is a symbol and what it means to symbolise human feeling.

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