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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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Rand, Ayn. The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature
1969, New York, World Pub. Co.
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Publisher’s note: In this beautifully written and brilliantly reasoned book, Ayn Rand throws a new light on the nature of art and its purpose in human life. Once again Miss Rand eloquently demonstrates her refusal to let popular catchwords and conventional ideas stand between her and the truth as she has discovered it. The Romantic Manifesto takes its place beside The Fountainhead as one of the most important achievements of our time.

Comment: Teaching this text might be quite challenging, as the theory proposed is very revisionist. The text can be inspiring in two ways. Firstly, it can encourage a discussion on the status of the avant-garde and most abstract art forms – some students will likely share the sentiment that many such works are not art. Second, Rand’s definition has clear normative undertones: it is not only about what art is, but about what art is for and what its purpose should be. It might be instructive to use her text to inspire a discussion on whether we should expect definitions of art to cover these points.

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