Revisiting Suzanne K. Langer’s aesthetics: Philosophical new key and virtual form in aesthetics

Thomas Leddy, Eva Kit Wah Man, Lona Gaikis, Iris van der Tuin

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


As Thomas Leddy puts correctly, Susanne Langer’s idea of virtual space expressed in Feeling and Form has been under-recognized in recent years. The panel proposes to revisit the philosophical sources, the originality and the theoretical frame work of Susanne Langer’s aesthetics as a new key, and check out its contemporary implications through expanded reading. It involves two papers tracing the influences that Langer’s philosophical aesthetics are under (Cassirer, Whitehead, and more) and two papers reviewing Langer’s specific discussion of the art forms music and dance, in which her distinguished, in-depth line of thought is comprehensible. Thomas Leddy compares Langer’s philosophy to that of her contemporaries (Dewey, Goodman, Danto) and singles out her notion of art as discontinuous experience in everyday life as main difference. This contrasts positions mainly informed by pragmatism in her field. He further emphasizes the distinctive feature of virtuality in her theory, which suggests linkage rather than segregation of the orders of the primary and secondary illusions therein mentioned. Leddy points out the innovativeness of Langer’s reading and its contemporary revelation. Iris v.d. Tuin extracts the generative idea in Langer’s ontology of differing art forms and contrasts this with her notion as being embedded in a single philosophical project with others. V.d. Tuin’s reading is based on Langer’s personal mentioning of an extended bibliography (with Bell, Fry, Bergson, Croce, Baensch, Collingwood, Cassirer) in which she positions herself. This poses questions in Langer’s interpretation and outset. Both will relate their theoretical engagement to artistic perspectives as well.

Further developing the notion of Langer as art theorist with emphasis on musical form, the other two papers deal with contemporary discussions and examples that relate to Langer’s theory of arts. Eva Man continues the analysis of primary and secondary illusions in dance performance and distinguishes a particular shift in its virtual quality. She discusses Langer’s theory based on examples from today’s dance choreographers in postcolonial Hong Kong that suggest an advancement of Langer’s theory of dance. Her reading puts Langer’s suggestion of pure virtual form under social context, providing possible dimensions in understanding the related shift in form and illusions. Lona Gaikis will give a further understanding of how Langer conceives and uses the term ‘feeling’ that appears so prominently in her philosophic oeuvre. She will draw attention to and contextualize the particular meaning of musical form and relate this to a shift in art theory: a growing attention to the import of sound and musics in the arts. These papers expand the reading of Langer’s aesthetics to contemporary media art and academic cultures. Critical reflection is the key in all contributions. The diverse papers allow a cross over review of continuity/discontinuity of modernity and post modernity related to Langer’s discussion. The basic references in this panel are Langer’s two representative works, Feeling and Form (1953) and Philosophy in a New Key (1942). The order of presentation is set according to the proposed content and relation. It puts the discussion of the virtual form of dance and feeling in music in the middle, and places the philosophical tracing and critical reflection at the beginning and the ending of the panel.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2019
EventAmerican Society for Aesthetics 77th Annual Meeting, ASA 2019 - Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, Phoenix, United States
Duration: 9 Oct 201912 Oct 2019 (Conference website) (Conference programme)


ConferenceAmerican Society for Aesthetics 77th Annual Meeting, ASA 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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