To the Flesh – Susanne K. Langer’s Theory of Art. Body-Mind Synthesis and the Musical Matrix

Dissertation by Lona Gaikis 2017

How do mind and body make sense of the blooming and buzzing confusion we call perception? What is “meaning” and how does its “form” take shape? American philosopher Susanne K. Langer (*1895; †1985) tackles these fundamental questions in an epistemology and psychology beyond language. Her analysis introduces a new key: an alternative semiological conceptualization of symbolic forms and art. Her findings focus on music as the center of her philosophy. The following monograph is a historical revision and analysis of concepts from Langer’s semantic theory of art. It follows the roots of symbolic logic and continues metaphysical speculations on process in twentieth-century philosophy.

Current debates in art theory on music reveal a fundamental crisis caused by an inexactness or exhaustion of tools of analysis that usually review visual arts, not music. The idea of music as “organized sound” is a simplification of terminology and semiotic analysis; however, what then are other ways to access music’s “form”? Langer clears the picture on music—and its ‘sister-art’ dance.

With great thanks to my supervisor Prof. Elisabeth von Samsonow (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna) and second corrector Prof. Robert Pfaller (Kunstuniversität Linz).