Susanne Langer

Susanne Langer

Susanne Langer (December 20, 1895 - July 17, 1985) was an American philosopher of art, a follower of Ernst Cassirer. She is best known for her 1942 book "Philosophy in a New Key".


Susanne Katherina Knauth was born in New York, New York to Antonio Knauth, a well-to-do lawyer, and Else M. (Uhlich) Knauth.Her parents had migrated from Germany and settled in Manhattan's Upper West side. She was educated in a private school and at home she played the piano and cello well. Later on music would play a role in her philosophical system. She received her B.A. from Radcliffe College in 1920, and her PhD in 1926. In 1921 she married William L. Langer, a professor of history at Harvard; they later divorced. [ Susanne K. Langer bio] at "Books and Writers".]

Langer taught philosophy at Radcliffe from 1927 to 1942. She also taught at University of Delaware, Columbia University, New York University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, University of Washington, and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.After working as an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Delaware, she was a lecturer at Columbia University. In 1954 she was appointed professor of philosophy at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut.


With the rise of postmodern theory she is now largely neglected, but she was an important figure in mid-20th century American philosophy. A primary thrust of her main corpus ("New Key", "Feeling and Form", "Mind") was to establish a sound and systematic basis for an understanding of art - one which would reveal causes behind its creation, its value for human consciousness, and sketches of a foundation upon which individual works might be judged and evaluated.

Her efforts to examine art focused in large part upon a rigorous examination of its symbolic structure, chiefly through comparisons of its symbolic workings to those with 'discursive forms' such as language and mathematics. Perhaps most notably, she sought to examine the symbolic forms of art in relationship to natural forms, including those embodied within biological processes.

Langer was also interested in drama, and in "Feeling and Form" she wrote that drama is a “special poetic mode,” and that the dynamism of dramatic action is not so much a result of a play’s visible action (mirroring actual experience, which Langer calls “ragged, unaccentuated”), but of its location at the intersection of “the two great realms of envisagement--past and future.” Langer writes that a key element of drama is its creation of a “virtual history” that is transparent to an audience, and which can be obliquely, but wholly, apprehended in each moment of action (“we can view each smallest act in its context, as a symptom of character and condition”). Dramatic action contains “latent form” that is suggested or developed in a play, and which comes fully into view only at the end, when it is understood as the fulfillment of Destiny. In short, drama is process of “history coming” rather than “history in retrospect,” of motivation rather than causation.

Although she is not frequently cited by professional philosophers, her influence is great to the extent that her doctrine, particularly with respect to presentational symbolic activity, might be said to have become an integral part of the "collective unconsciousness” of many persons concerned with art and music in the English speaking world.

A clear example of her legacy is found in the fifth chapter of neuroscientists’ Howard Gardner’s 1982 book "Art, Mind, and Brain. A Cognitive Approach to Creativity", dedicated exclusively to her thought. Now that neuroscience has begun to sort out some of the distinguishing characteristics of the interplay between right and left hemisphere mental processes, and the way emotion is essential as a mediator, the work of Susan Langer comes to have even deeper significance, and some feel that she may have been ahead of her time.


*"The Cruise of the Little Dipper, and Other Fairy Tales" (1924).
*"The Practice of Philosophy" (1930).
*"An Introduction to Symbolic Logic" (1937).
*"Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art" (1942).
*"Language and Myth" (1946), translator, from "Sprache und Mythos" (1925) by Ernst Cassirer.
*"Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art" (1953).
*"Problems of Art: Ten Philosophical Lectures" (1957) Richard Field
*"Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling" (1967 - 1982) three volumes


*"Cassirer and Langer on Myth: An Introduction" (2000) by William Schultz.T

External links

* [ Susan Langer on the aesthetics of film] as excerpted from "Feeling and Form" (1953)
* [ A collection of essays by and about Langer] on

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  • Susanne Langer — Susanne K. Langer (* 20. Dezember 1895 in New York; † 17. Juli 1985 ebd.) war eine amerikanische Philosophin. Susanne K. Langer wurde als Susanne Katherina Knauth in einer wohlhabenden deutschstämmigen Familie in New York geboren. 1916 begann sie …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Susanne Langer — Susanne Katherina Langer (apellidada Knauth de soltera) (Manhattan, Nueva York; 20 de diciembre de 1895 Old Lyme, Connecticut; 17 de julio de 1985) fue una filósofa norteamericana seguidora de Ernst Cassirer e influída también por Wittgenstein.… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Susanne (given name) — Susanne is a feminine given name. It is a German and Scandinavian form of Susan. It may also be spelled Suzanne. People with the name include;* Susanne Antonetta, American poet; * Susanne Bier, Danish film producer, director and writer; * Susanne …   Wikipedia

  • Langer — is a family name. For the etymology, meaning, and pronunciation of the name, and for the Hiberno English slang word, see Wiktionary.People with the family name Langer include: * A. J. Langer an American actress * Albert Langer an Australian… …   Wikipedia

  • Susanne K. Langer — (* 20. Dezember 1895 in New York; † 17. Juli 1985 in Old Lyme) war eine amerikanische Philosophin. Susanne K. Langer wurde als Susanne Katherina Knauth in einer wohlhabenden deutschstämmigen Familie in New York geboren. 1916 begann sie das… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Langer — [laŋ′ər] Susanne K(atherina) (born Susanne Katherina Knauth) 1895 1985; U.S. philosopher …   English World dictionary

  • Langer — Verteilung des Namens in Deutschland (2005) Langer ist ein deutscher Familienname. Herkunft und Bedeutung Varianten als Übername: Lang, Lange, DeLange als Herkunf …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Langer, Susanne K. — ▪ American philosopher and educator née  Susanne Katherina Knauth  born Dec. 20, 1895, New York, N.Y., U.S. died July 17, 1985, Old Lyme, Conn.       American philosopher and educator who wrote extensively on linguistic analysis and aesthetics.… …   Universalium

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