Langer, Suzanne K(atherina)

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Langer, Suzanne K(atherina)

Langer, Suzanne K(atherina), important American philosopher of musical aesthetics; b. N.Y., Dec. 20, 1895; d. Old Lyme, Conn., July 17, 1985. She studied philosophy at Radcliffe Coll. (Ph.D., 1926) and at the Univ. of Vienna, her principal teachers being Whitehead and Cassirer. She held teaching positions at Radcliffe and Columbia Univ., then became a prof, at Conn. Coll. in 1954, retiring in 1962. Her publications center on a philosophy of art derived from a theory of musical meaning, which in turn exemplify a general philosophy of mind. According to her theory, modes of understanding are forms of symbolic transformation, i.e. one understands any phenomenon by constructing an object analogous to it or referring to it. She extended this theory to argue that the patterns of musical form are structurally similar to those of human feelings. She later expanded this into a general theory of the fine arts, her final work suggesting that art criticism might form the basis of a new structure for the behavioral sciences. Her lucid, strong-minded writings are widely considered crucial in understanding musical aesthetics.


The Practice of Philosophy (N.Y., 1930); Philosophy in a New Key (Cambridge, Mass., 1942); Feeling and Form (N.Y, 1953); Problems of Art (N.Y, 1957); Mind: An Essay in Human Feeling (3 vols., Baltimore, 1967-72).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Langer, Suzanne K(atherina)

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