Conceptions of Emotion in Empirical Aesthetics around 1900 (311)

What is the relationship between the two most fundamental developments in aesthetics around 1900 – between the turn toward a discourse of emotions and the turn toward an experimental methodology – and how do these historical developments relate to current attempts to investigate aesthetic feelings by empirical means?

The project seeks to reconstruct the conceptualization of emotions in psychology, experimental psychology, psycho-physics, and philosophy around 1900. Methodologically drawing on discourse analysis and recent approaches to the history of science, it investigates the ma-terial research practices, the rhetorical organization, and the art theoretical implications of empiricist aesthetics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To that end, the three individual parts of the project focus on the following questions:

a) What are the experimental methods that serve to transform poetic phenomena, for the very first time in the history of aesthetics, into objects of empirical laboratory research?

b) How is affect conceptualized linguistically – and in particular, metaphorically – in the context of these newly emerging research strategies?

c) How is the relationship between aesthetic and emotional stimuli reconceived in the course of this experimental turn?

Aiming at the reconstruction of these historical debates, the project simultaneously pursues the thesis that a close look at empirical aesthetics around 1900 may help to illuminate the conditions and effects of applying experimental methods to the field of aesthetics today. The results of the project will be presented in a joint monograph co-authored by the three project leaders; in addition, a virtual research library containing the most pertinent texts will be developed in collaboration with the "Virtual Laboratory" of the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science (http://vlp.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/library). The project is divided into three parts:

PART A: Literature in the Laboratory (Henning Schmidgen)

PART B: Affective Motions and Metaphorical Processes (Tobias Wilke)

PART C: Aesthetic Thresholds: Fictionality and Emotion (Jutta Müller-Tamm)