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CFP: Susanne Langer Reconsidered

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Philosopher Susanne Langer’s work exerted a significant influence on the arts and aesthetic debates of mid-century. Figures as diverse as composer Elliott Carter, performance artist Allan Kaprow, music theorist Leonard Meyer, and more recently literary and cultural theorist Sianne Ngai have found significant resources in Langer’s writings. Notably, the affective impact of musical experience stands as a central theme in her thinking. In Philosophy in a New Key (1941) and Feeling and Form (1953), Langer argued that music was materially linked to feeling and expression at the same time that it required a minimal sense of structure that loosely resembled the workings of logic. In her view, music’s unique amalgam of the material and the ideal also gave it distinct affordances. It could resemble the patterned temporal flows of life while also conveying imprecise, ambivalent, and implicit content; for her, music was “peculiarly adapted to the explication of ‘unspeakable’ things.”

The AMS Music and Philosophy Study Group will convene a panel at the 2016 AMS/SMT Annual Meeting in Vancouver that both engages Langer’s writings on music and confronts broader topics that have some affinity with her work. Possible paper topics include: intersections between Langer’s work and affect theory, music cognition, and biomusicology; her influence on or affinities with various composers, musicians, and intellectuals; and comparative assessments of her writings on music in the context of mid-century philosophy, psychology, formalism, and aesthetics. We also welcome engagements, revivals, and critiques of Langer’s work in light of twenty-first century interest in queer and feminist theory, theories that engage music’s significance with respect to racial and ethnic difference, as well as the emergent nexus of sound studies.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to langer.mpsg@gmail.com.

Deadline: Monday, May 2nd, 5p.m., Eastern Standard Time.