The Missing Person Found: Expressing Emotion in Pictures

The Missing Person Found: Expressing Emotion in Pictures

Jenefer Robinson

The philosopher Dominic Lopes thinks that pictures that express emotions do so by depicting people who are expressing some emotion (by weeping or laughing, say) or by depicting scenes that have the look of some emotion (a melancholy-looking landscape, a joyful-looking scene) or simply by having colors or lines that look sad or joyful. However, there is a much more fundamental way in which pictures – especially pictures from the Romantic and Expressionist periods – express emotions. Artists can express their own emotions in a picture by showing the way the world appears to someone with a particular emotional perspective. Moreover, such pictures invite viewers to adopt this perspective themselves and to empathize with the artist’s emotional perspective.

Jenefer Robinson is professor emerita of philosophy at the University of Cincinnati and honorary visiting professor of philosophy at the University of York in Britain.  Past president of the American Society for Aesthetics, she published Deeper than Reason: Emotion and its Role in Literature, Music and Art (Oxford University Press) in 2005.  Robinson also has written in major academic journals and essay collections including the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism and Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art. An expanded version of “The Missing Person Found” is to be published next year in The British Journal of Aesthetics.

4:00 p.m., Thursday, October 20

South Auditorium of the Bost Conference Center







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