The aesthetics of the elements: imaginary morphologies in texts and paintings

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Aarhus University Press, 1996 - Art - 111 pages
This book introduces a semiotic and phenomenological understanding of the four elements: earth, air, fire, water, as they appear in description and depiction.
It develops a theory of the imaginary in human thought, and examines the occurrence of the elements, not in their role as trivial contents of the imaginary, but rather as aspects of its constitutive background - as material dimensions giving rise to direct and dynamic cognitive structure. The elements thus evoke universal evaluated sensations, and provide simple schematic conceptual primitives, in contrast with complex higher-order metaphoric structures which may rely on them. The elements are here understood as a mental palette in perception, as well as in aesthetic and philosophical expression.
The validity of this view is demonstrated by analysing literary works by Soren Kierkegaard, Thorkild Bjornvig, Simon Grotrian, and Arne Johnson, and paintings by J. M. W. Turner and Edward Hopper. The analysis is based on an empirical application of catastrophe theory to works of art, and it proposes new semiotic techniques for the interpretation of art and imagination in general.

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Elements and Morphologies IML
Phenomenology and Morphology

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About the author (1996)

Hans-Erik Larsen is currently a research fellow of the Center for Semiotic Research at the University of Aarhus.

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