Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art

By Jenefer Robinson | Go to book overview

Part Three
Expressing Emotion in the Arts

The next two chapters deal with the expression of emotion in the arts. Chapter 8 gives an account of Collingwood's theory of expression which embodies the Romantic idea that the main function of art is to express the artist's emotions. I don't agree that this is the main function of all art or that it is correct to say that art is expression, as the Romantics did. The arts have many purposes above and beyond expressing emotions. However, I do think that Collingwood's theory—suitably modified—is an insightful theory of what it means for works of painting, literature, music, and so on to express emotions.

Hardly anyone takes Collingwood's theory very seriously these days, however, because it's assumed that the theory has already been demolished by various analytic philosophers, chief amongst whom is Alan Tormey. In Ch. 8 I explain that Tormey's Collingwood bears little relation to the real thing. Then in Ch. 9 I examine two more recent theories of expression that are more-or-less in the spirit of Collingwood, including an old theory of my own. Finally, I articulate and defend a new Romantic theory of artistic expression. I show what it means for the various different art forms to 'express emotions' now that we have a better idea of what emotions are, and I give specific examples drawn from a number of different kinds of artwork.

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