This book has examined some of the important ways that emotions interact with the arts. It does not present a 'theory of art', and it does not argue that all art or all good art has to have something to do with the emotions. There are all sorts of marvellous artworks that do not traffic in emotions. To understand much of the world's art it is probably more important to investigate the mechanisms of perception rather than the mechanisms of emotion.
The art I have mainly focused on is Western art dating from the Renaissance or later. My central examples have been from the great works of nineteenth-century realism and Romanticism: Tolstoy, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Delacroix, Friedrich, Beethoven, and Brahms. I have had a lot more to say about literature and music than about photography, sculpture, or dance. This is partly out of simple preference on my part, but also because the temporal arts are peculiarly well suited to deal with emotions, which are temporal processes. Much of what I say could be adapted to the temporal art of film, for example, although I have had little to say about this genre of art.
Today we are in an era of falling public subsidies for both the arts and the humanities. Part of my subtext has been to show why it's so important to continue to engage with the great novels and poems and pieces of music I discuss, which are some of the greatest achievements of Anglo-European culture. It's not just that these works engage our emotions. After all, Harlequin romances, dime-store horror novels, and run-of-the-mill pop songs all evoke our emotions. But the works I'm talking about not only evoke emotions that are more complex and ambiguous but also—most importantly—they actively encourage us to reflect about our emotional responses and to learn from them.