Affective variations. A phenomenological investigation into visual art experiences.

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Tone Roald


University of Copenhagen


DKK 691,528




Monograph Fellowships


This book is about the affective importance of visual art, drawing mainly on phenomenological theory and an analysis of concrete experiences, both contemporary and historical. Through empirically based descriptions of affect in aesthetic experience, I will arrive at a new, qualitatively founded explanation of why art is important to us. The book will provide crucial arguments for the general importance of art and its particular importance in education programs. The book will also suggest ways to develop educational strategies at art museums, with more focus on how people experience works of art.


This is a novel approach to aesthetic experience that has the potential to fundamentally alter the way we view art. Traditional reception theory is often about how art works when the ideal museum visitor (i.e., the expert) experiences art. This framework claims that it is problematic to rely on subjective spectator accounts to investigate meanings of art, because their descriptions may diverge from the work of art and include trivial frivolities or their own subjective backgrounds when experiencing the work. Contrary to this, my book rests on the assumption that the value of art can best be understood through experiential descriptions of affect in the meeting with art: through subjective experience. I will thereby provide new and crucial arguments for art's subjective importance.


I will answer the question of how affective experiences are revealed in everyday language when people have experiences with art that are important to them through qualitative interviews and autobiographical accounts. The general question I investigate is: How is affect experienced in aesthetic experiences with visual art? With a point of departure in phenomenological descriptions of affective experience and the well-established methods of phenomenological psychology, each affective phenomenon will be exemplified through phenomenological analyses of the collected empirical material. Both general affect theory, history of affect theory, aesthetic theory and especially phenomenological theory are used to analyze the experiences in question.

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