Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226485201 Published December 2017
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Kinaesthetic Knowing

Aesthetics, Epistemology, Modern Design

Zeynep Çelik Alexander

Kinaesthetic Knowing

Zeynep Çelik Alexander

336 pages | 10 color plates, 99 halftones | 7 x 10 | © 2017
Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226485201 Published December 2017
E-book $10.00 to $55.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226485348 Published December 2017
Is all knowledge the product of thought? Or can the physical interactions of the body with the world produce reliable knowledge? In late-nineteenth-century Europe, scientists, artists, and other intellectuals theorized the latter as a new way of knowing, which Zeynep Çelik Alexander here dubs “kinaesthetic knowing.”     
In this book, Alexander offers the first major intellectual history of kinaesthetic knowing and its influence on the formation of modern art and architecture and especially modern design education. Focusing in particular on Germany and tracing the story up to the start of World War II, Alexander reveals the tension between intellectual meditation and immediate experience to be at the heart of the modern discourse of aesthetics, playing a major part in the artistic and teaching practices of numerous key figures of the period, including Heinrich Wölfflin, Hermann Obrist, August Endell, László Moholy-Nagy, and many others. Ultimately, she shows, kinaesthetic knowing did not become the foundation of the human sciences, as some of its advocates had hoped, but it did lay the groundwork—at such institutions as the Bauhaus—for modern art and architecture in the twentieth century. 

Introduction: A Peculiar Experiment

1          Kinaesthetic Knowing: The Nineteenth-Century Biography of Another Kind of Knowledge
2          Looking: Wölfflin’s Comparative Vision
3          Affecting: Endell’s Mathematics of Living Feeling
4          Drawing: The Debschitz School and Formalism’s Subject
5          Designing: Discipline and Introspection at the Bauhaus


Selected Bibliography
Review Quotes
Barry Bergdoll, Columbia University
"Zeynep Celik Alexander's stunningly original study of the intersection of emergent laboratory psychology, new pedagogical credos, and artistic practices in late nineteenth-century Germany, is a landmark analysis. Her elegant and complex arguments are as rich in their thick cultural historical description of a nineteenth-century ocular culture as they are suggestive of alternative genetics for such key modernist explorations as formal abstraction and the embrace of the spatial as the essence of architectural experience. This is a richly documented provocation that suggests nothing short of a new datum for the emergence of architectural modernism and its pedagogical settings from public schools to the Bauhaus."
Spyros Papapetros, Princeton University
“For decades modern design was criticized for its orthogonal logic, disembodied rationality, and overconfidence on the power of the mind. In this groundbreaking study, Zeynep Celik Alexander lucidly counter-argues that modern historians, designers, and pedagogues drew from the anti-intellectual aesthetics of bodily movement, psychological feeling, and unconscious intuition to produce a new experiential subject through the interrelated strategies of looking and drawing in response to a new host of political motivations. From Kant to Freud and from Wölfflin to Behrens and Moholy-Nagy, this is a genuinely interdisciplinary study on the epistemological formation of twentieth-century design education that is both accessible as well as profound.”
Daniel M. Abramson, Boston University
Kinaesthetic Knowing is extraordinary.  A critical history of design education, this book is exceedingly learned, smart, knowing, original, and, for all that, accessible and well-written. Its impact will be as broad and deep as the work itself, reaching audiences in architectural and art history and theory, as well as German cultural history and the history of science, plus all readers interested in how disciplines establish their values, boundaries, and interrelations.”
Reinhold Martin, Columbia University
"Through sheer force of erudition and archival imagination, Zeynep Çelik Alexander brilliantly demonstrates the convergence around 1900 of aesthetic philosophy, psychology, and modernist design pedagogy in an experimental epistemology based on bodily movement. As she shows, this paradigm recalibrated longstanding philosophical antinomies like mind versus body in a manner that casts bright historical light on today’s renewed interest in affect and embodiment. Dramatically revising our understanding of German formalist aesthetics during the long nineteenth century, Kinaesthetic Knowing tracks neo-Kantianism’s alter ego from Helmholtz to Freud, from Wundt to Wölfflin, and from Obrist to the Bauhaus. This is intellectual and cultural history of the highest order, from the ground up."

College Art Association: Charles Rufus Morey Award

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