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Vygotsky's Psychological Aesthetics in the Context of the Aesthetic and Psychological Discourse of early ХХth Century

Student: Ekaterina Pershaeva

Supervisor: Georg Wilhelm Heinrich Witte

Faculty: School of Arts and Humanities

Educational Programme: Philology (Bachelor)

Final Grade: 8

Year of Graduation: 2020

The paper deals with Vygotsky's approach to a psychological investigation of “aesthetic reactions”. The study aims at discussing the role of aesthetic practice and aesthetic experiences (and art reception in particular) in human psychology. Methodologically, it is based on (a) a contextualization of Vygotsky’s approach within the framework of contemporary tendencies in psychology and literary studies and (b) a detailed analysis of some key notions in Vygotsky’s concept of aesthetic reaction, in particular with regard to his book “The Psychology of Art” (1925). Regarding competing contemporary approaches, both partially intersecting with Vygotsky`s stance and diverging from it, the study highlights Vygotsky’s criticism of the school of formalism in literary studies, of reductivist empirical psychological approaches, of reflectologist and behaviorist concepts and of psychoanalytical explanations of art production and art reception. While the formalist standpoint is criticized for his isolation of objective characteristics of the artwork, ignoring thereby any affective impact on the recipient, Vygotsky’s criticism of different psychological approaches addresses their blindness for a holistic understanding of the structural complexity of the art work as elicitor of the aesthetic reaction. Special attention is paid to Vygotsky’s understanding of “catharsis” and a detailed explanation is given of how catharsis occurs, in Vygotsky’s view, as a structural effect of the art work’s composition, i. e. as a result of “conflicting” affect dynamics on the thematical and compositional level of the literary work. The study also emphasizes Vygotsky’s concept of art as “social technique of emotions”, considering how art and aesthetic reaction in general affect society in the long run. Attempts are also made to reflect the connection of Vygotsky’s theory with modern aesthetics of reception.

Full text (added May 25, 2020)

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