Susanne Langer’s Philosophy in a New Key (1942) is the most famous book you’ve never heard of. It has had a remarkable career: a big seller on the mass paperback market of the post–World War II decades; a key text in musicology, aesthetics, religious studies, and anthropology; a founding work of Langer’s decades-long attempt to reinvent philosophy. And yet, precisely because the book possessed such remarkable crossover appeal for generations of nonspecialist readers, it has become a neglected Undead text. This article recovers its purpose and reception.
Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key (1942)
Joel Isaac teaches in the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago. He is the author of Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (2012) and coeditor, with Gary Gerstle, of States of Exception in American History (forthcoming).
Joel Isaac; Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key (1942). Public Culture 1 May 2020; 32 (2 (91)): 355–361. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-8090117
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