15 October 2013, 18.00 – 20.00

Distinguished Invited Lecture: Winfried Menninghaus (Frankfurt a. Main)

“Towards an empirical aesthetics of language and literature”

Abstract: Models of language processing currently used in linguistics and language psychology do not entail provisions for aesthetic processing dimensions. The lecture sketches research lines that are aimed at (1) developing a comprehensive descriptive grid of "poetic" features of language, (2) testing the effects of such features on aesthetic appreciation and (3) investigating the cognitive and affective mechanisms involved in aesthetic language processing, including their neural signature.

Winfried Menninghaus is Director of the Dept. of Language and Literature at f the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt am Main


The objective of the newly founded Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics is to arrive at a deeper understanding of the mechanisms, elicitors and functions of aesthetic liking and aesthetic preferences: Who appreciates what and why and under what conditions? And what functions do aesthetic practices and preferences serve for individuals, social groups and societies?
The research focuses primarily on the foundations of aesthetic evaluation, perception and experience.

Like most other forms of empirical research that are not wholly exploratory in nature, empirical aesthetics is driven by theories, hypotheses and models. Specifically, it faces the challenge of integrating and developing theories, hypotheses and models from very different disciplines, most notably from psychology, the traditional poetics of the individual art forms, musicology, art history, literary studies, biology, sociology, and the neurosciences. The structure of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics is based on the assumption that progress towards an integrative aesthetic theory can only be achieved through a strong focus on basic research and joint interdisciplinary efforts.

The institute will have four departments. Two of them ("Music" and "Langugage and Literature") will start to work in fall 2013. The appointment of a director of the third department (Neuroscience) is in an advanced stage. As to a fourth director, the search is only beginning.



Berlin School of Mind and Brain
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
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