Published: April 3, 2020

Synaesthetics Art as Synaesthesia

About the book: Paul Gordon proposes a new theory of art as synaesthetic and applies this idea to various media, including works--such as movies, illustrated books, and song lyrics--that explicitly cross over into media involving the different senses. The idea of art as synaesthetic is not, however, limited to those "cross-over" works, because even an individual poem or novel or painting calls upon different senses in creating its syn-aesthetic "meaning.”

Although previous studies have often devolved into those who see an obvious connection between art and synaesthesia and those who adamantly reject such a notion, Synaesthetics furthers our understanding of synaesthesia as an important, if not essential, component of artistic expression.

About the author: Paul Gordon is Professor of Comparative Literature/Humanities at the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. He is the author of four books, including Art as the Absolute (Bloomsbury, 2015).


“'All art touches us with a music that is as visual as it is aural.' This quote from Paul Gordon's book Synaesthetics: Art as Synaesthesia captures the essence of the author's intriguing assertion that all art is inherently synaesthetic. Drawing on research in artistic, philosophic, and scientific fields, Gordon argues convincingly that the general response to art shares common underpinnings with the blended perceptions of neurological synesthesia (where hearing sounds, for example, might also induce a visual experience), as any work of art will stimulate senses other than the one it touches directly. By referencing such diverse works as the writings of Henry James and Charles Baudelaire, paintings of Georgia O'Keefe and Joan Mitchell, and films by Stephen Spielberg, Gordon proposes that 'synaesthetics' is at the basis of art and our response to it. A carefully thought-out and thought-provoking read.”

―Patricia Lynne Duffy, co-founder of and a consultant to the American Synesthesia Association, and author of “Synesthesia and Literature” in the Oxford Handbook of Synaesthesia

“In his new book, Paul Gordon recognizes the central place of synaesthesia in debates about inter-art aesthetics. Where others have considered synaesthesia across two art forms, Gordon, a significant interlocutor in discussions of modernist literature, music, and film, weaves together, for the first time, inter-art relationships across a wider horizon. This book is a rich and provocative contribution to cultural studies.”

―Simon Shaw-Miller, Chair in the History of Art, University of Bristol, UK, and author of Eye hEar the Visual in Music (2015)

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