Bergson before Bergsonism: Traversing “Bergson’s Failing” in Susanne K. Langer’s Philosophy of Art


  • Iris van der Tuin Utrecht University, The Netherlands



Art, Bergson, Diffraction, Langer, Polemics


How did the philosophy of Henri Bergson look before Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonism? This article provides a situated answer to that question by performing a close reading of Susanne K. Langer’s early engagement with Bergson in her monograph Feeling and Form from 1953. Both Bergson and Langer argue against polemical philosophizing. Such polemical modes of doing philosophy distort insight into the thought of the philosophers in question and in philosophical questions per se (such as questions about artistic creation). My reading of Langer’s Bergson is therefore infused with what is nowadays called a new materialist impetus of non-linearity, a non-oppositional philosophizing, and the reading follows the methodology of diffractive reading, a thinking outside fixed and fixating schools of thought. I argue that in spite of Langer’s explicit, i.e., polemical objection to Bergson’s work and to its use by artists, it is a Bergsonism with which Langer’s work is infused.