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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Robin Veder

COFUND Senior Research Fellow at Josephine Butler College (January - March 2016)

Prof Veder is an Associate Professor of Humanities and Art History/Visual Culture, Penn State University.

In the 1910s through the 1930s, the field of American landscape architecture was invested in a logic of environmental determinism. Prominent educators believed that landscapes physiologically discipline and even transform the bodies of people who live in them. A key source was the theory of kinesthetic empathy –acquired from German experimental (non-Freudian) physiological psychology – that posits the aesthetic experience occurs when a viewer’s neuromuscular system “empathizes” with the physical form of an image, object, building, or landscape. Thus, designers believed landscape could structure patterns of physical movement, whether visible or invisible, labour or recreation. In turn, this was a component in the making of styles of bodily carriage that served as a category of identity formation during this period. The Fellowship will support this project which will be the first book on American early twentieth-century landscape architecture to show that its social agenda was premised in physiological aesthetics; to demonstrate how aesthetic design coordinated with new body cultures of sport and dance; and furthermore to argue that these environments and practices defined social identity through styles of physical movement.