Cover image for At the Crossroads of the Senses: The Synaesthetic Metaphor Across the Arts in European Modernism By Polina Dimova

At the Crossroads of the Senses

The Synaesthetic Metaphor Across the Arts in European Modernism

Polina Dimova

Coming in November

$119.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09781-7
Coming in November

290 pages
7" × 10"
15 color/24 b&w illustrations
2024

Perspectives on Sensory History

At the Crossroads of the Senses

The Synaesthetic Metaphor Across the Arts in European Modernism

Polina Dimova

“I have never come across a book or manuscript that explores this topic in such depth, breadth, and detail. Dimova’s overview of the history of perceptions of synesthesia and of controversies surrounding the topic of synesthesia is extraordinarily enlightening, and the synthesis of a wide variety of approaches to this complex topic is impressive and highly readable.”

 

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Inspired by Richard Wagner’s idea of the total artwork, European modernist artists began to pursue multimedia projects that mixed colors, sounds, and shapes. Polina Dimova’s At the Crossroads of the Senses traces this new sensory experience of synaesthesia—the physiological or figurative blending of senses—as a modernist phenomenon from its scientific description in the late nineteenth century to its prevalence in the early twentieth.

Structured around twenty theses on synaesthesia, this book explores the integral relationship between modernist art, science, and technology, tracing not only how modernist artists perceptually internalized and absorbed technology and its effects but also how they appropriated it to achieve their own aesthetic, metaphysical, and social goals. Through case studies of prominent multimodal artists—Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Richard Strauss, Aleksandr Scriabin, Wassily Kandinsky, František Kupka, Andrei Bely, and Rainer Maria RilkeAt the Crossroads of the Senses reveals the color-forms and color-sounds that, for these artists, laid the foundations of the world and served as the catalyst for the flourishing exchanges among the arts at the fin de siècle.

Rooted in archival research in France, Germany, Russia, and the Czech Republic, At the Crossroads of the Senses taps overlooked scientific sources to offer a fresh perspective on European modernism. Sensory studies scholars, literary critics, and art historians alike will welcome its many contributions, not least among them a refreshing advocacy for a kind of sensuous reading practice.

“I have never come across a book or manuscript that explores this topic in such depth, breadth, and detail. Dimova’s overview of the history of perceptions of synesthesia and of controversies surrounding the topic of synesthesia is extraordinarily enlightening, and the synthesis of a wide variety of approaches to this complex topic is impressive and highly readable.”
“The phenomenon of mixed sensations, or intersensoriality, fascinated scientists and artists alike in the fin de siècle, and out of their exchanges there emerged a trope—‘the synaesthetic metaphor’—that held out the promise of the unification of the arts and a radical transformation of consciousness and society. In this sensational account of the wellsprings of the modernist inter-arts, Polina Dimova takes us on a journey that transgresses every conceivable border— including fantasy/reality—and makes worlds of sense.”

Polina Dimova is Assistant Professor of Russian at the University of Denver.