Abstract

For several decades now, psychoanalytically oriented writers on art have used the concept of the oceanic feeling to designate feelings of oneness, limitlessness, and mania in artistic creativity and aesthetic experiencing. In this article, I examine critically the most influential account of the oceanic feeling in aesthetics, provided by art pedagogue and art critic Anton Ehrenzweig. Following his points of emphasis, I elaborate on the structural, perceptual, and affective aspects of oceanic states of mind. To illuminate further some of the central premises and problems of Ehrenzweig’s account, I assess two separate analyses of visual artworks that have incorporated his ideas. To conclude, I present my own view of the use of oceanic terminology in regard to artistic creativity, analysis of visual artworks, and aesthetic encounters.

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