Cave paintings of our prehistoric ancestors, elaborate ritual dances of preliterate tribesmen, long lines at the movies, earnest scribbles of the three-year-old next door—evidence of human preoccupation with art is everywhere, and it is overwhelming. But unlike other human universals—language, tool use, the family—art makes no material contribution to mankind’s survival. What impels the artist to the lonely effort at self-expression? What moves the audience to resonate to the work of a master? What accounts for the child’s inherent fascination with pictures and stories and songs?
These questions are among the deepest we can ask about human nature. Freud deemed some of them forever unanswerable, but modern psychology has made new inroads into these old mysteries. Invented Worlds provides a complete, authoritative account of this progress. Dealing with the three major art forms—painting, music, and literature—Ellen Winner shows how the artist fashions a symbolic world that transforms the experience of the observer. She probes the adult’s ability to create and respond to works of art. In addition, she examines children’s art for what it can reveal about the artistic impulse before adult convention becomes a shaping force. Finally, in order to reach a better understanding of the biological bases of artistry, Winner discusses the art of the mentally disturbed and the neurologically impaired patient.
The sum of these discussions is more than an up-to-date handbook to the field; it is nothing less than a new synthesis of our understanding of man’s artistic nature. Written with admirable clarity, Invented Worlds is a book that can be used by professionals and students in psychology, education, and the arts, as well as anyone with reason to be curious about the processes that underlie the creation and enjoyment of art.