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The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present Hardcover – March 27, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 636 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068711
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068715
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Advance praise for The Age of Insight
 
“Eric Kandel has succeeded in a brilliant synthesis that would have delighted and fascinated Freud: Using Viennese culture of the twentieth century as a lens, he examines the intersections of psychology, neuroscience, and art. The Age of Insight is a tour-de-force that sets the stage for a twenty-first-century understanding of the human mind in all its richness and diversity.”
—Oliver Sacks, author of The Mind’s Eye and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
 
“In a polymathic performance, a Nobel laureate weaves together the theories and practices of neuroscience, art and psychology to show how our creative brains perceive and engage art—and are consequently moved by it. . . . A transformative work that joins the hands of Art and Science and makes them acknowledge their close kinship.”
—Kirkus Reviews (STARRED)

“A fascinating synthesis of art, history, and science that is also accessible to the general reader. A distinctive and important title that is also a pleasure to read
Library Journal (STARRED)


“Engrossing … Nobel-winning neuroscientist Kandel excavates the hidden workings of the creative mind. Kandel writes perceptively about a range of topics, from art history—the book’s color reproductions alone make it a great browse—to dyslexia. … Kandel captures the reader’s imagination with intriguing historical syntheses and fascinating scientific insights into how we see—and feel—the world.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“A fascinating meditation on the interplay among art, psychology and brain science. The author, who fled Vienna as a child, has remained captivated by Austrian artists Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, each of whom was profoundly influenced by Sigmund Freud and by the emerging scientific approach to medicine in their day … [calls] for a new, interdisciplinary approach to understanding the mind, one that combines the humanities with the natural and social sciences.”
Scientific American

“Eric Kandel’s book is a stunning achievement, remarkable for its scientific, artistic, and historical insights. No one else could have written this book—all its readers will be amply rewarded.”
—Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
 
“Eric Kandel’s training as a psychiatrist and his vast knowledge of how the brain works enrich this thoroughly original exploration of the relationship between the birth of psychoanalysis, Austrian Expressionism, and Modernism in Vienna.”
—Margaret Livingstone, Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
 
“This is the book that Charles Darwin would have produced, had he chosen to write about art and aesthetics. Kandel, one of the great pioneers of modern neuroscience, has effectively bridged the ‘two cultures’—science and humanities. This is a task that many philosophers, especially those called ‘new mysterians,’ had considered impossible.”
—V. S. Ramachandran, author of The Tell-Tale Brain


“Eric Kandel has created a masterpiece, synthesizing brain, mind, and art like no one has before.”
Joseph LeDoux, NYU, author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self

“[This book] offers not only a stunning organic (in every sense of the word) view of fin de siecle culture but also opens new vistas in bioesthetics. It explores the often shocking neurology of the beautiful. And it shows how artist and scientist interlace in the common quest to discover the innards of reality. ‘I don’t render the visible,’ said Paul Klee, ‘I make visible.’ He echoed Edna St. Vincent Millay’s ‘Euclid alone looked on beauty bare.’ Eric Kandel is of that company.”
—Frederic Morton

“Nobel laureate Eric Kandel’s path-setting exploration of the connections between neuroscience and the painters Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka establishes a new frontier in the study of this all-important historical period. The shift toward a biological conception of self, which began in Vienna over a hundred years ago, has since decisively shaped our understanding of human nature.”
Jane Kallir, director, Galerie St. Etienne

“With infectuous enthusiasm and limitless reverence for his multiple subjects, Kandel deftly steers the reader through a vast and inviting territory of science, the creative process, the mind, emotion, eroticism, empathy, feminism, and the unconscious. Years in the making, this highly readable book presents a magisterial study of brain, mind, and art.”
Alessandra Comini, University Distinguished Professor of Art History Emerita, Southern Methodist University

About the Author

Eric R. Kandel is University Professor and Kavli Professor at Columbia University and a Senior Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Kandel is founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on memory storage in the brain. He is the author of In Search of Memory, a memoir that won a Los Angeles Times Book Award, and co-author of Principles of Neural Science, the standard textbook in the field. He was born in Vienna and lives in New York with his wife, Denise.

More About the Author

Eric R. Kandel is Kavli Professor and University Professor at Columbia University and senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Bravo, Professor Kandel!
Donald Mitchell
The latest in brain and mind science is well-presented and discussion of the art that Kandel uses to illustrate his thesis is informed and insightful.
Montana Skyline
I truly feel that this is one of the best written, best organized and most informative books I have read.
P. Eckstein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 169 people found the following review helpful By Lilac on March 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a splendid book both on the workings of the brain and how it can be exemplified in the art of Vienna 1900. This was after all the place and time that led to modernity making Vienna one of the pre-eminent capitals of the world. One is swept up in the feeling of being privy to the birth of the new understanding in medicine and art as it took place in Vienna 1900 in its most intense unfolding and this description is extended to later work, predominantly at US universities, often by people who derived from the Viennese school of thinking through emigration.
The work follows the tradition of the bridge-builders between the seemingly opposed subjects bringing new insights from brain-science in understanding art. It shows, in academic detail, the brain as a network that finds pleasure in the acquisition of knowledge in either field. It is rather comprehensive and learned at that.

The book is cerebral but very readable; in fact I read it in a Marathon session in preparing for a trip to New York to the Golden Adele, this Mona Lisa of the Fin de Siècle. You don't need the trip though; there are wonderful reproductions in the book of interesting work to be analyzed. You need also not read all the academic detail, there is much to enjoy by taking glimpses or by looking at shorter summaries and graphs.

In the first part we learn, in an especially engrossing section, about the general atmosphere in Vienna during its golden time, its coffee-house and theater culture, its literary, musical and salon life but another forward force was the influence of Europe's premier Medical School of the time in Vienna that established such routines as stethoscope or auscultation.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Dominic Martello on May 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
For me this book was a revelation. I took up photography after brain surgery some four years ago so as someone interested in the neurological changes in my life, AND fascinated with the impact of art in my life, I thought this was a must have. No disappointment on either count. He doesn't talk past nor down to the reader and while that can't be easy he makes it seem so. And the work of Klimt, Kokoschka and Schiele are perfect for a study of the huge effect Freud and other turn of the century giants had on the modern aesthetic. My attitude to my own photography has been profoundly changed.
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Format: Kindle Edition
*****
"In conversation with Paul Holdengräber, Eric Kandel will discuss the book already praised by Oliver Sacks as 'a tour-de-force that sets the stage for a twenty-first century understanding of the human mind' in all its richness and diversity."
*

My relation with the Viennese milieu started with my father telling me about the dream city, the reincarnation of late antiquity Alexandria, where I was born after WWII. He took his postgraduate studies in Vienna University before it was annexed by Hitler. Sam, my younger brother was fascinated with Klimt, few of his frescos still hanging on my house walls. But I was a fan of Mozart and Freud, and later I encountered the magical worlds of Dr. Kandell; thanks to the intellectual tours of Charlie Rose.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Vienna, the pride of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire - was considered the cultural capital of Europe, by my dad and many, with its unique atmosphere and sophisticated charm. Vienna embraced a versatile mix of musicians, scientists and artists, who met in cafes and spent the evenings in sparkling salons, or gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held to amuse one another and enjoy fine taste and broaden their knowledge through conversation.

They used liberal discussions, of novel ideas that may have led to inventive conclusions, with influential results in psychology, brain science, and innovation of literature, and art. Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt, among many others began exploring a charming new territory: the then mystical unconscious.
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Format: Hardcover
"But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light." -- Ephesians 5:13 (NKJV)

The Age of Insight is a hard book to categorize. Professor Kandel's stated purpose is to demonstrate how a knowledgeable scientist can write clearly about science so that the interconnections between art and science can be exposed to those who know only about the art. As such, this book is more about informing those interested in the humanities than those whose interest is in science. As a necessary part of his method, there's a circumscription around a narrow set of artists and literary figures rather than an attempt to make a universal statement. To have attempted otherwise would have made a hefty book into a multi-volume tome that few would read.

As someone who reads a lot of art history, history of science, and current research on mental processes, I was impressed by the conception of the book and how deftly it was carried out in ways that deepened my appreciation for subjects I have long been familiar with. I was grateful for these new perspectives. I found the book to be enjoyable for the most part. If I got to a part that was too elementary for what I wanted to absorb, I just skipped quickly through until I got to weightier material. I didn't have to do that very often.

This book would be a wonderful gift to a budding artist or writer . . . or to an art historian in training. I'm sure that many wonderful shows could be mounted that would take advantage of the information here in ways that would delight museum and gallery goers.

Although the book will seem flawed to some, I think it succeeds in its purpose of proposing a new way to write about art and science.
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