How Edvard Munch and August Strindberg Contracted Protoplasmania: Memory, Synesthesia, and the Vibratory Organism in Fin-de-Siecle Europe

TitleHow Edvard Munch and August Strindberg Contracted Protoplasmania: Memory, Synesthesia, and the Vibratory Organism in Fin-de-Siecle Europe
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBrain, RM
JournalINTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS
Volume35
Pagination7-38
ISBN Number0308-0188
KeywordsAaesthetics, August Strindberg, CIRCA 1900, Edvard Munch, Ernst Haeckel, INTERDISCIPLINARY, Monism, MULTIDISCIPLINARY SCIENCES, Physiology, Protoplasm, SOCIAL SCIENCES
Abstract

Late nineteenth-century scientists sought to bring together energy and evolution through the elastic, semi-fluid substance preponderant in the cells of all organisms: protoplasm. For several decades protoplasm functioned as a "boundary-object", supporting a myriad of scientific problems and research constituencies. This essay considers research into protoplasm as the bearer of vibrations thought to store organic memory, including heredity, and serving as the basis of physiological and psychological movement and differentiation of sensory function. The constituencies interested in these notions of the vibratory organism included several aesthetic theorists and artists, including the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch and his friend August Strindberg, the Swedish playwright, painter, and photographer. The explorations of Munch and Strindberg in the possibilities of synesthetic and automatic art are shown to be a critical component of early modernism.