Penn State Harrisburg

Robin Veder, Ph.D.

· Associate Professor of Humanities and Art History/Visual Culture; Humanities


Robin Veder is a historian of nineteenth-century and twentieth-century transatlantic art history, visual culture, history of the body, and landscape studies. She received her doctorate in American Studies from the College of William in Mary, and joined the Penn State Harrisburg faculty in 2004. She has conducted collections research and/or curated exhibitions for the Palmer Museum of Art, the National Park Service’s Historic American Landscape Survey, the Smithsonian Institution’s Horticulture Services Division, Montpelier, the Stonewall Jackson House, and the Virginia Historical Society. Veder’s research fellowships include appointments at the Penn State Institute for Arts and Humanities, the Garden and Landscape Studies Program at Dumbarton Oaks, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center for American Modernism, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Horticulture Services Division, and the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library.

Research Interests

“Animating Landscapes: Kinesthetic Empathy in Early-Twentieth-Century Landscape Design and Reception” is the title of Veder’s current project. In the 1910s through the 1930s, American landscape writing and landscape architecture instruction were among the areas of artistic production that built upon theories of kinesthetic empathy. These theories –acquired from German experimental (and non-Freudian) physiological psychology – posit the aesthetic experience occurs when a viewer’s neuromuscular system “empathizes” with the physical form of a painting, building, urn, or landscape. The historical premises of kinesthetic empathy, its application in landscape design and reception, its coordination with body cultures of sport and dance, and the implications for social identities are the subject of this book-in-progress.

Veder’s book, The Living Line: Modern Art and the Economy of Energy (2015), is about connections among the histories of modern art, body cultures, and physiological aesthetics in early-twentieth-century American culture. In The Living Line, she argues that American modernism’s formalist approach to art was galvanized by theories of bodily response derived from experimental physiological psychology and facilitated by contemporary body cultures such as modern dance, rhythmic gymnastics, physical education, and physical therapy. Situating these complementary ideas and exercises in relation to enduring fears of neurasthenia, she contends that aesthetic modernism shared industrial modernity’s objective of efficiently managing neuromuscular energy.

Publications and Research