Art must move: emotion and the biology of beauty

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[opening paragraph]: Ramachandran and Hirstein claim that ‘peak shift', or exaggeration of salient features, ‘explains not only caricatures but all art.’ I would like to test the peak shift hypothesis in a case that at first glance seems to support it. Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano de Bergerac is the tragicomic tale of a grand poetic wit of Paris in the 17th. century, a noble fighter and master of fencing who loves with all his heart, but feels he is unlovable for one very prominent reason: his wondrously prognathous nose. When a challenger pokes fun at Cyrano's most notable facial feature, the latter contemptuously provides a lesson in satiric exaggeration:

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: The Wright Institute, Berkeley, California, USA.

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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