The function of art in L.S. Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology



This theoretical article focuses on the psychological analysis of the theory of catharsis represented in L.S. Vygotsky's "The Psychology of Art". The analysis shows that while the psychotherapeutic catharsis (in psychoanalysis) gives the meaning of a situation and emotions to a client, the aesthetic catharsis forms the feelings. The model put forward by Vygotsky is explored in its connection with modern psychology, physiology of emotions, practices of therapeutic catharsis, and Aristotle's "Poetics". The author considers catharsis a mechanism of interiorization of cultural-historical meanings and reviews the priciples of its functioning. The phenomenon of catharsis is described in the context of the theory of higher mental functions' development. The conditions of appearance and existence of aesthetic catharsis are also described. These are: the intensification of emotions caused by absence of motor discharge; the correspondence of one's emotional experience to the subject matter of a composition, which comprises a diversity of meanings; and, nontheless, the distance between the reader and the subject matter.

General Information

Keywords: L.S. Vygotsky, Lacan, Aristotle, psychology of art, catharsis, higher mental functions, sense, meaning, emotions

Journal rubric: Discussions and Discourses

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Ulybina E.V. The function of art in L.S. Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2006. Vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 89–97. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


Information About the Authors

Elena V. Ulybina, Doctor of Psychology, Professor of the Department of General Psychology, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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