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Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection$
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Evelleen Richards

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226436906

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437064.001.0001

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Beauty Cuts the Knot

Beauty Cuts the Knot

(p.91) Four Beauty Cuts the Knot
Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection

Evelleen Richards

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 4 extends this analysis through an examination of Darwin’s early readings in British empiricist aesthetics, notably the writings of Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, and Francis Jeffrey. It is argued that, from an early stage, Darwin rejected the divine origins of beauty and its perception and adopted a naturalistic notion of beauty as strongly gendered, as race and class specific and weighted with moral and political meaning. His understanding of the different racial ideals of beauty, embodied in such iconic portraits as the Titian Venus and in derisive popular images such as the “Hottentot Venus”, underpinned his interpretation of racial divergence through a process of male aesthetic selection.

Keywords:   empiricist aesthetics, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, Francis Jeffrey, racial ideals of beauty, Titian Venus, Hottentot Venus, racial divergence, male aesthetic selection

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