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The Outward MindMaterialist Aesthetics in Victorian Science and Literature$
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Benjamin Morgan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226442112

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226457468.001.0001

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Introduction: Materialist Aesthetics

Introduction: Materialist Aesthetics

(p.1) Introduction: Materialist Aesthetics
The Outward Mind

Benjamin Morgan

University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes the longstanding challenge of accounting for embodiment and materiality within aesthetic theory, moving from Immanuel Kant’s rejection of sensuous pleasure in the Critique of Judgment to contemporary approaches within affect theory that reanimate the notion that aesthetic experience is fundamentally embodied. It then provides a historical overview and definition of nineteenth-century “materialist” approaches to aesthetics that were often oriented by new psychological and evolutionary sciences, instead of by a priori philosophy. Through a discussion of five key terms--form, response, materiality, practice, and empathy--the chapter suggests that nineteenth-century approaches provide resources for rethinking current understandings of aesthetic embodiment, and of the humanities/sciences divide more broadly. The chapter also discusses the book’s methodological approach to science and literature, which departs from a current emphasis on shared languages or tropes by focusing instead on specific networks and objects that reveal points of intersection between nineteenth-century science and literature. The chapter concludes by showing how three short scenes drawn from the writing of Clementina Anstruther-Thomson, William Morris, and Walter Pater manifest the “outward turn,” or exteriorization of mind into surrounding objects, that the book argues was effected across Victorian materialist aesthetics.

Keywords:   Immanuel Kant, William Morris, Walter Pater, aesthetics, form, response, materiality, practice, empathy, science and literature

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