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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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Form: Harmony and Attunement in Empirical Aesthetics

Form: Harmony and Attunement in Empirical Aesthetics

Chapter:
(p.27) 1 Form: Harmony and Attunement in Empirical Aesthetics
Source:
The Outward Mind
Author(s):

Benjamin Morgan

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226457468.003.0002

This chapter traces the activities of a cohort of Edinburgh physiologists, interior designers, and literary critics who sought to develop scientific models of beauty, first by using classical Greek mathematical ideals of proportion and then by turning to recent findings in neurophysiology. The chapter begins with an analysis of David Ramsay Hay and George Field, who, contesting John Ruskin’s historicism, sought to transform design and color theory into an empirical science. It then shows how their thought was taken up by important figures in Victorian intellectual culture including the physiologists Thomas Laycock, William Carpenter, and John Addington Symonds Sr., and the literary critic Eneas Sweetland Dallas. By contrast with today’s formalisms, which tend to understand form as a structure, these writers worked at the intersection of science and aesthetics to develop an idea of “form” as embodied, dynamic, and ambient.

Keywords:   David Ramsay Hay, George Field, Thomas Laycock, William Carpenter, John Addington Symonds, Eneas Sweetland Dallas, John Ruskin, form, neurophysiology, color theory

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