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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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Response: The Scale of Affect in Physiological Aesthetics

Response: The Scale of Affect in Physiological Aesthetics

(p.86) 2 Response: The Scale of Affect in Physiological Aesthetics
The Outward Mind

Benjamin Morgan

University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses how a physiological model of emotion created new avenues into time-worn narratives about aesthetic experience. Focusing on five thinkers who shared an interest in describing aesthetic experience as an embodied affect—Alexander Bain, Herbert Spencer, Grant Allen, Walter Pater, and Thomas Hardy—the chapter shows how physiological aesthetics challenged the notion that aesthetic judgment was necessarily a slow, reflective process of deliberation. Evolutionary theory and physiology provided tools for rescaling aesthetic response: for Grant Allen and Herbert Spencer, the experience of beauty was a reflex that had evolved slowly in evolutionary time; while for Alexander Bain, it was an immediate neurophysiological response to stimuli of form, color, or sound. This scientific discourse is manifested in later works such as Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native and Walter Pater’s The Renaissance, which experiment with the notion of aesthetic experience as involving discernible physical impressions on the nervous system.

Keywords:   Alexander Bain, Herbert Spencer, Grant Allen, Walter Pater, Thomas Hardy, affect, impression, physiological aesthetics, reflex, evolutionary aesthetics

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