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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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Materiality: Walter Pater and Late-Victorian Materialisms

Materiality: Walter Pater and Late-Victorian Materialisms

(p.133) 3 Materiality: Walter Pater and Late-Victorian Materialisms
The Outward Mind

Benjamin Morgan

University of Chicago Press

This chapter challenges a common view that British aestheticism privileged the notion of an aesthetically sensitive, solipsistic individual. Situating Walter Pater’s fiction in relation to a revival of interest in Lucretian materialism, the chapter shows that Paterian aestheticism often portrayed physical objects as “enminded,” attenuating distinctions between inward self and outward world. The chapter shows how this idea of a vitalized aesthetic object grew from a widespread cultural reevaluation of scientific and philosophical materialisms, including in the period’s sensation fiction, and draws a connection between Pater’s Imaginary Portraits and James Sully’s writing on physiological perception of music, which was inspired by Hermann von Helmholtz. By contrast with George Eliot’s influential conception of the “web” of human relations described by the realist novel, writers such as Pater and Sully understood the figure of the web as made up of matter rather than of social relations.

Keywords:   Walter Pater, James Sully, George Eliot, Lucretius, materialism, sensation fiction, imaginary portraits, aestheticism, physiological aesthetics

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