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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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Empathy: Counting Words with Vernon Lee and I. A. Richards

Empathy: Counting Words with Vernon Lee and I. A. Richards

(p.219) 5 Empathy: Counting Words with Vernon Lee and I. A. Richards
The Outward Mind

Benjamin Morgan

University of Chicago Press

This chapter argues that scientific approaches to aesthetics that were popular in Victorian culture constitute a suppressed alternative to New Critical interpretive practices that were foundational in professional literary study. Analyzing the literary critic Vernon Lee’s unusual synthesis of German physiological aesthetics, British aestheticism, and American quantitative textual analysis, the chapter shows how the concept of empathy became at once quantitative and embodied in Lee’s literary theory. In Beauty and Ugliness, Lee and her lover, Clementina Anstruther-Thomson, developed strategies for empirical introspective analysis that were meant to demonstrate the effects of paintings and sculpture on the body. As Lee learned about the stylometric analysis of literature carried out in the United States, she expanded her empirical approach to include counting words and issuing surveys. Although this intersection of quantitative and affective approaches was largely disregarded by I.A. Richards and his progeny, it represents a vital prehistory of current approaches to the quantitative and empirical analysis of culture.

Keywords:   Vernon Lee, Clementina Anstruther-Thomson, I.A. Richards, New Criticism, quantitative cultural analysis, embodiment, empirical aesthetics

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