The Outward Mind: Materialist Aesthetics In Victorian Science And Literature

Hardcover | May 1, 2017

byBenjamin Morgan

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Though underexplored in contemporary scholarship, the Victorian attempts to turn aesthetics into a science remain one of the most fascinating aspects of that era. In The Outward Mind, Benjamin Morgan approaches this period of innovation as an important origin point for current attempts to understand art or beauty using the tools of the sciences. Moving chronologically from natural theology in the early nineteenth century to laboratory psychology in the early twentieth, Morgan draws on little-known archives of Victorian intellectuals such as William Morris, Walter Pater, John Ruskin, and others to argue that scientific studies of mind and emotion transformed the way writers and artists understood the experience of beauty and effectively redescribed aesthetic judgment as a biological adaptation. Looking beyond the Victorian period to humanistic critical theory today, he also shows how the historical relationship between science and aesthetics could be a vital resource for rethinking key concepts in contemporary literary and cultural criticism, such as materialism, empathy, practice, and form. At a moment when the tumultuous relationship between the sciences and the humanities is the subject of ongoing debate, Morgan argues for the importance of understanding the arts and sciences as incontrovertibly intertwined.

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Though underexplored in contemporary scholarship, the Victorian attempts to turn aesthetics into a science remain one of the most fascinating aspects of that era. In The Outward Mind, Benjamin Morgan approaches this period of innovation as an important origin point for current attempts to understand art or beauty using the tools of the...

Benjamin Morgan is assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago.   

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:368 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:May 1, 2017Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022644211X

ISBN - 13:9780226442112

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The Outward Mind is a remarkable achievement. It is the most generous, broadly conceived, and philosophically sensitive account of Victorian scientific aesthetics available. By writing the history of an aesthetics that refused history, Morgan poses important questions: how do we want to imagine the embodiment of aesthetic experience, and what kinds of history are appropriate to that imagination?”