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The Outward Mind

Materialist Aesthetics in Victorian Science and Literature

Benjamin Morgan

The Outward Mind

Benjamin Morgan

368 pages | 30 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226462202 Published May 2017
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226442112 Published May 2017
E-book $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226457468 Published May 2017
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.
Introduction: Materialist Aesthetics

Part One: Toward a Science of Beauty

1. Form: Harmony and Attunement in Empirical Aesthetics
2. Response: The Scale of Affect in Physiological Aesthetics

Part Two: The Outward Turn

3. Materiality: Walter Pater and Late-Victorian Materialisms
4. Practice: William Morris’s Socialist Physiology
5. Empathy: Counting Words with Vernon Lee and I. A. Richards
Epilogue: Wildean Neuroaesthetics

Review Quotes
Joseph Bristow, University of California, Los Angeles
“Morgan’s outstanding study decisively transforms the existing scholarship on Victorian aesthetic theory. A book of immense scope, The Outward Mind weaves together a unique array of sources, from the leaders of the Edinburgh Aesthetic Club to brilliant theorists such as Walter Pater and Vernon Lee. Moreover, Morgan provides students of the humanities with conceptual tools and historical analyses that can productively address developments in emergent fields such as neuro-aesthetics.”
John Plotz, Brandeis University
“Filled with significant scholarly arguments and critical insights, The Outward Mind offers an account of scientific and aesthetic thought as locked in a frequently dialectical and always dialogic relationship. It is very likely to jumpstart a series of new investigations within the field.”
Nicholas Dames, Columbia University
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?”
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