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Psychology / Aesthetics in the Nineteenth Century

When? Saturday 9 October 2010
Where? Institute of English Studies, Birkbeck, University of London

This one-day conference aims to explore the ways in which the developing discipline of psychology sought to understand and explain the nature of beauty and aesthetic pleasure during the nineteenth century.

Papers will include:

  • Neil Vickers’ (Kings College, London) on ‘Coleridge on “psychology” and aesthetics’, which explores what Coleridge understood by the term itself and describes his engagement with German psychological writings.
  • David Amigoni (Keele) will address Grant Allen’s Physiological Aesthetics as a context for thinking about theories of sensation, practices of symbolic notation, and ideas about the evolution of ‘higher’ emotions in the later nineteenth century.
  • Matthew Beaumont (UCL)’s paper on ‘Pater and the Thick Wall of Personality’ will reprise Pater’s relationship with contemporary psychologists like Spencer and Bain before exploring Pater as the inheritor of a Romantic tradition.
  • Vernon Lee’s formulation of the concept of ‘aesthetic empathy’ will be examined by Carolyn Burdett (Birkbeck, University of London).
  • Tiffany Watt-Smith (QMUL) will explore the neurologist Henry Head’s techniques of self-experimentation and observation as a mode of physiological introspection that shares elements with theatrical display.

More information

  • Organisers: Nicola Bown and Carolyn Burdett

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