MA in the History of Art

The Aesthetic Body: Science, Aestheticism and the Image of the Body in British Art 1860 - 1900

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Course Description

This course covers the art of the Aesthetic Movement, an art movement that brought in a new emphasis on the suffering/pleasured body, that hypersensuality that led to the artists of this group (such as Rossetti) being denounced as the ‘Fleshly School’.

Art historical research on Aesthetic Movement artists working within the ambit of the Aesthetic Movement such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Simeon Solomon, Edward Burne-Jones and James Abbott Mc Neill Whistler has focused mainly on the move away from narrative incident and morality in their works and on the issue of beauty, eroticism and the represented body as a site for sexual response.

This course seeks to make possible fresh arguments concerning the evocation of sense in these works by drawing on Victorian scientific debates about the role of the senses and the relationship between mind and body.

The course will give students access to the scientific debates of the Victorian period and insight into the ways in which this field has been seen to intersect with that of English literature.

The central section of the course will be on the issues of sensory stimulation, subjectivity and identity in the 1870s with special emphasis on the work of the scientist and author George Henry Lewes (Problems of Life and Mind , 1874-9) who was a close friend of the artist Edward Burne-Jones. The course also includes discussion of literary work by authors including Wilkie Collins and George Eliot. We will look at Aesthetic Movement work in terms of affect, motifs and experiments with form and materials.

The courseis taught by Professor Caroline Arscott in collaboration with another specialist on Victorian culture. It will enable students to study the works of Rossetti, Hunt, Solomon, Burne-Jones and other artists within a framework set up in terms of the medical, scientific, populist and literary presentation of the flesh-sense-mind nexus.

Language and other requirements

Standard entry requirements.