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18 January 2023 - 18 January 2023
5:30PM - 6:30PM
Online and Elvet Riverside 147
Everyone is warmly welcome to our next Inventions of the Text seminar, which takes place both online and in person.
An Inventions of the Text seminar
‘Our attention’, claimed the late Victorian author Vernon Lee, ‘wants to be made to move briskly, rhythmically, to march, nay, as Nietzsche puts it, to dance’. Lee’s understanding of attention as a bodily matter derived from her broader interest in the physiological dimensions of the aesthetic encounter: what might be termed an affinity for the kinaesthetic or ‘movement’ qualities of different art forms. In 1880, the English physician Henry Charlton Bastian had coined the term ‘kinaesthesis’ to denote the sense of movement, a capacious ‘sixth sense’ previously neglected in studies of the human sensorium. This talk considers the integration of scientific and aesthetic approaches to the sense of movement at the end of the nineteenth century, showing how writers like Vernon Lee, Walter Pater, Bernard Berenson, and Clementina Anstruther-Thomson formulated their theories of aesthetic engagement in a distinctively kinaesthetic register. Ultimately, I suggest, these thinkers point towards an alternative model of aesthetic and literary attention, one grounded in an intersubjective notion of ‘empathy’ as a corporeal technique.
Assistant Professor in Modern Literature 1870-1945, Durham University
Megan Girdwood's Modernism and the Choreographic Imagination: Salome’s Dance after 1890 (Edinburgh UP, 2021), was shortlisted for the MSA First Book Prize 2022. Her other work has appeared in Modernist Cultures, the Journal of Modern Literature, the Irish Studies Review, and The Cambridge Quarterly. She is in the early stages of a new research project on modernism and kinaesthesia, the ‘sense of movement’, focusing on late nineteenth and twentieth-century women’s writing and performance.