Encountering the Niobe’s Children: Vernon Lee’s queer formalism and the empathy of sculpture

Ventrella, Francesco (2019) Encountering the Niobe’s Children: Vernon Lee’s queer formalism and the empathy of sculpture. In: Funke, Jana and Grove, Jen (eds.) Sculpture, sexuality and history: encounters in literature, culture and the arts from the Eighteenth Century to the present. Genders and Sexualities in History . Palgrave MacMillan, Cham, pp. 195-219. ISBN 9783319958392

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The materiality of sculpture was essential to Vernon Lee’s psychological theory of aesthetics based on the beholder’s physical responses. Through collaboration with her lover Clementina Anstruther-Thomson, Lee developed a theory of embodiment based on German psychological empathy theories which was reliant on gallery rather than laboratory experiments. This chapter focuses on the reception of their work within the psychological circles of the time and, in contrast to interpretation of the two women’s intellectual collaboration as a transposition of lesbian desire, I argue that Lee’s dialogue with Karl Groos around the concept of “inner mimicry” is essential to examine how sculpture also allowed her to explore sexuality plastically. Originating in late-Victorian discourses around formalism, Lee’s aesthetic engagement with the past represents an ethics of embodiment that resonated with modern theories of sexuality.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Art History
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0038 Philosophy. Relation to other topics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0692 Psychology of sex. Sexual behavior
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR > N0061 Theory. Philosophy. Aesthetics of the visual arts
N Fine Arts > NB Sculpture
Depositing User: Francesco Ventrella
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2018 11:48
Last Modified: 26 May 2021 11:33
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/74381

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