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"Art for the sake of life" : the critical aesthetics of Vernon Lee

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  • Additional Information
    • Publication Information:
      Queen Mary, University of London, 2009.
    • Publication Date:
    • Collection:
      Queen Mary, University of London
    • Abstract:
      This thesis explores the critical aesthetics of Vernon Lee (Violet Paget 1856-1935) and the ways in which her theory of aesthetic harmony informed these studies. Arguing for a more inclusive view of her interest in aesthetics, this thesis takes as its focus the ways in which Lee applied her aesthetic methodologies to the questions of aesthetics with which she was concerned – What is the relationship between the artist and his or her art, and between the artist and the aesthetic critic? How do the various art forms differ and how do these differences impact on the aesthetic experience? How does the mind, the body, and the emotions work together in the aesthetic experience? And ultimately, what is the relationship between art and life, and between beauty and the ideal? This study argues that these questions are evident in essays that are not usually associated with aesthetics. Whilst studies on Lee tend to divide her varied interests into phases in her career, such as her fiction, literary criticism, historical writings, travel writings, and psychological aesthetics, the current study argues that an investigation into the ways in which these studies can be seen to interact leads to a more thorough and fulfilling engagement with her impressive body of work. This thesis fills a critical gap in Lee studies by approaching her writings through the lens of her interest in aesthetics and by suggesting a way of reading her work that takes into consideration the ways in which her aesthetic theories influenced the writing style through which she experimented with, expressed, and in some cases, performed her aesthetic theories.
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