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Out of Breath: Respiratory Aesthetics from Ruskin to Vernon Lee

Garratt, Peter

Out of Breath: Respiratory Aesthetics from Ruskin to Vernon Lee Thumbnail



Arthur Rose


This chapter examines the roles played by respiration—as physiological process, and embodied response—in the development of aesthetic theories at the end of the nineteenth century, traced from Ruskin to Vernon Lee. Late nineteenth-century attempts to define aesthetic experience in terms of its attendant physiological reactions still drew on breath’s immaterial poetic associations (air, wind and spirit) while being alert to the way respiratory control shifts easily between voluntary and involuntary modes of experience (will/automation). Lee’s idea of aesthetic experience envisages a complex, perhaps mystifying, action of involvement with works of art, dependent upon physiological, sensorimotor and respiratory movement. Exploring her understanding of empathetic identification, and relating it to current models of enactive cognition, the chapter recovers an entangled art and science of breath in nineteenth-century aesthetic theory.


Garratt, P. (2018). Out of Breath: Respiratory Aesthetics from Ruskin to Vernon Lee. In A. Rose (Ed.), Reading breath in literature (65-90). Palgrave Macmillan.

Acceptance Date Jun 22, 2018
Online Publication Date Oct 30, 2018
Publication Date Oct 30, 2018
Deposit Date Jun 22, 2018
Publicly Available Date Nov 12, 2019
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Pages 65-90
Series Title Palgrave studies in literature, science and medicine.
Book Title Reading breath in literature.
ISBN 978-3-319-99947-0


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