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    "Always Reminding Us of the Body": J.A. Symonds on the fine arts

    Fraser, Hilary (2013) "Always Reminding Us of the Body": J.A. Symonds on the fine arts. English Studies 94 (2), pp. 188-205. ISSN 0013-838X.

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    In his volume on The Fine Arts in Renaissance in Italy , published in 1877, John Addington Symonds maintains that “the spirit of Christianity and the spirit of figurative art are opposed, not because such art is immoral, but because it cannot free itself from sensuous associations”. Indeed, he goes on to identify “the difficult problem of the relation of the fine arts to Christianity” as “the most thorny question offered to the understanding by the history of the Renaissance”. Signifying the historical moment when, in Symonds's formulation, “Christianity and Hellenism kissed each other”, the Renaissance held a particular interest for aesthetic critics and cultural historians at the fin de siècle, such as Walter Pater, Vernon Lee and Michael Field, who were, like Symonds, grappling with the conundrum of the body and its legitimate and illicit pleasures and desires. Drawing on critical work over the last decade on the connections between late Victorian art and aestheticism and the emergence of the homosexual in the social and cultural arena, this article explores Symonds's highly embodied and erotic engagement with Renaissance art, and locates his corporeal aesthetic in relation to other late Victorian art historical investigations of the tactile imagination, embodied optics and physiological aesthetics.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Nineteenth-Century Studies, Centre for
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 24 May 2013 12:18
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:33


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