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Out of breath : respiratory aesthetics from Ruskin to Vernon Lee.

Garratt, Peter (2018) 'Out of breath : respiratory aesthetics from Ruskin to Vernon Lee.', in Reading breath in literature. , pp. 65-90. Palgrave studies in literature, science and medicine.


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.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Publisher statement:This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.
Date accepted:22 June 2018
Date deposited:12 November 2019
Date of first online publication:30 October 2018
Date first made open access:12 November 2019

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