”A few scholarly ventures have defined the early history of peer-reviewed online research and publication in the humanities. 19 is one of them.”
—Jerome McGann, founder of the Rossetti Archive and author of Radiant Textuality: Literary Studies After the World Wide Web (Palgrave/St. Martin’s Press, 2001)


No 19 (2014): The Victorian Tactile Imagination

The Victorian Tactile Imagination

Whilst the art historian Bernard Berenson introduced his theory of the ‘tactile imagination’ in the late 1890s, the articles gathered here point to its flourishing much earlier in the nineteenth century. Contributors chart how reconceptualization of the touch sense in scientific and psychophysiological discourses made it a particularly important mode through which to question the distinction between mind and body, and explore issues of agency and will, and the nature of the real. A range of Victorian tactile episodes and practices are given new emphasis and attention here, including the merging of tree and human in Thomas Hardy’s fiction; the figure of the fidget; the haptic turn in mountaineering; the hand in literature; the disturbing power of touch in dreamscapes; and the search for authenticity in sculpture. Special forum sections extend the reach of the Victorian tactile imagination by considering how cultural and educational commentators disciplined blind people’s touch, and the importance of accounting for touch, as well as vision, in our interpretation of object culture.

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Victorian Tactile Imagination HTML PDF
Heather Tilley
Arborealities: The Tactile Ecology of Hardy’s Woodlanders HTML PDF
William A. Cohen
Kinaesthesia and Touching Reality HTML PDF
Roger Smith
The Haptic Sublime and the ‘cold stony reality’ of Mountaineering HTML PDF
Alan McNee
[E]motion in the Nineteenth Century: A Culture of Fidgets HTML PDF
Karen Chase
The Will to Touch: David Copperfield’s Hand HTML PDF
Pamela K. Gilbert
Dream Touch HTML PDF
Gillian Beer
Nineteenth-Century Sculpture and the Imprint of Authenticity HTML PDF
Angela Dunstan

Blindness Forum

Models for the Blind HTML PDF
Jan Eric Olsén
Blindness, Prick Writing, and Canonical Waste Paper: Reimagining Dickens in Harriet and Letitia HTML PDF
Lillian Nayder
Between the Sheets: Contagion, Touch, and Text HTML PDF
Vanessa Warne


Photographs, Mounts, and the Tactile Archive HTML PDF
Elizabeth Edwards
Connecting the Senses: Natural History and the British Museum in the Stereoscopic Magazine HTML PDF
Kathleen Davidson
Charles Dickens and the Cat Paw Letter Opener HTML PDF
Jenny Pyke


‘Seeing Touch Anew’: Clothing, Gender, and ‘The Victorian Tactile Imagination’ HTML PDF
Kara Tennant
Feeling Critically: A Report on ‘The Victorian Tactile Imagination’ Conference HTML PDF
Claire Wood
Sensory History and Sociology — Offering a Helping Hand? HTML PDF
Angela Loxham

ISSN: 17551560 | Published by Birkbeck, University of London | Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.