The Victorian Tactile Imagination -
Issue 19 - 2014
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.