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‘Feelings of Vivid Fellowship’: Vernon Lee and Clementina Anstruther-Thomson’s Quest for Collaborative ‘Aesthetic Sociability’

Bunting, K (2016) ‘Feelings of Vivid Fellowship’: Vernon Lee and Clementina Anstruther-Thomson’s Quest for Collaborative ‘Aesthetic Sociability’. Forum For Modern Language Studies, 52 (2). pp. 203-217. ISSN 1471-6860

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Abstract

The article provides an analysis of the shared life writing of Vernon Lee and Clementina Anstruther-Thomson, with particular reference to the writing of ‘Beauty and Ugliness’. The essay investigates how the authors’ already precarious subjectivities as women working in the male-dominated scientific and aesthetic fields of the 1890s were brought under further stress by Lee’s compulsive need for increased strength through union with another, her scepticism about her own abilities as ‘motor-type’ aesthete, and the collaborators’ unequal investigative and textual methodology. By analysing Lee’s semi-autobiographical depictions of her work with Anstruther-Thomson in Althea and focusing in particular on the pair’s one successful experiment in the search for ‘aesthetic sociability’ in front of Titian’s ‘Sacred and Profane Love’, this essay charts the development of their shared lives and writing from their first meeting, to the ecstatic pinnacle of their joint achievement, before examining the collapse of their collaborative dyad.

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