The Empathy Habit: Vernon Lee's Psychological Aesthetics

Hersh, Quenby, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Booth, Alison, English, University of Virginia

Einfühlung, or “feeling into,” has attracted critical attention in recent years, particularly in the sense of empathy as a mode of aesthetic engagement and distinct from the empathy of social participation. Violet Paget (1856-1935), the author, art historian, and aesthetic theorist more prevalently known by her pseudonym, Vernon Lee, considered perception, imagination, and empathy throughout her life. I offer a brief biography; discuss aspects of her manual explaining aesthetic preference, The Beautiful: An Introduction to Psychological Æsthetics; and compare Lee’s ideas with current understandings of both empathy and emotional adhesion. I also advocate for a reconsideration of Lee’s understanding of aesthetic empathy as it might inform our reading and interpreting texts, rather than confining its application to the visual arts.

MA (Master of Arts)
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