Sensing Meaning: Aesthetics and Vulnerability in the Romantic Age


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project examines the intersection of aesthetic theory and vulnerability in the art of the romantic period, from 1780 to 1840. Romanticism has often been accused of excessive aestheticizing at the expense of more material concerns. However, rather than being an apolitical act the romantic aestheticization of vulnerability attempted to revalue—and to bring better social perceptibility to—the less fortunate, the dependent, and those in precarious social positions. In so doing, aesthetics can become a means of refiguring the human subject as socially embedded and vulnerable. This project focuses on gendered vulnerability throughout, but also devotes time to environmentalism, poverty, trauma, displacement, and race, while touching on the contemporary resonance of these issues.