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Artful ExperimentsWays of Knowing in Victorian Literature and Science$
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Philipp Erchinger

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474438957

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474438957.001.0001

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William Morris’s ‘Work-Pleasure’: Literature, Science and Fine Art

William Morris’s ‘Work-Pleasure’: Literature, Science and Fine Art

(p.163) Chapter 6 William Morris’s ‘Work-Pleasure’: Literature, Science and Fine Art
Artful Experiments

Philipp Erchinger

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter seeks to elucidate nineteenth-century conceptions of art as fine art. Taking its cue from Raymond Williams’s account of a divorce of (fine) art from (technical) work, the chapter pursues various attempts to define the aesthetic specificity of the fine arts, including literature in the narrow sense, in relation to other ways of exercising skill, including the use of experimental methods in the sciences. In this way, it seeks to show that the idea of the aesthetic, despite all attempts to purify it, remained deeply entangled in a net of work, in which experiences of pleasure (or beauty) and playfulness had not yet been separated from material practices of making useful things. As is further explained, the idea of a mutual inclusiveness of pleasure and use was pivotal to the arts and crafts movement, especially to the creative practice of William Morris. Finally, the chapter pursues Morris’s concept of “work-pleasure”, as derived from his News from Nowhere, through a wider debate about the complex relations between the sciences and the (fine) arts.

Keywords:   fine arts, pleasure, use, work, industrialisation, William Morris, arts and crafts movement, Great Exhibition, William Whewell, E.S. Dallas

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