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Title:Curating the object: Art collection and aesthetics in nineteenth-century Britain
Author(s):Dickison, Carrie
Director of Research:Saville, Julia F.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Saville, Julia F.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Goodlad, Lauren M.E.; Courtemanche, Eleanor; Nazar, Hina
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):aestheticism, nineteenth-century aesthetics, Victorian literature
Abstract:This dissertation explores influential art critics, poets and novelists who—contra Oscar Wilde’s famous claim that “all art is quite useless”—affirmed the “use” of art to human care and cultivation. By turning art and other artifacts into things to be acquired and arranged, mid-Victorian collectors transformed “Arts and Crafts” into a fashionable cult of the objet d’art. For instance, Charles Eastlake’s decorating manual, Hints on Household Taste (1868), beckoned readers to create the private museum as a self-contained “thing of beauty.” The writers I discuss rejected this fantasy of autonomous art and drew on John Ruskin’s legacy to develop a social understanding of the aesthetic object. By the nineteenth century, the meanings of the “curator” (a caretaker of things) and the “curate” (a healer of souls) had drifted far from their common Latin root, curare (to heal or to care). By contrast, Margaret Oliphant’s series novels, Robert Browning’s verse, Wilkie Collins’s sensation fiction, and Wilde’s essays realigned these terms to suggest a model of curatorship which connected the care of beautiful objects to the care of others and the care of the self.
Issue Date:2019-07-11
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Carrie Dickison
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-03-02
Date Deposited:2019-12

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