Aesthetic Afterlives: Irony, Literary Modernity and the Ends by Andrew Eastham

By Andrew Eastham

Because the improvement of British Aestheticism within the 1870s, the idea that of irony has centred a chain of anxieties that are indispensable to fashionable literary perform. interpreting the most vital debates in post-Romantic aesthetics via hugely concentrated textual readings of authors from Walter Pater and Henry James to Samuel Beckett and Alan Hollinghurst, this examine investigates the dialectical place of irony in Aestheticism and its twentieth-century afterlives.

Aesthetic Afterlives constructs a far-reaching theoretical narrative by means of positioning Victorian Aestheticism because the foundation of Literary Modernity. Aestheticism's cultivation of irony and reflexive detachment used to be vital to this legacy, however it used to be additionally the point of interest of its personal self-critique. Anxieties in regards to the thought and perform of irony continued via Modernism, and feature lately been situated in Hollinghurst's paintings as a symptom of the political stasis inside post-modern tradition. relating the new debates in regards to the 'new aestheticism' and the politics of aesthetics, Eastham asks how a utopian Aestheticism should be reconstructed from the problematics of irony and aesthetic autonomy that haunted writers from Pater to Adorno.

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Extra resources for Aesthetic Afterlives: Irony, Literary Modernity and the Ends of Beauty (Continuum Literary Studies)

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This is an eroticized beauty based on the proximity of other bodies and the possibility of touch. In both Giorgionesque and Dionysian aesthetics, the erotic dimension of acoustic experience emerges, through ekphrasis, as the theoretical unconscious of Pater’s work. In ‘The School of Giorgione’ it is present in the evocation of ‘the world of Italian music’ as it was emerging against the ‘silence of Venice’ (R , 119). Pater roams through an imaginary gallery of sketches for the Pitti Concert , which is also an erotic menagerie of ‘men fainting at music; music at the pool- side where people fish’.

In both Giorgionesque and Dionysian aesthetics, the erotic dimension of acoustic experience emerges, through ekphrasis, as the theoretical unconscious of Pater’s work. In ‘The School of Giorgione’ it is present in the evocation of ‘the world of Italian music’ as it was emerging against the ‘silence of Venice’ (R , 119). Pater roams through an imaginary gallery of sketches for the Pitti Concert , which is also an erotic menagerie of ‘men fainting at music; music at the pool- side where people fish’.

The ‘intent faces’ listening for the ‘smallest interval of musical sound’ are touched, exquisitely, by the ‘smallest undulation’ of the vibrant air. In his ekphrasis of these imaginary sketches, Pater appears to be intimating an ideal intuition, following Hegel’s sense of sight and sound as the most abstract and refi ned of the senses. 35 In this passage of prose, which becomes a shadowy passage to an ‘unfamiliar room’, the erotic promise of music is fulfilled but also delicately masked. The indeterminate encounter with chance company is indistinguishable from the momentary touch of an instrument, but Pater’s catachresis here is telling.

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