By Andrew Eastham
Because the improvement of British Aestheticism within the 1870s, the concept that of irony has centred a sequence of anxieties that are imperative to trendy literary perform. analyzing essentially the most vital debates in post-Romantic aesthetics via hugely targeted 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 through positioning Victorian Aestheticism because the foundation of Literary Modernity. Aestheticism's cultivation of irony and reflexive detachment was once primary to this legacy, however it was once additionally the point of interest of its personal self-critique. Anxieties concerning the notion and perform of irony persevered via Modernism, and feature lately been situated in Hollinghurst's paintings as a symptom of the political stasis inside of post-modern tradition. bearing on the hot debates in regards to the 'new aestheticism' and the politics of aesthetics, Eastham asks how a utopian Aestheticism might be reconstructed from the problematics of irony and aesthetic autonomy that haunted writers from Pater to Adorno.
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Additional info for Aesthetic Afterlives: Irony, Literary Modernity and the Ends of Beauty (Continuum Literary Studies)
When the decadent symbol of the vampire begins to haunt the literary and artistic culture of the Victorian fin de siècle, Aestheticism appears literally to embrace the inhuman. During the evolution of nineteenth- century Aesthetic Vampirism 37 Aestheticism the vampire came to embody the concept of irony: this was a paradoxical embodiment, since it is the very nature of irony to turn against the embodied figure and the nature of the ironist to perform his own detachment from expressive forms. But compulsive irony expressed an aspiration that was fundamental to the gothic turn in Aestheticism; by the artful manipulation of refined ironies, the Aesthete aspired towards the condition of the autonomous art in modernity.
Titian’s paintings provide a ‘greater space of ingathered shore and mountain’, and in doing so they project a natural landscape as an aesthetic form; in a properly Hegelian but counter- Ruskinian dialectic, nature is not only supplemented but raised or sublated by art. Space is artistic only when it is organized and ‘ingathered’ – this is the provenance of architecture, which confi nes and institutes space, whereas landscape is the platform for our experience of the sky, where the sense of limits and organization dissolves.
The transference of Dionysus is described by analogy with the medium of music, since it infuses within space invisible energies which carry higher symbolic associations. Pater’s aesthetics here is nevertheless clearly distinct from the cosmopolitan eroticism of his ekphrasis of Titian in ‘The School of Giorgione’. 36 According to a cultural poetics that will become familiar after Pater, this Olympian culture allows for a transference conceived of as sublimation,37 rather than the series of inchoate erotic and metaphoric translations that Pater finds in Giorgionesque painting.
Aesthetic Afterlives: Irony, Literary Modernity and the Ends of Beauty (Continuum Literary Studies) by Andrew Eastham