By Andrew Eastham
Because the improvement of British Aestheticism within the 1870s, the idea that of irony has targeted a sequence of anxieties that are critical to fashionable literary perform. interpreting one of the most very important 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 research investigates the dialectical place of irony in Aestheticism and its twentieth-century afterlives.
Aesthetic Afterlives constructs a far-reaching theoretical narrative via positioning Victorian Aestheticism because the foundation of Literary Modernity. Aestheticism's cultivation of irony and reflexive detachment was once significant to this legacy, however it used to be additionally the point of interest of its personal self-critique. Anxieties concerning the thought and perform of irony persevered 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 may be reconstructed from the problematics of irony and aesthetic autonomy that haunted writers from Pater to Adorno.
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Additional resources for Aesthetic Afterlives: Irony, Literary Modernity and the Ends of Beauty (Continuum Literary Studies)
When this demonic irony found artistic expression in the nineteenth century, it assumed a gothic form, finding its most dangerous face in Baudelaire’s poetry. 12 In the next poem of the sequence, ‘The Irremediable’,13 the negative force is an ‘ironic, infernal beacon’,14 but Baudelaire embraces this vampiric irony within the same terms that Hegel rejected it, as the ultimate refinement of self- consciousness at work on its own collapse. Baudelaire’s staging of this figure takes the form of a metaphysical melodrama, where irony is embodied as a Satanic principle, and this has the consequence of precluding the possibility that irony might be reincorporated into the civic realm: in The Flowers of Evil irony is a performance of subjectivity at its dangerous limits.
Pater’s evocation of the ‘shore and mountain’ focuses on limitless horizons to the point where it is tempting to introduce a concept of the sublime,34 but he remains consistent with the aesthetics of ‘Winckelmann’ in consistently diverting aesthetic experience from the sublime back to sensuous beauty. We are reminded that the space of Titian’s painting still carries a ‘fiery animal life’, and following this, conceptually and syntactically, Pater’s prose slides without break into the second dimension of beauty in painting – Tintoretto’s evocation 28 Aesthetic Afterlives of the animated body and its ‘imminent embrace’.
After the liberal radicalism of his earliest statement, ‘Diaphaneitè’ (1864), Pater was politically mute for the large part of his career. To uncover his reflection on the nineteenth- century nexus of aesthetics and politics, we have to work from evasions and tactical diversions more than from direct statement. Why did Pater disguise Baudelaire’s legacy in his work and entirely ignore Wagner’s theories – perhaps the most influential manifestation of Romantic organicism in the nineteenth century?