By Andrew Eastham

Because the improvement of British Aestheticism within the 1870s, the concept that of irony has concentrated a chain of anxieties that are crucial to trendy literary perform. interpreting the most vital debates in post-Romantic aesthetics via hugely centred textual readings of authors from Walter Pater and Henry James to Samuel Beckett and Alan Hollinghurst, this learn 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 was once significant to this legacy, however it was once additionally the point of interest of its personal self-critique. Anxieties in regards to the proposal 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. pertaining to 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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Extra info for Aesthetic Afterlives: Irony, Literary Modernity and the Ends of Beauty (Continuum Literary Studies)

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The way that Pater represents this achievement is subtly different according to the qualities of the two major paintings he evokes. Titian’s Concert is a genre painting which is close to portraiture, since it is dominated by the exquisitely rendered central figure of the monk at the clavecin . In Pater’s ekphrasis, sound is instilled and preserved in the lips and the hands of the monk, but the animation of the physical attributes also have a metonymic function – they manifest a sound wave which is imminent to the whole space of the painting.

Aesthetic Organicism, ‘Ingathered Space’ and Dionysian Eroticism When Pater goes on to describe Titian’s Fête Champêtre , he continues to elucidate the value of musical absorption, but in this case the figures of the musicians Walter Pater’s Acoustic Space 25 are under shadow, and performative intention is no longer a significant quality of the image. The primary values in the account of the Fête Champêtre are the landscape and the presence of water, and Pater establishes a series of transitions between the motion of water, the progress of sound waves, the shape of the landscape and the felt experience of air: The presence of water – the well, or marble rimmed pool, the drawing or pouring of water, as the woman pours it from a pitcher with her jewelled hand in the Fête Champêtre , listening, perhaps, to the cool sound as it falls, blent with the music of the pipes – is as characteristic, and almost as suggestive, as that of music itself.

It is perhaps because of his anxiety about the public and political implications of aesthetic organicism that Pater increasingly moved towards the highly subjective mode of the ‘Imaginary Portrait’ and tended to retreat from the pastoral vision which had come to fruition in ‘The School of Giorgione’ and ‘The Study of Dionysus’. In his Wordsworthian fiction ‘The Child in the House’ (1878),48 Pater reiterated the musical idea in a recollection of his childhood home, where ‘this sense of harmony between his soul and its physical environment became, for a time at least, like perfectly played music’ (MS , 180).

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