By Andrew Eastham

Because the improvement of British Aestheticism within the 1870s, the idea that of irony has centred a sequence of anxieties that are quintessential to fashionable literary perform. analyzing the most very important 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 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 used to be imperative to this legacy, however it used to be additionally the focal point of its personal self-critique. Anxieties concerning the proposal and perform of irony persevered via Modernism, and feature lately been located in Hollinghurst's paintings as a symptom of the political stasis inside of post-modern tradition. relating the new debates in regards to the 'new aestheticism' and the politics of aesthetics, Eastham asks how a utopian Aestheticism will 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)

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It is through this touch that Titian’s ingathered space returns to the ‘profounder luxury’ and nearness of Tintoretto’s bodily presences. With extraordinary subtlety, Pater has performed a displaced homoerotic reading of Titian’s Concert according to his aesthetics of acoustic space. What he could not say in his ekphrasis of the painting, but which his subsequent elaborations may be tentatively suggesting, is that the monk at the centre of the Concert , in the ecstasy of musical transport, might also be the subject of a tentative erotic advance.

In this sense Pater does suggest a dialectical process in his reading of the Concert ; the theatrical space of painting is sublated in acoustic space, which is to say that it is not cancelled or annulled; it is raised to a condition where the spatiality of the painting is preserved while the limits of the visual surface are overcome. We can read this double process occurring literally in the image of the monk, who is represented as raising himself upwards, away from the context of production (the clavecin), as if in an effort to surpass the means of performance.

Pater works with this tension between figural definition and the represented soundscape, and one of his key concerns is to resolve the essentially performative content of the painting. 26 It constructs a complex trio of gazes, which have ambiguous relationships with the beholder. The central figure of the monk at the harpsichord might be regarded as the most self- conscious performer, with the subsidiary figures as internalized spectator’s. The gaze of the young page on the left appears to attend to the monk’s hands playing, but it could equally be soliciting the gaze of a spectator outside the painting.

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