Marginal Modernity: The Aesthetics of Dependency from Kierkegaard to Joyce

Marginal Modernity: The Aesthetics of Dependency from Kierkegaard to Joyce

Leonardo F. Lisi
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Marginal Modernity: The Aesthetics of Dependency from Kierkegaard to Joyce
    Book Description:

    Two ways of understanding the aesthetic organization of literary works have come down to us from the late 18th century and dominate discussions of European modernism today: the aesthetics of autonomy, associated with the self-sufficient work of art, and the aesthetics of fragmentation, practiced by the avant-gardes. In this revisionary study, Leonardo Lisi argues that these models rest on assumptions about the nature of truth and existence that cannot be treated as exhaustive of modern experience. Lisi traces an alternative aesthetics of dependency that provides a different formal structure, philosophical foundation, and historical condition for modernist texts. Taking Europe's Scandinavian periphery as his point of departure, Lisi examines how Kierkegaard and Ibsen imagined a response to the changing conditions of modernity different from those at the European core, one that subsequently influenced James, Hofmannsthal, Rilke, and Joyce. Combining close readings with a broader revision of the nature and genealogy of modernism, Marginal Modernity challenges what we understand by modernist aesthetics, their origins, and their implications for how we conceive our relation to the modern world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5036-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: The Aesthetics of Modernism
    (pp. 1-20)

    Whatever else there might be disagreement about with respect to modernism, a consensus exists that “autonomy” is central to it. This is visible not only in those critics who see it as the pivotal category of modernist aesthetics¹ but also in those who instead associate the movement with the principle of fragmentation that negates it, and which is habitually identified more strictly with the avant-gardes.² For all its prevalence, the very neatness of this opposition is suspicious. If the autonomy of modernism and the fragmentation of the avant-gardes are responses to the transformations of modernity in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century...

  6. PART ONE Philosophical Foundations
    • CHAPTER ONE Presuppositions and Varieties of Aesthetic Experience
      (pp. 23-54)

      As scholars of the history of philosophy have frequently pointed out, the extraordinary rise in importance of aesthetics since the late eighteenth century is due, not least, to the solution it provided to the epistemological problems inherited from Kant’s Copernican revolution. In order to properly understand the nature and function of aesthetics, as well as the possibility and structure of alternatives to the dominant model that has come down to us, it is therefore necessary to briefly elucidate this larger philosophical context. The dominance of the aesthetics of autonomy and the avant-gardes is due not least to the dominance of...

  7. PART TWO Aesthetic Forms at the Scandinavian Periphery
    • CHAPTER TWO Johan Ludvig Heiberg and the Autonomy of Art
      (pp. 57-86)

      The analysis in this chapter is governed by two overarching aims. First, I seek to establish the sociohistorical context for the reception in Golden Age Denmark of the idealist principles outlined in the previous chapter. Second, I lay bare the implications of these same principles for concrete textual organization. Succinctly stated, this organization consists in a balance between opposed formal and conceptual principles in a work of art through the revelation of their underlying compatibility or identity as parts of a self-sufficient whole. The elucidation of this structure provides an example of the kind of aesthetic form that, in the...

    • CHAPTER THREE Aesthetics of Fragmentation in Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt
      (pp. 87-116)

      This chapter traces Henrik Ibsen’s transition from an adherence to the principles of idealism in his early works to his rejection of the same inPeer Gynt. Its central purpose is thus twofold. On the one hand, it examines the sociohistorical critique of idealism entailed by Ibsen’s rupture with its aesthetic principles. On the other, it shows how that rupture leaves Ibsen’s text with a conflicting relationship between its constitutive principles that is fully resolved only in his subsequent turn to an aesthetics of dependency. In the terms of the discussion in chapter 1, the structure ofPeer Gyntestablishes...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Nora’s Departure and the Aesthetics of Dependency
      (pp. 117-166)

      The preceding chapter has made clear that the breakthrough of Ibsen’s mature aesthetics cannot be defined in terms of his rejection of the idealist paradigm (as Toril Moi claims inHenrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism) or through his turn to an allegorical mode of representation (as Frode Helland has proposed inMelankoliens Spill), since both these aspects are present as early asPeer Gynt. Instead, this chapter argues that the innovation first introduced withA Doll’s Houseconsists in a turn to an aesthetic structure akin to that of Kierkegaard’s philosophical anthropology, examined in chapter 1. This development...

  8. PART THREE Modernism and Dependency
    • CHAPTER FIVE Henry James and the Emergence of the Major Phase
      (pp. 169-203)

      In 1891, Henry James entered the “Ibsen Controversy” with a favorable review ofHedda Gabler, his first in a series of articles on the Norwegian dramatist. While James’s defense of Ibsen is an occurrence largely neglected by the secondary literature, in this chapter I will argue that he in fact derived from Ibsen both the constitutive terms of his late aesthetics and the form of their mediation. I do so by showing that James’s critical reception of Ibsen is organized around his perception of the latter’s successful synthesis of the opposition between epic and dramatic forms of representation, which also...

    • CHAPTER SIX Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the Language of the Future
      (pp. 204-219)

      Of all the authors dealt with in this study, Hugo von Hofmannsthal has a relationship to Scandinavian literature that is the most difficult to determine. To my knowledge, no study on the topic exists, and the archive is difficult to reconstruct. We know, however, that Hofmannsthal owned books by Kierkegaard¹ and that he was familiar with a number of Scandinavian authors, including Ibsen, Strindberg, Georg Brandes, Herman Bang, Arne Garborg, and Amalie Skram, to mention only a few.² In addition, as Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin have documented in their studyWittgenstein’s Vienna, the influence of figures like Ibsen and...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Conflict and Mediation in James Joyce’s “The Dead”
      (pp. 220-246)

      It must be one of the most cited facts in the scholarship on Joyce that he began his career as an author with a review of Ibsen’s final play,When We Dead Awaken. The review, titled “Ibsen’s New Drama,” was published in theFortnightly Reviewin 1900 and was based on the talk “Drama and Life” that Joyce gave to the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin shortly beforehand in which he also defended Ibsen’s work. One year later, another brief notice followed, “The Day of the Rabblement,” in which Joyce again singles out Ibsen for praise and...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Intransitive Love in Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
      (pp. 247-268)

      It seems appropriate to conclude this study with an examination of Rainer Maria Rilke’s novelThe Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, written between 1904 and 1910 and centered on a Danish character. Among the many Scandinavian authors that Rilke was closely familiar with (including figures such as Ibsen, Strindberg, Herman Bang, and Sigbjørn Obstfelder, to name but some), it was J. P. Jacobsen and Kierkegaard who exercised the greatest influence on him, and already in 1904 he began learning Danish for the specific purpose of reading these two authors in the original. Only shortly thereafter, Rilke had mastered this task...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 269-272)

    The preceding chapters have argued that an aesthetic paradigm not previously considered by the secondary literature must be understood as central to the evolution of European Modernism. Distinct from the models of both autonomy and fragmentation that the field has traditionally relied on, this “aesthetics of dependency” combines attributes of both in a new organizational structure. Similar to the aesthetics of fragmentation usually associated with the avant-gardes, the aesthetics of dependency stages the inherent incompatibility of the constitutive elements of a literary work. But unlike the avant-gardes, and akin to the aesthetics of autonomy, the aesthetics of dependency also insists...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 273-300)
    (pp. 301-330)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 331-336)