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Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction

Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction

DANIEL HOFFMAN-SCHWARTZ
BARBARA NATALIE NAGEL
LAUREN SHIZUKO STONE
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt14jxrdb
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  • Book Info
    Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction
    Book Description:

    What is flirtation, and how does it differ from seduction? In historical terms, the particular question of flirtation has tended to be obscured by that of seduction, which has understandably been a major preoccupation for twentieth-century thought and critical theory. Both the discourse and the critique of seduction are unified by their shared obsession with a very determinate end: power. In contrast, flirtation is the game in which no one seems to gain the upper hand and no one seems to surrender. The counter-concept of flirtation has thus stood quietly to the side, never quite achieving the same prominence as that of seduction. It is this elusive (and largely ignored) territory of playing for play's sake that is the subject of this anthology. The essays in this volume address the under-theorized terrain of flirtation not as a subgenre of seduction but rather as a phenomenon in its own right. Drawing on the interdisciplinary history of scholarship on flirtation even as it re-approaches the question from a distinctly aesthetic and literary-theoretical point of view, the contributors to Flirtations thus give an account of the practice of flirtation and of the figure of the flirt, taking up the act's relationship to issues of mimesis, poetic ambiguity, and aesthetic pleasure. The art of this poetic playfulness-often read or misread as flirtation's "empty gesture"-becomes suddenly legible as the wielding of a particular and subtle form of nonteleological power.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6493-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. “ALMOST NOTHING; ALMOST EVERYTHING”: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE DISCOURSE OF FLIRTATION
    (pp. 1-10)
    Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz, Barbara Natalie Nagel and Lauren Shizuko Stone

    What is flirtation, and how does it differ from seduction? The essays collected in this volume address the relatively undertheorized terrain of flirtation not as a subgenre of seduction but as a phenomenon in its own right. Indeed, in historical terms the particular question of flirtation has tended to be obscured by that of seduction, which has understandably been a major preoccupation for twentieth-century thought and critical theory. The discourse of seduction and the critique of seduction are unified by their shared obsession with a very determinate end: power. Flirtation, by contrast, is a game in which no one seems...

  5. META-FLIRTATIONS

    • INTERLUDE. BARELY COVERED BANTER: FLIRTATION IN DOUBLE INDEMNITY
      (pp. 13-18)
      Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz

      Let’s start with a classic scene of flirtation. The scene is from Billy Wilder’s 1944 noir filmDouble Indemnity.¹ Wilder wrote the screenplay with Raymond Chandler, adapted from James Cain’s novella of the previous year.² The shift of medium entailed a slight shift of genre as well: The laconic ways of hardboiled fiction yield ever so slightly to the garrulousness of the contemporary genres associated with the still relatively new medium of sound film—the screwball comedy or, more pointedly, the subgenre Stanley Cavell has famously christened the “comedy of remarriage.”³ In a remarkable series of analyses, Cavell ties sound...

    • THE ART OF FLIRTATION: SIMMEL’S COQUETRY WITHOUT END
      (pp. 19-30)
      Paul Fleming

      Sigmund Freud did not hold flirtation in high regard. In his 1915 essay “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death,” Freud compares “an American flirtation [ein amerikanischer Flirt]” to “a continental loveaffair [kontinentale Liebesbeziehung],”¹ and it doesn’t require a deep knowledge of psychoanalysis to guess on which side of the opposition he lands, and not simply because the deck is stacked by being cast in terms of his well-known distaste for the United States. There is, however, much at stake in this juxtaposition, for the simple reason that Freud locates the difference between flirtation and a love affair precisely...

    • “THE DOUBLE-SENSE OF THE ‘WITH’ ”: RETHINKING RELATION AFTER SIMMEL
      (pp. 31-36)
      Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz

      This response essay is in two parts: first, a close engagement with a single one of Paul Fleming’s six theses on flirtation and its textual basis in Simmel’s “On Flirtation”; and second, a caveat of my own. The first part tries to elaborate the problematic of relation (or “withness”) that Fleming opens in Simmel; the caveat attempts to account for the specific exemplarity of flirtation as a topos for theory.

      Thesis 3 is “Flirtation offers a unique mode ofMitsein.” To phrase it this way is to evoke Heidegger or Jean-Luc Nancy, the thinker who has most rigorously pursued Heidegger’s...

    • RHETORIC’S FLIRTATION WITH LITERATURE, FROM GORGIAS TO ARISTOTLE: THE EPIDEICTIC GENRE
      (pp. 37-50)
      Rüdiger Campe

      In flirting, seduction, one way or another, is in touch with its own possibility. Once such a process has taken hold, a startling alternative presents itself: Either seduction turns flirtatious in the parallel worlds of potentiality, or it becomes apparent that it has been its own potentiality that, from the beginning, provided a first hold for seduction to become effective. This means either that the art of flirtation is a Romantic theater where nothing is in fact what it seems or that it is only with the substratum of a stage that gestures acquire the meaning that then can or...

    • PLAYING WITH YOURSELF: ON THE SELF-REFERENCE OF FLIRTATION
      (pp. 51-58)
      Arne Höcker

      To make yourself attractive to somebody it may appear helpful at times to induce jealousy by making eyes at someone else. I will therefore for now resist Rüdiger Campe’s generous offer and first engage instead with Paul Fleming’s contribution to this volume. In the concluding section of his essay, Fleming presents us with theOdyssey’s episode of the song of the Sirens as the primal scene of flirtation as art and art as flirtation. Keeping himself at a distance while enjoying the beautiful forces of brute seduction and temptation, Odysseus becomes “the great resister,the one who converts seduction to...

  6. FLIRTATION WITH THE WORLD

    • INTERLUDE. STAGING APPEAL, PERFORMING AMBIVALENCE
      (pp. 61-63)
      Lauren Shizuko Stone

      Flirtation’s relation to seduction might be thought of as citational; it borrows the gesture, the performance, and the language, but it also retains a difference. In doing so, however, it might also reveal something unstable in seduction’s own character. To develop this notion of flirtation vis-à-vis seduction, I’d like to consider the ordinary circumstances in which such a distinction might arise, such as those that happen in quotidian spaces: in bars, in of fices, and on sidewalks. Let me begin by suggesting that, broadly speaking, seduction has an aim that establishes a distinct relationship of power—social, sexual, intellectual power....

    • LIFE IS A FLIRTATION: THOMAS MANN’S FELIX KRULL
      (pp. 64-73)
      Elisabeth Strowick

      If one wanted to describe the forms of flirtation depicted inFelix Krullin a concise formula, one might use a phrase that comes from Felix Krull himself: “Forays upon the sweets of life [Griffe in die Süßigkeiten des Lebens].”¹ The talk is of such “forays” in that noteworthy scene in the delicatessen shop, from which Krull brings the “almost always” “abundant store” (C 40) of sweets to his “desk” (C 40). What this formula for flirtation implies is twofold: First, flirtation is taken out of the context of interpersonal relationships and opened up to become an aesthetic concept of...

    • THE “IRREDUCIBLY DOUBLED STROKE”: FLIRTATION, FELICITY, AND SINCERITY
      (pp. 74-81)
      Lauren Shizuko Stone

      Commenting on the absurdity of the plea sure that Felix Krull takes in his penmanship (as a conman and forger), Elisabeth Strowick writes, “Nothing is more questionable than the ‘my own’ of handwriting that is claimed in this sentence, since indeed no one is more effective in disavowing thismy ownthan Felix Krull himself.” In her assessment of the title figure in Mann’s novel she addresses the inextricable ties among the identity (of a con man), language (in this instance writing), and the flirtatious attitude (as an aesthetic and epistemological structure); she also points us toward what I will...

    • FRILL AND FLIRTATION: FEMININITY IN THE PUBLIC SPACE
      (pp. 82-90)
      Barbara Vinken

      Except for New York, which is not a typical American city, the United States in general seems to be a lousy place to flirt. One might be inclined to attribute this impression of mine to the different flirting styles that anthropologists have observed. But I don’t think so. There is something deeply unflirtatious about this country: too Republican and too well Reformed; too Protestant, no irony, please! I remember arriving in the United States (New Haven, to be precise) in the mid-1980s. People in the street would never look you in the eye, let alone smile in your direction. They...

    • LEARNING TO FLIRT WITH DON JUAN
      (pp. 91-98)
      Christophe Koné

      My experience of flirtation in America differs significantly from that of Barbara Vinken; the United States has a very flirtatious culture. I cannot count the numerous times when I was approached by perfect strangers who commented on my appearance, approved of my out fits, shared their unsolicited opinion about my style, or simply inquired about the provenance of my clothes. Whether in urban centers, suburban or rural areas, in the street, on the train, or in a store, you cannot keep strangers from approaching you! Flirtatious interjections punctuate your daily life in the United States, and you rarely can run...

  7. FLIRTATION AND TRANSGRESSION

    • INTERLUDE. THREE TERRORS OF FLIRTATION
      (pp. 101-105)
      Barbara Natalie Nagel

      Nothing seems more harmless than a flirt. But then why at times the feeling of sheer terror? Why do people turn pale and flee? “Hans Castorp was excited about the encounter, at the same time he felt something like ascending anxiety, a trepidation of the same kind as being confined with the happenstance someone in narrow space caused in him.”¹ Thomas Mann is one of those authors all too familiar with the terrors of flirtation, including the risk of ridicule. And according to one scientific study, the effect of flirtation is nothing short of alarming: “The moment of attraction, in...

    • THE LUXURY OF SELF-DESTRUCTION: FLIRTING WITH MIMESIS WITH ROGER CAILLOIS
      (pp. 106-115)
      John Hamilton

      In 1915, at the urging of the editors of the psychoanalytic journalImago, Freud composed “Timely Thoughts on War and Death,” in which he offers some reflections on the failures of enlightened civilization and the consequent change in general attitudes toward death. Whereas before this devastating war it might have been possible to evade any serious consideration of our own passing away—to “shelve” death for another day, to postpone it into the vague future—today, in 1915, given the massive scope and cruelty of the Great War, we are compelled to face death head-on: “Death can no longer be...

    • WARTIME LOVE AFFAIRS AND DEATHLY FLIRTATION: FREUD AND CAILLOIS ON IDENTIFYING WITH LOSS
      (pp. 116-124)
      Sage Anderson

      As a mode of social interaction, flirtation is commonly considered quite safe, at least compared to full-blown seduction. Skillfully managed, flirtation allows one to skirt commitment to any would-be relationship, deferring vulnerability as well as consummation to an unmet later date. However, flirtation also has the capacity to become something far more threatening; when a seemingly superficial backand-forth with another is taken to the extremes of attraction, there emerges a profound danger of losing oneself altogether. In his essay “The Luxury of Self-Destruction,” John Hamilton opens an inquiry into the opposition of flirtation and seduction with a reading of Freud’s...

    • BESTIALITY: MEDIATION MORE FERARUM
      (pp. 125-135)
      Jacques Lezra

      A young archaeologist develops an attachment to an ancient bas-relief, unidentified, that he has seen in a museum in Rome. He buys a simulacrum; he calls the figure Gradiva, the beautiful walker; she hangs on his wall. A terrible, anxious dream places the lovely Gradiva in Pompeii, at the moment of the eruption of Vesuvius. Our protagonist travels to the excavation some time later and finds there, in the Casa di Meleagro, a young woman who bears, he believes, a startling resemblance to the figure from Rome, from his wall, from his dream. He pursues her through the dig and...

    • DOING IT AS THE BEASTS DID: INTERTEXTUALITY AS FLIRTATION IN GRADIVA
      (pp. 136-142)
      Barbara Natalie Nagel

      Flirtation is a concept defined by its latency. This means, on the one hand, that flirtation ceases to be flirtation when it transgresses a taboo and gives itself to consummation. Instead flirtation hovers over—but doesn’t cross—the line of distinction between hypothetical and realized desire. On the other hand, flirtation isn’t simply the opposite of transgression because it structurally depends on the forbidden to give momentum to the flirt. Adam Phillips, who wroteOn Flirtation, elaborates on this ambivalence that is inherent in the concept of flirtation: “Flirtation confirms the connection between excitement and uncertainty.”¹ The flirt always flitrs...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 143-170)
  9. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 171-174)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 175-178)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-182)