SEARCHING FOR THE ART LIFE : EMBODYING WILDEAN AESTHETICS FROM THE LATE NINETEENTH TO THE EARLY TWENTY FIRST CENTURY By SAMANTHA A. BANAL A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2018
2018 Samantha A. Banal
To my parents
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Many people contributed to the completion of this project, and they each storm into mind as I contemplate who to mention here. I would first like to thank my professors from my undergraduate years at Florida International University. Meri Jane Rochelson and Maneck Daruwala first taught me about Oscar Wilde, his essays, and The Picture of Dorian Gray Through their courses and ment orship, I gained an incredible appreciation and passion for late Victorian culture and literature I also would like to take this moment to pay my respects to the late Phillip L. Marcus. My peers and I were lucky enough to have him as a professor at FIU, a nd his influence upon my subsequent work as both a scholar and teacher, cannot be understated. From my graduate years at the University of Florida, m y friends and colleagues there are too numerous to name, but I do wish to thank a few people. Randi Gill S adler and Gareth Hadyk DeLodder, we entered the program together and stuck together through the end, and I am proud to have come through this with them Sarah Kniesler, simply put, I could not have done it without her I finally wish to show my gratitude for the work my committee members Marsha Bryant, Pamela Gilbert, Eric Kligerman, and Chris Snodgrass put into making this project a success. I especially wish to thank Pamela Gilbert, for setting an incredible example of a mentor, professor, and scholar a nd Chris Snodgrass, for his encouragement as my director, his patience with my verb tenses and his award s season movie discussions. My friends home in Miami were my rock throughout this process. I always knew I had a safe refuge a few hours away and I no w thank them for asking about my dissertation and supporting me through phone calls, visits, and summers back home. I especially want to thank Monica, Rebecca, Jaife, Bryant, Miryam, Laura, Annette, and Rosamary for their love, their conversations, and the ir continued interested in reading this thing.
5 Finally, the debt I owe to my family is immense. I thank my parents, Jesus and Debra, for being there every step of the way and reminding me of my own strength whenever I forgot it And thanks to my partner, Jasmijn, for coaching me across the finish line My final chapter is my favorite because of her.
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 7 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 10 2 THE FIN DE SICLE ................................ ...... 52 3 AESTHETIC MUSES, MOTHERS, AND LOVERS ................................ ....................... 89 4 MID CENTURY ACTRESSES AND BALLERINAS, MANNEQUINS AND MODELS ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 133 5 THE HASHTAGGED LIVING AESTHETIC ICON ................................ ..................... 184 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 235 BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 242
7 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS DP De Profundis PDG The Picture of Dorian Gray PML The Painter of Modern Life R The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry
8 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy SEARCHING FOR THE ART LIFE: EMBODYING WILDEAN AESTHETICS FROM THE LATE NINETEENTH TO THE EARLY TWENTY FIRST CENTURY By Samantha A. Banal May 2018 Chair: Chris Snodgrass Major: English individuality or agency. From Wilde the twentieth century, examining both canonical and non canonical texts to reveal the pervasiveness of the living aesthetic object and to address how they evolve into the most provocative art and arti sts of the twenty first century. Indeed, the living aesthetic object warrants the same critical analysis currently reserved for literature, film, and certain new media. Through my research, I answer how exactly a person transforms themselves into a living aesthetic object, and I develop strategies towards identifying and understanding this figure without objectifying them. nds in new media studies Victorianist work and established his immense contributions to aesthetic theory. I draw from the work begun
9 by these scholars and begi with groundbreaking queer theorists of the past decade and apply conversations regarding loss, inued relevance combine with a nuanced theoretical lens that connects these texts and their living aesthetic objects to larger cultural issues. Through this combination, I reveal how Victorian studies can contribute to contemporary criticism, beyond a disc ussion of neo Victori an performance, and the individual within the community.
10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Greek dialogue form to advance his own aesthetic theories, the most striking of which analyzes the relationship between life and art. Wilde, through the voice of his dandy stand in Vivian eighteenth and nineteenth centuries respectively, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche added art to the long list of subjects wor thy of philosophical insight. In comparison to these thinkers, Wilde seems a mere satirist amongst sages, but his aesthetic essays and even his fictional works address an important shift that occurs in the relationship between life and art in the mid to la claims, along with those offered by other foundational aesthetic thinkers, start the process of theorizing a new art form, one in which living bodies present themselves as static art o bjects. This paradox between life and art reveals how early twentieth through early twenty first century art forms embody concepts first envisioned by nineteenth century theorists and philosophers. Rather than merely trace how life has imitated art from th e late Victorian era on, I will show how, under new aesthetic models over this period, life has newly constructed itself to mimic and advance ideal art forms. Living aesthetic objects are the hybrid life art texts that will be the focus throughout my disse rtation. By living aesthetic objects, I refer to living figures, which are defined more by their relation to art than their relation to natural reality. Making contact with such figures forces viewers to confront the uncanny territory between life and art because these figures define themselves, their appearance, and their actions according to both life and art. Viewers can never be certain whether they are confronting a living person or an aesthetic object. In the first few
11 chapters of my dissertation, the se figures usually come from fictional forms like the novel, film, and poetry. In the mid twentieth century, the focus of Chapter 4 however, I locate a tilting point especially through Diana Vreeland's models and mannequins which brings us to the millenni al fashion designers, pop artists, and performers that finally present themselves as living aesthetic objects in real life. Before aesthetic culture reaches this moment, there lies a progressive evolution from the late Victorians to the millennial artists. Each of my chapters focuses on a different phrase, in order to highlight specific stages in the development of the living aesthetic object. In its most basic form, a living aesthetic object embodies the greatest assets of both art and life the immortalit y and multiplicity of the former, and the free will and agency of the latter. At the risk of perhaps belaboring the obvious to experts in the field, let me explain in a nutshell what Wilde and like minded nineteenth life basically, an object, a thing, an inanimate form ( until performed). It has physical properties and sometimes performance properties that, barring intervening damage or destruction, do not change over time. Mid 17th century Dutch paintings, an Elizabethan poem, or a Bach concerto have distinctive fundament al properties that will stay the same whether viewed in the 17th or Immanuel Kant, because its properties are aesthetically crafted and organized so that each each other element. Tastes may vary, but the intrinsic form is permanent,
12 other hand, precisely because it is a fixed, unchanging object, it cannot, strictly speaking, cannot love, or otherwise bond with other ent ities. Human beings, on the other hand, are a different matter. They also have physical properties, but those properties do change, usually radically, over time it is the very nature of being a living organism rather than a physically inanimate object. The perfection of the great work of art is therefore precluded in human beings. Their compensation, however, is that their changeable character permits them to respond, adjust, and adapt to changing circumstance (ideally, effectively); they can feel, love, an d otherwise bond with other entities. conditions, Art and Life, thereby removing the limitations but retaining the advantages of each in He saw that while the work of art is ostensibly unchanging and understood by audiences of widely different minds, which thus permits the artwork to in effect touch and move those minds, often transformatively. Conversely, Wilde argued, a human being can craft his/her life aesthetically, giving it unified meaning and finely attuned style, with every aspect, so that, like a great work Heretofore, critics have identified living aesthetic objects, often using constructions derived from genre studies, th e grotesque, or psychoanalysis, as Gothic doubles, doppelgngers, or manifestations of the uncanny dolls, waxworks, corpses, and mannequins all fall under these categories. But for my purposes, these constructions possess two weaknesses. First, they are m ore object than living, marginalizing the point that these objects possess all the strengths and
13 flaws of living beings. Second, these constructions rely predominantly on psychoanalytics, and adequately analyze how living aesthetic objects exploit the liminal space between life and art. From Kant and Edmund Burke through to Walter Pater and Wilde, aesthetic theory is our most fruitful means of understanding aestheticized figures that have only grown more ubiquitous at the dawn of the new millennium. Placing living aesthetic objects within an aesthetic rather than a psychoanalytic paradigm reveals the inherent will and choice behind becoming a living aesthetic object. In many respects, the livin own hands. ther of the living aesthetic object; he provided the ultimate philosophical logic for transforming static artworks into life practices. His life and published works, which argued that language and even life itself are constructs, established the foundation for the living aesthetic objects I discuss throughout this project. Wilde was not the first to place aestheticism within the realm of serious critical and philosophical thought. However, he did simultaneously radicalize and democratize aestheticism, trans forming it into at once the highest avenue for criticism and a means for any person to achieve self actualization in their daily life. 90s, critics began asking in the twenty first century w hether there was not more to understand about Wilde and his work. Lawrence Danson, for instance, lifts Wilde's work from epigrammatic jest to insightful art
14 controversially, in modern and post and of itself, as Wilde argues and Danson confirms, the critic shou any other artist would, with an eye towards creativity and innovation. More recently, Julia Prewitt Brown also points out Wilde's importance as a critic, but she goes one step further, placing Wilde alongside major nineteenth an d twentieth century philosophers. In her book, Oscar Wilde's Philosophy of Art Kant and Schiller, through Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, to the preeminent cosmopolitan artist Any discussion of nineteenth century aesthetics necessitates a retrospective glance at the eighteenth century aesthetic philosophers and theorists. The two figures from this period most applicable to Wildean aesthetics are Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant, both of whom are often hailed as the founders of aesthetic studies. In his A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756; rev. 1757), Edmund Burke distinguished the main differences between beauty and the sublime, which, up until that point, were terms often used and pleasure through that horror, while distinguishing that beauty depended upon perfection of form and other specific considerations such as size, smoothness, and delicacy. These ideas inspired literary styles and movements like the Gothic and Romanticism But beyond his immediate effect on literature, Burke sowed ideas regarding the sublime and its connection to the grotesque. Indeed, the paradox of a living object a portrait that grows old, for instance, or a woman who is also a doll or mannequin is inhe rently sublime. It initially inspires horror in the onlooker, but often leads to aesthetic pleasure, also known as awe or wonder.
15 the living aesthetic object, Immanuel Kan Critique of Judgment (1790), Kant discussed how an audience experiences beauty, theorizing that beauty was not an attribute of the art object itself but instead a sensation between the viewer and the viewed. Kant a rgued that the paradox of aesthetic judgment lay in the fact that one could not make an objective judgment of an aesthetic object and thus could not prove said judgment, taste. He of taste influenced what would later become late Vict orian aesthetic performativity, an integral piece of the puzzle that leads to the living aesthetic object. Throughout Critique of Judgment Kant returns to antinomy of taste and, through this idea, addresses self conscious experience. Naturally, Kant inter ested Oscar Wilde during his Oxford days and arguably informed his very different from Kant. Rather than merely name what occurred between the aesthetic subject a nd object, conceding the subjectivity within an art critical experience, Wilde exploited that subjectivity between the viewer and the viewed, urging his audience to lie their way towards new aesthetic truths. Facts or objective ideas could be distorted, as long as those distortions served a greater critical art. While Kant believed in the moral sublime and the ethical implications of his aesthetic theories, Wilde sidestepped these constructs and argued that the only way to aesthetic truth was through lying, performance, where the viewer created a new art within their experience.
16 Burke and Kant certainly influenced their philosophical successors, but their work nevertheless remained tied to Cla ssical ideals regarding art and aesthetics. The ideal that most assiduously underpinned their theories was the claim that Nature always preceded Art, and aesthetic and non rather than use art itself as a means toward discussing antimony of taste, Kant most often used nature to explain aesthetic experience. He directed his readers toward nature again and again, arguing that it possessed all the ideals for art, humanity, and morality, and if they only looked to and imitated nature, then they would reach various aesthetic and ethic ideals. Throughout the nineteenth century, various aestheti c theorists will chip away at this dominance of nature over deconstructed. That deconstruction then opens the door for the living aesthetic object to exploit wer and transform life. Burke also frequently uses nature to exemplify his aesthetic ideals, but his belief in art as mere imitation is less pronounced than Kant. In his section on imitation in The Sublime and the Beautiful Burke ends with a throwback to Aristotle, urging his readers to look to Classical Part Five of The Sublime and the Beautiful Burke concludes his work with two sections called trict will make about poetry over a century later. Throughout the nineteenth century, aesthetic
17 theorists hesitated before claiming that any literary form could surpass imitation, looking instead, as Nietzsche and Pater did, to music and sculpture for their aesthetic ideals. Burke, however, descriptive poetry operates chiefly by substitution ; by the means of sounds, which by custom have the effect achieve a reality. This perspective on poetry is key to discussions of the living aesthetic o bject because poetry, as both form and content, embodies how the living aesthetic object will utilize conventional aesthetic attributes to replace reality. poetry: Here, Burke plainly states that art may indeed overthrow nature. Yet, he do es not conclude there; he also claims that, through the combination of words and favorable circumstances, words can words an artist can make something new that ex ists outside the object he/she is depicting. That century later. In an almost prophetic declaration, Burke predicts Paterian ideals regarding the art critic Words were only so far to be considered, as to shew [ sic ] upon what principle they were capable of being the representatives of these natural things, and by what powers, they were able to affect us often as strongly as the things they represent, and sometimes much more strongly. (161) Thus, while Burke gestures to Aristotelian aesthetics throughout The Sublime and the Beautiful the work ends on an extremely provocative and anti Classic al note.
18 sublime to define their new school of poetry, but not until the French Symbolist movement did poets emphasize the kind of poetry (symbolic rather than descripti ve) that Burke suggests at the end of The Sublime and the Beautiful for invoking an image or emotion. As Stphane Mallarm explains: To name an object is to suppress three quarters of the enjoyment of the poem, which derives from the pleasure of step by s tep discovery; to suggest, that is the or, inversely, to choose an object and bring out of it a state of the soul through a series of unravelings. (Huret 141) The Frenc h Symbolists, who include Charles Baudelaire, Stphane Mallarm, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Verlaine, refused to name the thing itself and instead sought to conjure a sensory reaction from their reader through the use of symbols, imagery, and inventive forms substituting sensual suggestions for literal terms and symbols for action. In so doing, they broke the realist spell that enthralled post Romantic nineteenth century literature and heralded the renewed aestheticism of the fin de sicle. Charles Baudelai re perhaps best embodies and defines this modern aesthetic that will eventually lead to late Victorian aesthetic theory. As both essayist and poet, Baudelaire set the groundwork for his artistic successors, directly influencing the work of Oscar Wilde. Jus t as Burke uses a single genre (poetry) as his model for the new aesthetic, Baudelaire in his The Painter of Modern Life (1863) transforms ostensibly simple art criticism (extended critiques of seminal guide for living the aesthetic life in mid nineteenth century Paris. After introducing Constantin Guys as the artistic subject of
19 understands the world and the mysterious and lawful reasons for all its uses; by the [artist], a the figure that had previously served as the cornerstone of aesthetic discussions married to Classical notions of imitation, no longer held privileged interest for Baudelaire; it was too narrow a signifier. Instead, he argued that the artist for modernit prostitute making the world, particularly the urban landscape, his/her canvas and allowed modern citizens acces s to creating and living an artistic life. Baudelaire thus placed art above nature embedded reality, creating a reality more beautiful than nature, which makes him such a watershed thinker in the nineteenth century and into Modernism. Interestingly, Baude discussion of women, cosmetics, and prostitution illustrating exactly how art can outdo nature. When Baudelaire first introduces his female ideal in The Painter of Modern Life he describe s a ended his analysis with this Othering, he would have remained as conventional and reductionist as many of his contemporaries. Instead, he places the female at the center of modern aesthetics and, through her, makes a break from Classical aesthetics and its reading of art as imitation. For his subject, he turns toward art of the dressing table from the fatuous slanders with which certain very dubious lovers of and
20 ask you to review and scrutinize whatever is natural all the actions and desires of the purely natural man: you will find nothing but frightfulness. Everything beautiful and noble is the result claimed that nature ref lected a moral order deep within ourselves that we must follow. d dare to assign to art the sterile function of imitating Nature? Maquillage has no need to hide itself lays itself proudly and creates a new essentially invents modernity memory The English Romantics, most obviously William Wordsworth, also employed memory as a key trope, but whereas they often figured memory as a tool that validated Nature, in The Painter of Modern Life Baudelaire invokes it to validate artistic transformation, calling the retrospective draw from the image imprinted on their brains, and no from a conventional Enlightenment viewpoint is risky for a number of reasons. First, the
21 individual mind, particularly during the act of creation, was always seen as a trap or a mutable maze, which is why so many major philosophers, Kant and Burke included, looked to static nature for insp iration. Second, it was indisputable that memory often lies. Trauma, nostalgia, and repression all combine to potentially distort a given figure or event. Consequently, in the Age of Reason, memory would not do. Objective fact, reason, and logic ruled the day, and Kant only Baudelaire breaks through these two major concerns, but he does not do so rashly or without any reference to the possible consequences of mnemonic perfect sense of form but one accustomed to relying above all on his memory and his imagination will find himself at the mercy of a riot of details all clamouring for justice with the fury of a mob in love with abs olute equality" (16). Baudelaire acknowledged the risk in his own Un gros meuble tiroirs encombr de bilans, De vers, de billets doux, de procs, de romances, Avec de lourds cheveux rols dans des quittances, Cache moins de secrets que mon triste cerveau. 1 (1 5) Here memory is an internal crowd, teeming with various poetic tropes and techniques, all of he mnemonic art is the highest inspiration for true artists, then how does the artist effectively tap into that when memory is often a complete capture a fleeting moment, turning it into a static, manageable object that the artist can convey through his chosen art. 1 sheets, love letters, lawsuits, verse / Romances locks of hair rolled in receipts, / Hides fewer secrets than my sullen
22 ribes the flneur as the modern ability to enter this reservoir of electrical something in common with a convulsion, and that every sublime thought is accompanied by a ver will become an integral part of early twentieth century art forms and the movements that follow in the wake of Modernism, as is probably self evident in Pro (1913) or the final scene of Mrs. Dalloway (1925). Such Baudelairean aesthetic shocks will become integral to the evolution of living well before the onset of psychoanalysis as a scientific discipline at the turn of the century. Second, his shocks deconstruct the binary between personal and impersonal, as well as living and dead. l mind, get translated into illustrations or poems, they turn into universal ideas and objects for their audience. By turning a shock into an art object, one transforms life experiences into a singular, artistic moment that can possess its own life. As wi
23 embodies it in a living being. The Birth of Tragedy (1872; trans. 1886) shifts from Baudelairean ideas on personal memory to a discussion of collective, societal memories. It in historical accuracy, placing h istorical accuracy second to aesthetic interest and criticism. Throughout The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche discusses the Greek drama in a distinctly ahistoric fashion. Moreover, rather than delineate the specific trends and attributes within and surrounding potential for discussing his own version of beauty and the sublime, which he distinguishes as the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Whereas Kant relied on Nature to gro und his aesthetic theories, The Birth of Tragedy discusses specific Greek dramas and even his own German contemporaries like Wagner to prove his claims regarding the Apollonian and Dionysian arts. In doing so, Nietzsche promoted a genre where t he art critic did more than merely describe or discuss an idea; the aesthetic critic was now expected to create an entirely new world from the disparate and anachronistic shards of the old world. For that old world, Nietzsche, like other new aesthetic cri tics, kept returning to the Hellenic past. Historically, the Hellenistic period in Greek culture occurred between Alexander century, however, Hellenic culture is m ore a fabricated memory than a history. As Michael BT manner in which he begins with a set of issues which seem to be remote from the present time, but gradually reve als that his underlying concern is with culture, its perennial conditions, and the
24 partake in some fanciful romantic nostalgia, but makes insightful and biting obser vations about his contemporary culture through the lens of Hellenism, marking the important shift from history to collective memory and from abstract ideal to an aesthetic object. Beyond the form of The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche populated his work with foundational aesthetic ideas that will anticipate the living aesthetic object, and there are few concepts more important to this figure than Nietzsche's discussion of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. He presents the Apollonian and Dionysian as two differe nt manifestations of Greek art, embodied by the two major Greek gods of art: Apollo and Dionysus. Apollo represents the plastic arts, which are often the easiest to comprehend and create, whereas Dionysus represents the disembodied arts, such as music. As their designated deities would suggest, the former is sober, while the latter is often made drunk on (or by) his aesthetic creation. Again, we find the opposition that Burke described as beauty versus the sublime, but Nietzsche employs a metaphorical const different drives ( Triebe ) exist side by side, mostly in open conflict, stimulating and provoking ( reizen ) one another to give birth to ever new, more vigorous offspring in whom they perpetuate the conflict inherent in the opposition between them, an opposition only apparently bridged by the binary he sets up only a few sentences before: Aft er highlighting the differences between the Apolline and Dionysiac, he moves past this opposition and towards a reconciliation, which eventually leads to an ideal art. Similarly, the living aesthetic object, like the Attic tragedy, will come to serve as a provocative example of the Apolline and Dionysiac impulses coming together in a productive conflict.
25 During the fin de sicle and in the transition towards Modernism, the play between the Apollonian and Dionysian is often rendered explicitly, each form fu lly embodied by different figures or concepts. To create a Galatea, one needs a Pygmalion. Baudelaire gave us the words to understand modernity, but artists still required some help in actually creating that modernity, positional Apollonian and Dionysian provided. The Dionysiac impulse emphasizes excess and means to be literally drunk, which holds the potential for creativity and also for chaos. The potential for chaos is what kept the Dionysian impulse repressed for mos t of the English nineteenth century. The Dionysian is most often depicted as some invisible force, which contributes to its threatening and intimidating nature. Yet, Dionysian excess is not a mere bacchanal; it runs through impulses deeper and more penetra ting than sheer Excess revealed itself as the truth; contradiction, bliss born of pain, spoke of itself from out of the heart of nature. Thus, wherever the Dionysiac broke through, the complementary definition of Burke's sublime. The difference between Burke and Nietzsche lies in the latter's combination of the Apolline and Dionysiac impulses and in his obvious preference for one (the Dionys iac) over the other. Late Victorian aestheticism's move into the Decadence revealed the same preference and the same belief that the key to transforming life into art lay in utilizing excess. potential for advancing more Wildean ideas regarding aesthetic lying. Nietzsche discusses this issue at some length in The Birth of Tragedy and argues that, to achieve the Dionysiac aesthetic ideal, one must become more like the chorus in a Greek tragedy proper spectator, whoever he might be, always had to remain conscious of the fact that what he saw
26 before him was a work of art and not empirical reali ty, whereas the tragic chorus of the Greeks is positioning lying as a mere opposition to truth, Dionysian lying explains how a suspension of disbelief leads to, according to Nietzsche, the highest Hellenic art: the Attic tragedy. If we nineteenth century public. During the mid nineteenth century, when Nietzsche published The Birth of Tragedy realism had developed into the baseline view of, for instance, a good novel. Thus, rather than the fantastical figures of German and British Romant icism earlier in the century, the public more often read or experienced art that mirrored their own daily experiences. The measure of great art became how closely it mimicked reality, hearkening back to the Shakespearean ideal turn of what These artists of life push the Dionysiac Greek chorus off the stage and address whether this suspension of disbelief can or should occur in real life As an artist of life, Nietzsche provides various avenues for en sees himself surrounded by figures who live and act before him, and into whose innermost ess e makes explicit
27 a imagination, one would think that he might leave the poet to his mental musings, but Nietzsche instead tried to pull the Dionysiac imagination into an Apolline form without compromising the Dionysian base. As he notes, For the genuine poet metaphor is no rhetorical figure, but an image which takes the place of something else, something he can really see before him as a substitute for a concept. To the poet, a characte r is not a whole composed of selected single features, but an insistently alive person whom he sees before his very eyes, and poet sees the figure continuing to live and act over a period of time. (43) Quite a few major aesthetics concepts are at work here, but to begin, Nietzsche addresses how abstract. Nietzsche then pushes this f urther and claims that this embodied image is also alive in a living being. This dynamic may initially resemble poetic schizophrenia or what Emma haracter in Stranger Than Fiction experiences when she meets one of her fictional characters in the flesh. Indeed, I believe these fantastical metaphors are not too far from what Nietzsche wishes to conjure here. Through the process outlined above, the poe t creates living beings from the impervious stone of concepts. The poet is Pygmalion, and the living aesthetic object is his Galatea. This elitist reading of the poetic imagination has its pitfalls, not least its continued placement not in reality but rat
28 our significance as works of art for only as an aesthetic phenomenon is existence and the wor ld eternally justified human existence as most importantly an aesthetic experience. However, his continuation underscores the problem with understanding ourselves as aesthetic phe of our significance in this respect hardly differs from the awareness which painted soldiers have painter, the creator? Do we have any kind of agency as works of art if someone or something problematical construct of an aesthetic Creator and whether we can create ourselves as aesthetic phenome non. proposed art as itself a religion, with its patrons acting simultane ously as congregation, clergy, and Creator. His Studies in the Renaissance e European Renaissance, he consistently views the Renaissance ahistorically through the lens of Hellenism. He addresses the seeming disparity between the Renaissance, with its national and cultural ties to the Catholic Church, and the Hellenic past, with i Renaissance can be complete without some notice of the attempt made by certain Italian scholars of the fifteenth century to reconcile Christianity with the religion of ancie R 23). Virtually every chapter of The Renaissance each discussing a major Renaissance thinker, artist, or genre, claims that this reconciliation between Christianity and Hellenism is a widespread
29 who] were impelled beyond the bounds of the R 19). Like the figures he discusses and the Renaissance zeitgeist en masse, Pater obsessively tries to reconcile the Hellenic ideal with Christianity, which would hopefully move aesthetic criticism Christianity and Hellenism, but his eventual solution was to create his own reli gion, founded upon art itself and for its own sake. This shift from artistic creation and criticism towards a more systematized religion marks the point where aesthetic studies transforms from a practice into an ideology, whereby aesthetic issues not only can transform a person's life and dictate his/her actions, but such issues should do so, whether they directly relate to aestheticism or whether the connection lies in morality, ethics, or some other larger philosophical concern. Turning to the Hellenic pe riod for the example of a new religion informed by art, Pater writes in The Renaissance happy conditions, arises Greek art, to minister to human culture. It was the privilege of Greek religion to be able to transform itself i R 162 163). Here, Pater describes a reciprocal relationship between art and religion. At its best, Greek religion inspires Greek art, primarily as a means to compel believers toward a life that honored the gods. Greek religion, ho wever, undergoes a transformation during this process and becomes an art in and of itself. In applying Hellenic ideals to Renaissance era artists and art, Pater achieves a provocative cross pollination, which provides Hellenic art religion a place in his p ost Hellenic, post Renaissance, late Victorian era. The move towards art as a religion was indicative of a widespread paradigm shift during the period and revealed how late nineteenth century society, on the brink of modernity, sought
30 new ways to break pa st Nietzsche's Master/Creator problem, as he posed it in The Birth of Tragedy Like Pater, the Victorian public looked backward to traditional religious practices, often embodied by the once maligned Catholic Church. 2 ramp ant during the period, and Pater's Renaissance provided readers and converts to his aesthetic religion with a full set of complementary saints, martyrs, and icons. Karl Beckson notes the he most comprehensive and as religion equation would run through the major Aesthetic texts of the period and addressed the issue of art being subordinated to Nature by establishing art as a su preme religion in and of itself. Indeed, this theme was so The Renaissance with an explicit statement of its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest he takes that ideal one step further. Rather than just place the value of art simply in art itself, Pater concludes that, in if a person views art solely for its own sake, as Pater encourages, then he/she can draw closer to a transcendent, aesthetic existence and thus transform their daily life into an art. Thus it was that R 189) became the John 2 The Oxford Movement was the strongest example of this phenomenon, and through the overwhelming influence of figures like Cardinal Newman and Charles King sley, icons, rites, rituals, and other symbols of the established Church enlivened a foundering British religiosity. In regards to the Oxford Movement's ties to the British Aesthetic
31 3:16 of the Aesthetic movement, igniting a new means of understanding the tie between art and religion, while still emphasizing an aesthete's free will and agency. Leonardo da Vinci is Pater's Renaissance master of the art for art's sake school. Pate r's chapter on Leonardo defines the ideal that would spark the late Victorian aesthetic movement and significantly impact art criticism in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. While his famous discussion of La Gioconda exhibits the transformative iconic presence of a portrait Leonardo himself, his solitary nature and his commitment to creation solely to appease his own secret places of a unique temperament, he brought strange blossoms and fruits hitherto unknown; and for him, the novel impression conveyed, the exquisite effect woven, counted as an end in itself R 92). To create an art for its own sake, Le onardo first tapped into something unique and individual about himself. But beyond the (and the expression of that beauty) as an end in and of itself. Rather th an merely comment upon the aesthetic beauty of Mona Lisa and her effect on the viewer, in the usual critical terms of Burke and Kant, Pater instead creates a painting of his own, extending her influence beyond the canvas itself. At the end of a section beg inning with the oft between past and present: The fancy of a perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old one; and modern philosophy has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life. Certainly Lady Lisa might stand as the embodiment of the old fancy, the symbol of the modern idea. ( R 99)
32 timelessness into her being as an iconic art object. She is very old, and yet, she lives immortally. She is an archetype of a past time, and yet, she is an ind ividual, whose true identity we still seek. Mona Lisa leads a full life in Pater's critical hands. She is both human and object, modern as well as ancient; and her power stems from these paradoxes. Ultimately, however, she remains a work of art. Pater's cr itical rendering grants her life, but without his rendering, she is a static painting, not a living muse guiding one toward achieving a transcendent life. most influ ential, as exhibited through its effect on queer studies, particularly the growing critical Looking Backwards Heather Love grounds her study on the idea that only by looking back at tragic queer pasts and historie s can current queer studies Studies in the Renaissance explaining his role as a mirror for her p transform the present and the future; he explored such moments in an effort to ignite a cultural through his disc ussion of the transcendent life, offering ideal historical persons like Leonardo and Winckelmann, who were not only aesthetically groundbreaking but also traditionally queer figures. Under such a temporality, the past is not a mere record of events, but al so a set of instructions for contemporary living and critically embodying queerness, beyond constructions of gender and sexuality or history and memory. Winckelmann achieves the same aesthetic transcendence that Pater described first through La Gioconda Y et, because he lives the transcendent life rather than just symbolizing it,
33 religious aestheticism is not only possible but also essential to living as art. As an e mbodiment of have identified here as most applicable to the development of the living aesthetic object. First, Winckelmann was a strong proponent of pulling the He llenic past into his contemporary moment, situated somewhere between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Through informed the culture of a succeeding age, live, indeed, within that culture, but with an absorbed, R 158). True artists like Winckelmann or Leonardo excavate this element in our intellectu R 158). It is the artists and aesthetes who draw past cultures and lives out of the dirt and fit them to ourselves. This final a because one must do R 158). Success in achieving the transcendent life depends on that ba while still remaining firmly rooted in contemporary experience. It is a difficult balance to achieve, because aesthetic objects, as objects, are timeless, immortal, and abstract, but as living beings, they ar e subject to time, change, and other physical limitations. The living aesthetic object finds success only through satisfactorily reconciling these diverging forces, as Pater sought to demonstrate in his entirely imagined figure of Diaphaneit, which he def ines as one of
34 e fine enough for those evanescent shades, But as groundbreaking as his concept of the t ranscendent life was, perhaps an equally Renaissance was the establishment of the aesthetic object as a radical transactional icon. Whether a cup or a handkerchief or a fan, such inanimate, non sentient aesthetic objects n onetheless cause a dramatic change in their surroundings. Pater had introduced the aesthetic object's transformative effect early on, in his chapter on Amis and Amile. During his analysis of this story and relationship, addressing the uncanny resemblance b etween both Amis and Amile and going so far as to use the German doppelgnger to mark the character doubling. The doppelgnger holds a central place in the study of the living aesthetic object because as an aesthetic copy that lives, it frequently embodies what I have termed the living aesthetic object. Pater, however, moves past the literal doppelgnger trope to focus instead on the cross and recross very strangely in the narrative, serving the two heroes almost like living things and with that well known effect of a beautiful object, kept constantly before the eye in a story or poem, of keeping sensation well awake, and giving a certain air of refinement to all the s cenes R 8, italics mine). Pater is just a half step away here from describing a living aesthetic object, but Pater and his successors, for the most part, remain enamored by these objects that act almost like a character and often play a large part in the narrative's action and eventual denouement. As such, their inclusion signifies more prod uctively than a decorative do something.
35 To further explain this phenomenon, Pater points out perhaps the most famous example of an aesthetic object in the British literary traditi Othello R 8). As evidenced by which passes through the hands of each player in the drama and comes overall direction. Indeed, if not for the handkerchief, Iago could not have enflamed Oth inherent symbolic power of the aesthetic object with the free will and unpredictability of human interaction, Pater opened the possibility for the living aesthetic object to have a central place in modern and contemporary art culture. Pater ian ideal and become a living aesthetic object recognizing that art, through its explicit fictional constructedness, its lying, paradoxically revealed the more insidiously constructed lie that was Kantian Nature and other Classical aesthetic readi ngs of reality as the rev. 1891), which uses the established Greek dialogue format of philosophical debate, and he conveys his argumentation through a dandyish stand in, who utilizes contemporary examples to prove how Truth is the ultimate enemy to Art. To place art itself as the ultimate truth, the final in Vivian begi
36 here, but continues: (970). What Wilde does here is utilize a Kantian theory antimony of taste to deconstruct more than a creation itself, subject to the same Kantian aesthetic rules as art. Charles Baudelaire and Walter ul timate aim for both artists and aesthetes. In his Studies in the Renaissance Pater named the artistic practice and through living an aesthetic daily life. The V ictorian era saw the boom of literary realism, as embodied in the meteoric rise of the novel form, with authors like Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy seeking to translate contemporary realities into art. kingdom of Romance. assiduously ascribed to, and throughout the essay, Wilde names facts as the primary enemies of art. Rather than leave his critique there, as many critics then and now are wont to do, Wilde
37 of lying that is absolutely beyond reproach is lying for its own sake, and the highest development moral term, to shock his r distortion or repudiation of the truth. Rather than merely pervert the truth, aesthetic lying creates aesthetic creativity uses the lie that (as in ) a fan, for instance, holds ultimate power in a drama to tell an even g and belittled as the fashion accessory upon which it depends. The lie, which seems flippant and ridiculous, ultimately transforms how an audience understands society and gender relations. Providing lying as a new aesthetic form enabled artists and everyday aesthetes to create art that blurs the binary of fiction versus fact and, subsequently, art versus life. Before Wilde and other such thinkers altered aesthetic critical history, art was judged by how close ly it mimicked She is not to be judged by any external standard of resemblance. She is a veil, rather than a how well it mirrored nature could potentially be the double edged sword of aesthetic criticism, placing art well beneath nature as a means of understanding life and reality. But Wilde parries this threat by throwing this mirror ideal out as well, granting art the means to expand into new forms. It is no coincidence that the major, revolutionary art movements immediately following Wilde were expressionistic and abstract. While the lie is done for its own sake, the art of lying branches out into the world. I t does not remain self
38 surroundings. Wilde describes this generative process and expl ains how a good lie evolves from artist invents a type, and Life tries to copy it, to reproduce it in a popular form, like an the kind of art that the living aesthetic object must embody. Rather than just emulate an already living being, the great artist invents something new. Types often hold a negative connotation, especially when a type turns into a stereotype, but what Wilde means here is an archetype instead holds the mirror up to Art, and either reproduces some strange type imagined by painter or of irony, Wilde takes that Classical aesthetic mirror, but flips it in the other direction and argues that life holds the mirror to art, mimicking its new forms and trends. Wilde follows this seemingly outrageous claim with numerous examples that prove its truth. He describes the Artistic/Aesthetic Dress Movement of the period and how, after the Pre Raphaelite painters created works featuring a new female face and form, women and men alike understood these women as the new standard of female beauty, flocking to emulate it. He points out how novelists created the London climate with its desolate fogs and how a sunset is beautiful not for its own sake but because it reminds a person of a Turner painting. All these examples and more and paradoxes are always dangerous things it is none the less true that Life imitates Ar binary between life and art and reveals how life is indeed following the path that art creates.
39 are nevertheless dependent upon and drawing from the work of the earlier aesthetic theorists I have described here. Similarly, in varying degrees, the living aesthetic objects I name in this proje ct will define themselves and their aesthetic journeys through memory, performance, individualism, and their community. From the late Victorian era through to the early twenty first century, the living aesthetic objects will embody these four ideals to a p rogressively stronger degree, until finally figures will successfully combine all these attributes. Wilde, in his work, also stressed the importance of memory, performance, individualism, and community, repackaging these ideals to fit within his own vision of life as art, thus transforming purely the living aesthetic object, which must reconcile the seemingly divergent worlds of art versus life. As already suggested, time is a key factor for the living aesthetic object to negotiate, becoming either a stepping stone or a stumbling block depending on its abili ty to successfully confront time as personal and collective memory, rather than as a fixed history. Throughout aesthetic theory's history, time keeps reemerging (Nietzsche focused on the Hellenic era, Pater on Hellenism via the Renaissance, Baudelaire on a argument that the constructed world of artistic memory trumps conventional reality prefigures praising the Caesars entirely re written, and there was hardly one of the dramatists who did not recognise that the object of Art is not simple truth but complex beauty. In this they were perfectly righ t. Art itself is
40 really a form of exaggeration; and selection, which is the very spirit of Art, is nothing more than an intensified mode of over audiences because facts do not get the final word Instead, history grows under the influence of art and compels us to understand both a historical moment and that moment's relevance to 1891), which focuses primari ly on how the drama should approach period costumery. In its conclusion, Wilde again stresses that while facts are important, they must know their place degree, depend on their facts, but on their Truth, and Truth is independent of facts always, onsummate artist can produce a life more vibrant and thus more real than the actual lived life, giving the living aesthetic object an uncanny ability to create his/her own truth. The living aesthetic object is by definition always already performing, self consciously displaying their body both as alive and as object to a receptive public. Wilde uses performance to initially addresses this point through the cri where he refutes the claim that those who cannot create art critique it, thereby placing criticism and the critical instinct is actually even more culturally important than the creative impulse. Through performance, the artist critic can embody abstract ideals, transforming life on and off the stage into a work of art. Wilde begins his essay with an epi gram emphasizing the importance of self
41 of Romanticism, which saw the Eolian Harp where Nature flowed through the artist, and he/she was merely the instrument that wrote what Nature dictated as the artistic ideal. Wilde, here, produces a n simple product of its time is always the result of the most self consciousness, and self ought that to be moral, one must also be natural which had reigned from the Enlightenment into the Victorian era. By making the critic into a new ideal artist, Wilde established the inherent perf ormance behind all artwork, that poetry does not just pour out of the soul, as many Romantics liked us to think, but is the result of intense critiquing labor and thought. Today, we understand this claim through the lens, for example, of gender studies: we audacious, that every human is constantly performing life, and if that fact is realized, he/she can transform into a living aesthetic object, capable of living and enacting all the strengths great art can offer. artistic distance and authenticity that had troubled earlier aesthetic theorists. Kant addressed the problem by simply separating subjective judgements of beauty from obje ctive forms in Nature. Nietzsche framed the issue more radically through the Dionysian chorus, which possessed no distance between itself and the play performed. The chorus believed the lie and, in so doing, transformed a static art object (the Attic trage dy) into a living thing occupying that uncanny
42 judgments, but also going further to create an entirely new aesthetic form within the criticism of an aesthetic object. Abstract aesthetic concepts are notoriously difficult to actually carry out in a living form, old problem is as simple as it is logically consistent with his daring aesthetics. He offers the Mask as a perfect symbol and example for understanding this paradox between life and pe rformance, truth and lies. Before Wilde, Baudelaire toyed with the maquillage arguing that her cosmetics create up female face, hyperbolizes it, and highlights the aesthetic potential of literal, dramatic masks. This why this symbol is central to hi to reveal a hidden truth about the fear of being oneself. For over a century, aestheticism put all its energy in proving an authentic, aesthetic ideal, founded upon nature and morality. Authenticity, however, as Pater realized so artfully in The Renaissance is frequently an ever receding ideal, impossible to achieve or to identify. Wilde insists th at performance, lies, sarcasm, paradox and all the other forms of communication aesthetic theorists had scorned as untruthful flippancy in fact allow a person to reveal truths that they would not have admitted otherwise. Rather than
43 scorn performance, on e must identify it as the new natural state. The living aesthetic object, a authentic, using the mask of performance to tell a greater truth. original individual is indisputable and necessary to its success. He/she must invent new forms through the reinvention of his/her own body and life. The danger in performing a life is th at the living aesthetic object may become trapped in mimicry, imitating a life rather than actually creating one, a mere mannequin or statue, imparting a semblance of life rather than actually living. For this reason, I will not be discussing contemporary plastic surgery cases, where people cut and lift and implant their way to a face or body that resembles Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, or a Ken doll. These are not living aesthetic objects in Wildean terms; they are wax works at best, an intermediary stag e towards the living aesthetic object, but not the thing itself. Individualism is a requirement that both Pater and Wilde insisted upon to create an aesthetic life. included such illustrious figures as Leonardo, Winckelmann, and his own creation Diaphaneit. Wilde, too, recognized the problem and emphasized the need to bridge the gap between an abstract dream and a truly aesthetic life, in which one must become a li ving aesthetic object. In his last prose work De Profundis most personal level, using his own tragic life as an example for his readers simultaneously to emulate and guard themselves against. In De Profund is a letter written with his lover Lord Alfred Douglas in mind, Wilde took a retrospective glance on his life, identified his great successes and failures, and essentially provided the guidelines for achieving the aesthetic ideal in s a man who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age. I
44 had realized this for myself at the very dawn of my manhood, and had forced my age to realize it DP 920). Upon first glance, this seems like mere self aggrandizing bom bast, but one should see, rather than vanity, a provocative form of self actualization, which is the way to transform a mnemonic aesthetic object (or conception) into a fully embodied, performative, While he toots his own horn in one respect, Wilde also identifies why he did not truly live a fully ( DP both aesthetically and morally, the latter as evidenced by the trials that led to his imprisonment, exile, and eventual death. Wilde, the authentic aesthetic theorist, charges hi s readers to live an even more aesthetic life than he did. In utilizing his own personal experiences as a means for perfecting his aesthetic ideals, Wilde is seeking to transform himself ultimately into a living aesthetic object, particularly through his d iscussions of sorrow as a final means toward aesthetic transcendence. 3 De Profundis begins as an extended break up letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, but as he continues, Wilde moves from the deeply personal to the universal, identifying his lack of individual my Soul, and did not know it. I allowed you to dominate me, and your father to frighten me. I DP 913). He places the blame for his fall on his own weakness moral and aesthetic a weakness partially transcended in his ability to embrace sorrow, to meld the aesthetic and the human. 3 Foucault credited the invention of the modern homosexual to Oscar Wilde, making him a kind of poster child for the queer individual in the public arena. Unfortunately, his work is superficial at best, and it fails to address his critical depths. Rather than just a flippant and flamboyant
45 aesthetic life. The current n eoliberal path that queer theory often critiques focuses on an in De Profundis especially since he believes that only through sorrow can one understand and c reate good Art. Heather Love, amongst others like Jack Halberstam and Jose Esteban Muoz, carries this issue into contemporary queer studies. In Feeling Backwards tried to resist the affirmative turn in queer studies in order to dwe modern queer representation. It is not clear how such dark representations from the past will read toward a brighter future for queers. Still, it may be necessary to check the impulse to turn these representations to good how a darker understanding of queer histories can aid the movement, Wilde arguably answered this question over a century ago. Through an intense overview of his own aesthetic failure s, he identifies sorrow as the primary means toward creating an aestheticism that is powerful and transformative. Wilde prefigures modern concepts of queer temporality and stresses the importance of looking backwards, especially towards the moments that ma y seem unsavory and morbid to a neoliberal critical audience. Sorrow is an activating agent for the living aesthetic object, fusing life and art together through this powerful form of affect. In De Profundis both DP mental and physical state while writing De Profundis in Reading Gaol, where he was sentenced ese seemingly negative live sorrow, however, he realized how
46 it must take a central place in his aesthetic DP in Art is the unity of a thing with itself: the outward rendered expressive of the inward: the soul made i ncarnate: the body instinct with spirit. For this reason there is no truth comparable to DP 920). Here, not incidentally, Wilde provides his best description of the living aesthetic object: a holistic being that combines internal and external, bod y and spirit. Wilde than being, like sadness, just a present emotional state. Sorrow combines memory, performance, individualism, and a broader sense of the communit discussion in De Profundis is deeply personal, what is key is his identification of Wilde the man with Wilde the artist, affirming sorrow as not just an emotion but a self developing act of imaginative understan ding. Many of the living aesthetic objects I discuss in this project will allow outside, non aesthetic figures to control them and thus ultimately fail as artists just as Wilde did. Through his fall and his description of it in De Profundis Wilde provided a formula for securing oneself against the destructive forces of outsiders. By transforming into an aesthetic individual, one who takes on the performance and memories of life, the living aesthetic object connects to and inspires his/her surrounding commu Baudelaire, through his Parisian crowds, and Pater, with his discussion of historical artistic movements, addressed the importance of the artist connecting to a lar ger community. In his essay De Profundis Wilde extends these tenuous connections to community and argues for the transformative role art has within the community: Art is Individualism, and Individualism is a distu rbing and disintegrating force. Therein lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type,
47 slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a Here Wilde illustrates how individu alism actually helps humankind. The competition for importance and self actualization in his discussion of the individual. The final section of Chapter Five wil selfies and social media is, for instance, a grotesque form of self indulgence, a Wildean perspective might see that the selfie culture boosts confidence especially in women and minorities, allowing them a voice that has heretofore eluded them in visual media. As Wilde exercising restraint on other, or suffering it ever, and his activities are all pleasurable to him, he identity these are the main features of the living aesthetic object. This figure embodies a powerful form of the i ndividual, who then enacts real social change within their culture. The living aesthetic object then is a means toward not only creating fully actualized individuals, but nearing a utopic version of the aesthetic life within communities. This first chapte r has been devoted to the first popular thinkers to make life as art into an aesthetic concept. As we have seen, the late Victorian aesthetes and their ideological predecessors argued that reality often seemed to mimic art more than the traditional, revers ed view, establishing a nascent yearning toward man as a new, idealized state: the work of art. In Chapter 2, Vernon Lee sought to embody the provocative existential tr ansformation of life and art only to The Picture of Dorian Gray the title characters ostensibly personify the living aesthetic object ideal, yet what they
48 underscore is the separati on between portrait and person (a gap that will slowly be seen to hints at protagonists, avenues that subsequent writers interested in a truly art like life will make at least aspirational efforts to pursue. William Butler Yeats, a w riter who straddles both the Victorian and Modernist eras, opens Chapter 3 on key early twentieth century writers in this Aestheticist tradition and their experiments in applying aesthetic ideals to reimaginings of real people. Yeats tends to approach art and his aesthetic ideals through transcendental symbolism rather more than the personality driven theories or supernatural tales of Yeats, Wilde, and Lee. His poetic odes to Maud Gonne, however, reveal his inherited interest in embodying aesthetic ideals through an exceptional yet real artistic figure, a Muse. From these poems that address the problematic web of Muses and canonical novel The Great Gatsby ith transforming himself and his beloved into undying art objects. The symbolic becomes a means of not just depicting an inner reality, but also creating an external reality, as Jay Gatsby bids through his idealist world making to regain his past. I conclu de this chapter by skipping back across the Atlantic to Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse productive self making. Lily Briscoe, like Gatsby yet more literally artistic, aesthetic izes her life and, perhaps more importantly, the life of Mrs. Ramsay, making her powerful presence idealized life still only works within her own mind and her own artwork s.
49 Chapter 4, focusing on mid twentieth century new artforms, establishes, like its ch ronological position, a mid point in the evolution I trace from late Victorian aesthetic theories to twenty first century living aesthetic objects. Through these mid twentieth century texts, I question whether the living aesthetic object is truly possible or whether he/she will alway s end up destroying themselves because the human body cannot contain an aesthetic ideal. Powell and Pressburger's film The Red Shoes offers the ballerina as a possible vehicle toward this goal, trying to jump from pure symbol to the living being that is al so symbol. The Red Shoes ultimately fails in this endeavor, but it introduces major concepts and figures, especially the problem of the Pygmalion director, who tries to create and manage the living being as aesthetic object. Hitchcock's Vertigo continues t his discussion of the managerial problem and also pushes the living aesthetic object even further, taking her off the literal stage and placing her in an everyday life setting. Yet, like Vicky in The Red Shoes Madeleine is also kept from truly embodying t he aesthetic ideal. From these two popular and canonical films, I move to a noncanonical, explicitly queer text Patricia Highsmith's lesbian pulp novel The Price of Salt to add a disruptive variable to the experiment. Through this text, I ultimately find a potentially viable model for aesthetic fulfillment through a direct confrontation with the living aesthetic object's uncanny qualities. Such a neat depiction of the living aesthetic object is arguably simple to create in a fictional form, which is why I e nd this chapter with fashion editor Diana Vreeland's work at Harper's Bazaar Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. Through Vreeland, I combine the strengths of all these midcentury texts and locate them in reality. Her work, espec ially her swan song at the Costume Institute, provides the stepping stone to my final chapter, where we finally arrive at real human beings who are also productive art objects.
50 object should never shy from excess of affect and allusions. Indeed, excess and decadence (through sorrow, for example) are the main avenues toward a successful embodiment of the living aesthetic object. In Chapter 5 I discuss performers like Lady Gaga, M adonna, and Alexander McQueen, all of too fake, too sexual, too provocative, or too demanding. Yet, it is these figures that I end my project upon precisely because they go too far. T hrough their decadence, they fully transform into living aesthetic objects, performers who utilize their refashioned pasts to construct themselves as icons. They most often staked their claim as icons and living aesthetic objects through a provocative and personal connection to sorrow, whether that sorrow lay in their tragic lives or the tragedies of their surrounding communities. Their impact radiated from their provocative selves out into their communities, marking the final act that defines the living ae sthetic object. In the mid to late 1980s, pop music intensified its status as its own distinct genre through the provocative work of Madonna. Pulling from glam rockers like David Bowie, Madonna built various public personae, while also completely construct ing how she was packaged and presented to a new form of mass media. Repeatedly stylizing herself, like Wilde, as a performer first and foremost, she redefined the term both on and off stage, embracing both sides of the Virgin/Whore complex through her albu ms Like A Prayer and Erotica and introducing the pop performer as a productive figure towards the living aesthetic object. Similarly, Alexander first centuries while simultaneously alluding to late Victo rian aesthetics and ideals. His fashion designs construct anew the female body, presenting clothing that transforms living bodies into statues, monsters, and walking art both on and off the runway. Lady Gaga, particularly during her ARTPOP incarnation, has
51 demonstrated that objectification does not necessarily halt aesthetic productivity, embodying in the process the aesthetic theories that late Victorian critics first envisioned. Her performances and products define exactly what the living aesthetic object is and what it can offer to communities like Instagram. The seeming ubiquity o f these new forms of living aesthetic objects in the twenty first century seem only further to prove and extend the aesthetic ideals that the late Victorian Aesthetes first postulated over a century ago.
52 CHAPTER 2 THE FIN DE SICLE LIVING MYTHS AND MONSTERS In Joris Rebours the reclusive protagonist Des Esseintes decorates his home and composes his life so that a distinct aesthetic effect is produced. While contemplating his Oriental carpet and its many colors one day, h e decides that he needs another aesthetic object to move across the carpet and set off its tones. Des Esseintes acquires a tortoise and encrusts its shell in gold plate and precious jewels. The initial effect is marvelous a living aesthetic object moving around the space, completes h days later, he finds a dead tortoise resting on his carpet, jewels still gleaming. The narrator Accustomed no doubt to a sedentary life, a modest existence s pent in the shelter of its humble carapace, it had not been able to bear the dazzling luxury imposed upon it (Huysmans 49) The tortoise could not sustain the burden of becoming an aesthetic objec t, while still remaining a living animal. Rebours set off the imagination of many The Picture of Dorian Gray The dead tortois e hangs like a specter over fin de for fully embodied aesthetic beings. The living aesthetic objects I discuss in this chapter, for the their aesthetic capabilities and unable to reconcile the perfection of art with the chaos of life While positing various critical theories for aesthetics in the fin de sicle, many authors of the era also tried creating art that embodied these new ideals, often using different methods for ntative fictional work by Pater, Wilde, and Vernon Lee a disciple of Pater I trace the first hesitant steps toward a living aesthetic object, under the watchful gaze of its inventors. In each of the artistic periods I focus on
53 in this project, there lies a core aesthetic struggle. In the late Victorian period, the core aesthetic struggle exists between division and unity, particularly the unity of art and life within one being, Pater, Wilde, and Lee each experiment with diffe rent routes around this issue. Pater, with Renaissance (1873) in mind, often begins with aesthetic objects that then transform into highly transcendent living aesthetic objects. The eponymous Imaginary Portraits (1887), represents almost all the highest forms of art, according to Pater. He is an actor, a musician, an outcast, a reincarnated mythical being, and ultimately a martyr. Pater unites all these aesthetic ideals in one figure, who is ultimately destroyed b y his community. To guard himself against such an overdetermined aesthetic being, Wilde takes a different approach in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890; rev. 1891) immoral ity of his life, while Dorian himself enacts only the beauty and immutability of art. When these two beings combine in the finale, they destroy one another. In the same year, Vernon she writes about a living aesthetic object. Instead, Dionea embodies a Hellenistic past, unapologetically influences her community, and retains her dangerou s individuality. The bodies she leaves in her wake, however, reflect poorly upon her ideal aesthetic potential. Indeed, as all these texts demonstrate, emb ody a successful symbiosis between art and life. Written over a decade after The Renaissance and before Wilde published The Picture of Dorian Gray
54 diaphanous beings of his Renaissance may find embodiment through fiction. The narrator detail enough, of such a turn of a golden or poetically gilded age (a denizen of old Greece itself actually finding his way back among men) as it happened in an ancient town of medieval a living embodiment of Dionysus, bringing decadence, art, and spiritual intoxica tion to his town. The narrator tells, through a backwards historical glance, the story of a young outsider in a small develops and his ties to the Dionysia n become more explicit, they begin to hate his otherness and ultimately kill him in a mad frenzy. Pater mixes the Dionysus legend with his own aesthetic ideals, particularly the transcendent aesthetic being Diaphaneit. Through this mixture of the Dionysia envisioning a successful living aesthetic object. Through both its form and its main character, ty. village, where Denys first appears to the community. This narrator acts as a framing device that establishes the narrative firmly between history and memory, as well as present and past. Throughout his Imaginary Portraits Pater concerned himself with artistic distance because he foresaw the potential problems that arise due to an overly close relationship between artist and disbelief, in much the same way that Romantic authors like Mary Shelley and Emily Bront utilized outside narrato rs to create their monsters and Byronic heroes. Within this frame, Denys
55 can live and exist without many outside contaminants, through either an overly invested narrator or a skeptical reader. If creating Denys within this narrative vacuum were not enough to establish his figuration as a combination of living being and object, Pater first introduces Denys through aesthetic objects, which provide a concrete base from which to locate a seemingly impossible individual. Pater alwa ys insists, correctly enough, on the necessity of a material carrier for artistic meaning recognized ecc . with all the regular beauty of a pagan god, [who] has suffered after a manner of which we must suppose p well nigh naked among the vine leaves, sometimes muffled in skins against the cold, sometimes in the dress of a monk, but always with a str Rendered to the reader indirectly through a fragment of stained glass and an old tapestry, Denys is literally an aesthetic object at this point. As I addressed in my introduction, Pater often finds an inhe rent, transformative power Othello can enact an enormous power upon the narrative ( R 8). Thus, the stained glass and tapestries i aesthetic power and also pointing backwards through history to a specific transcendent figure. neit,
56 open to our alien modern atmosphere. It has something of the clear ring, the eternal outline of the n and his characterization, embodies this ideal. The narrator presents him first as an actual relic, then as the narrative continues, shows this relic coming to life as a specific cultural figure and moment. hetic theories furnished many critiques of his work, by both his contemporaries and scholars since. His character seeks to show how the diaphanous can find physical embodiment Rather than leave the stained glass and the tapestries at the contemplation of these objects to a direct narrative introducing Denys himself. The narrator n art, active and potent as a living creature 50, italics mine). From a framed in, distant hero to an aesthetic object, Pater provides a slow build up to the first appearance of his living aesthetic object. These rhetorical and aesthetic devices do not limit Denys; instead, they grant him life and allow the reader to enter his world. Through this seemingly circuitous introduction, broken into two periods. In the first period, he lives in complete symbiosis with his surroundings, due in large part to his transparent, diaphanous nature. Denys is an orphaned, fair haired youth (52), which immediately casts him in the part of an Apollo rather than a dark Dionysus. His angelic aspect invites interest and empathy. As he matures, Denys gathers a group of young disciples around him, and his physical lled fairness and freshness of aspect how did he alone preserve it untouched, through the wind and
57 m, and the narrator specifies the The Picture of Dorian Gray arguably story is also a vivid, though carefully considered, exposure of the corruption of a soul, with a very plain moral, pushed home, to the effect that vice and crime make people coarse and ugly especially those which Pater draws from and modernizes in his own essay s. essiveness; there is an the youth of Auxerre through his exceptional individuality and his simple transparency. Like an aesthetic o bject, he changes the surrounding conversation, and as a living aesthetic object, he evolves through the duration of his life. In the next period, he moves from a diaphanous to a blatantly Dionysian creature, transforming into a more complete aesthetic bei ng who deconstructs the binary between light and dark, transparent and opaque. But this complexity contributes to his defamation by the community that once adored him.
58 n and the Dionysian, Pater instead uses Denys to reveal how both seeming oppositions depend on one another. Without this productive conflict, the living aesthetic object cannot exist. Regarding always results from antagonistic forces . The meaning is in neither of the two forces separately, nor in their sum. It arises in the space between them, out of the economy of their difference (Miller 106). Pater constructs this productive liminal space by deftly mixing the Dionysian with the Apollonian from a very early stage in the narrative. He begins with an explicitly Apollonian Denys, whose relationship to the community is simple, peaceful and return to Auxerre halfway through the story. For instance, back when we first see Denys through the lens of an aesthetic object, the narrator foreshadows of the woven pictures the hearers appear as if transported, some of them shouting rapturously to the organ music. A sort of mad vehemence prevails, indeed, throughout the delicate the community within the tapestry that first presents him to the reader. Indeed, even in the great vine culture of the grape greatly increased. The sunlight fell for the first time on many a spot of deep woodland cleared for vine epresents purity and sobriety, he is literally planting the seeds of Dionysian decadence and drunkenness. The
59 This ever present mixture between the Apollonian and Dionysian also rev The Birth of Tragedy As we recall, Nietzsche argued that the highest form of tragedy (and subsequently, art) grew from a productive mixture of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. These two a esthetic drives exist together in the argued that the Dionysian oft herever the Dionysiac broke through, the Apolline was suspend ( Nietzsche 27) As if following within the community as a living aesthetic object, then once the Dionysian element becomes and his individuality. After Denys returns from a foreign journey, his Dionysian self comes through as more direct and undiluted. The narrator pinpoints this break in the following transition: It was on his sudden return after a long journey, (one of many inexplicable disappearances,) coming back changed somewhat, that he ate flesh for the first time, tearing the hot, red morsels with his delicate fingers in a kind of wild greed. Careful not to undo the already present Dionysian influences, P previous disappearances, but upon this return, Denys is an entirely new being. After this break, Denys reaches his full Dionysian and, according to Nietzsche, his tragic potential. As Gerald Monsman argues in his study rtraits and Pater's parable of the classical revival are numerous; in fact, almost everything that happens (Monsman 108). Monsman makes this
60 claim re What first appears as a great strength leads to his downfall. The narr darkness had grown upon him. The kind creature had lost something of his gentleness. Strange Before, Denys inspired the young people towards a richer aesthetic life. In this second phase, the incarnation as a living aestheti c object. The narrator carefully but directly answers this question, and through this answer, Pater reveals how variables external to the living aesthetic object can be as detrimental to his/her development as internal conflicts driven, for instance, by me actualization and its conflict with external forces possess deeper psychoanalytic connections, situated psychic individuation within a to become fully ourselves, we must confront our repressed memories internal trauma, esp self actualization, through confrontation with their shadow and anima, their effect on their nto his own actions, and has thus found access to the unconscious, involuntarily exercises an first half of the narrative, in that Denys enacts more power ove
61 track a Wildean understanding of kind of unconscious of others, a sort of unconscious prestige, and its effect lasts only so long as it is not and personal attributes, he can no longer e xist as a pure, diaphanous living aesthetic object. He transforms into the dark pagan god Dionysus, who intimidates rather than inspires. was so important to Nietzsche and Jung, as well as Pater, in their respective discussions of individuation. Thus, from both aesthetic and psychoanalytic a fail ure. Yet, his fellow citizens fail to accept this transformation and its duality. A major god, whose part Denys had played so well, had his contrast, his dark or antip athetic side; was duality tilted more towards the Apollonian and the diaphanous, the people were content, but the inexplicable and strange circumstances of his life were too disconcer
62 fascinations of witchc a living aesthetic object and a living god frighten the townspeople. Interestingly, instead of locating the problem within Denys and his own being, Pater blames the community, setting the stage for the grotesque tragedy performed in the classical vein in the falling action. Denys has returned to Auxerre after time in exile in order to perform on his new organ and take part in a pagan festival following a religious ceremony, and in a last ditch made cos tume. During the performance, the point the crowd turns manic, a scene the narrator describes vividly: It was as if the sight of blood transported the spectat ors with a kind of mad rage, and suddenly revealed to them the truth. The pretended hunting of the unholy passions. The soul of Denys was already at rest, as his body, now borne a long in front of the crowd, was tossed hither and thither, torn at last limb from limb. (61) Denys becomes the god whose flesh is eaten, whose blood is drunk; and the ghastly end of this 'fair boy' stands a s the g n 116). In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche explained Dionysiac excitement to such a pitch that, when the tragic hero appears on the stage, they see, not some grotesqu ely masked human being, but rather a visionary figure, born, as it were, of
63 pushing the audience past the confines of the stage and into the embodiment of a ll things grotesque triggers like spilt blood and flesh, a community can push their living aesthetic object immediately at rest. In his final moments, he became both a living aesthetic object and a living god. But in that respect the story is also clearly problematic. While the symbolic power behind rumental to his construction as a living aesthetic object, his death and its mythic significance place him firmly outside the capabilities of most mere mortals. To answer whether a person can transform into living art, Pater responds with a Christ like liv ing god martyred by a hostile mob. The comparisons between Denys and Christ seem natural, De Profundis DP 923), echoing R Imaginary Portraits The tragedy of all th ese figures is in the incompatibility between the meanings they carry and the material conditions within which they are forced to embody them. This incompatibility . destines them to obscurity and early dea oth fictional and critical, he presents provocative avenues toward aesthetic individuation, but those avenues are often impossible for real people to achieve. In making art a religion and using reincarnated pagan gods as his potential living aesthetic obje cts, Pater, like Des Esseintes in A Rebours glued too many
64 aesthetic potential, even if they provide ideas that will be useful to later ages. In The Picture o f Dorian Gray Wilde locates his potential living aesthetic object in his own contemporary community, but he exhibits that same aesthetic ambition Pater possessed and exemplifies the same struggle between unity and division that plagued fin de sicle aesth etic theory generally. The plot takes the form of a gothic fable. A young man, Dorian Gray, wishes his portrait to grow old instead of himself and swears to give his soul in exchange for perpetual youth and beauty. His wish granted, Dorian spends the narra tive unsuccessfully hiding his supernaturally aging portrait from others and himself, until he finally commits accidental suicide while trying to destroy the painting. Over the past century, critics have exhausted the many intertextual connections between The Picture of Dorian Gray As Jerusha McCormack argues, It is hard to say anything original about The Picture of Dorian Gray largely because there is so little that is original in it. As if in two facing mirrors, th e novel and its analogues seem to multiply towards a possible infinity, in a kind of self perpetuating critical machine Wilde tried, like Pater, to use a fictional protagonist to test and embody his own ae sthetic theories and that in this instance too the attempt fails living aesthetic object stemming from his inability to reconcile his art (his body) with his life (the portrait), particularly because he remains enslaved to an art object. In first conversation transformative life as art ideal, as artist Basil Hallward explains to his friend Lord Henry that has suggested to me an entirely new manner in art, an entirely new mode
65 PDG 14). What Basil describes he that each major art movement possesses an incendiary figure and that for aesthetic transcendence that Pater also used in The Renaissance regard ing Winckelmann, to establish that a true artist, muse, or aesthetic figure embodies the past, while still remaining relevant and revolutionary in the present. However, it is not long before the tension between present and past or reality and myth asserts itself, when Basil explains how his early artistic relationship with Dorian, when he sat as Adonis, Paris, and Narcissus, turned sour once he sought to embody it in the present. He wonderful portrait of you as you actually are, not in the costume of dead ages, but in your own dress and in your own PDG 113). By depicting Dorian as he is Basil essentially granted life to the portrait even before Dorian made the bargain for his youth in exchange for his soul. Donald Dickson highlights the ominous nature of this move: mirrors the comely form of Dorian in the life 11). to convey the truth without directly mirroring reality: not outside of, herself. She is not to be judged by any external standard of rese mblance. She is a directly presented to me without mist or veil, I cannot t ell. But I know that as I worked at it, PDG 113 114). Basil here alludes to the seeming impossibility of creating an art object that lives, while simultaneously
66 representing aesthetic ideali ty and humanity. com promised from an aesthetic point of view. Through this flawed incipient relationship between the artist, the aesthetic object, and the subsequent living aesthetic object (Dorian), Wilde addresses the major obstacles behind creating a living aesthetic objec t. nor his portrait can function as a complete living aesthetic o bject because each requires its other called toward a mirror. The rhetorical slippage between a mirror and a portrait, as well as the so on as you are dry, you shall be varnished, and framed, and sent home. Then you can do what relationship Dorian eventually has with his portrait, staring at it in the attic, while holding some mirror and believes himself in contro l of the painting and, subsequently, his actions. As the novel himself.
67 the credo, literally frames the dynamic as one in which Art, the portrait, possesses ultimate power over Life, the living person. Wilde foreshadowed this reve rsed power between Art and Life in to the portrait. Rather than situate the aesthetic individualism and agency John Paul Instead of repeating in order to transform or even counter meaningfully someone else's words, Dorian is the slave of another's attitud es. . Dorian's behavior and his thinking are . chosen for him 1 Rather than reinvent himself as a distinct and incendiary individual, Dorian instead merely repeats the forms and objects that others have created for him. Another means of understanding this issue comes from Luce Irigaray, who e stablishes in her work that the only valid form of aesthetic repetition is repetition interpretation. Essentially, the living aesthetic object can copy other aesthetic forms, but that copy must transform the original object and grant it a new individuality Without this Irigarayan repetition interpretation, Dorian lacks individuality an indispensable aesthetic attribute according to Wilde. The portrait rather than the person possesses ultimate power, and this perverse reversal of subjectivity only grows a ideals regarding the productive tension between life and art. 1 Here, Rique over Dorian, which is the mor e salient aesthetic partnership in my discussion.
68 rhetorical foreshadowing. Many aesthetic parallels between Sibyl and Dorian, the Nietzschean interdependence of the Apollonian and Dionysian, as well as their shared struggle with triggered by an over ultimately dictates her tragic relationship with him. Her subject position com bines Paterian artistic transcendence with an embodiment (albeit flawed) of the living aesthetic object. She symbolizes the aesthetic performer and the pitfalls inherent within her position as both an actress and an object under the male gaze, particularly work as Dorian praises her dramatic power to Lord Henry, describing, with many poetic towards the transcendent performers Pater discusses in The Renaissance and Imaginary Portraits who travel through time and represent old myths or Hellenistic aesthetic ideals, but asks, PDG more than ust as Basil and Henry The
69 real question then lies in whether Sibyl herself lacks individuality or if Dorian stays willfully blind to her personhood. This dilemma reaches a conclusion in the fateful performance, which Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil all attend. Chapter Seven sets Dorian on his downward course and holds an relationship t artificial ma false took away all the life from the verse . [making] the passion unreal This diction continues throughout the scene and highlights the relationship with his portrait, in that the portrait is very like Dorian himself and later his physical appearance becomes a facsimile of the portrait. Yet, rather than celebrate this imitative art, as the men do for Doria performance. performance as a triumph because e something higher, something of which all art is but a reflection You had made me understand what love italics mine). With this declaration, which quotes Ten how her life with Dorian supersedes her art. Dorian, on the other hand, makes the exact opposite
70 substance to the sha interpretative skills as an actress). Her family name, Vane, points toward this final estimat ion of her character. She serves only as a means for Dorian to assuage his own vanity, his own self reflexive aesthetic taste. For Dorian at least, Sibyl is otherwise without substance and thoroughly rous performance, but more tellingly for his advice to Dorian after Sibyl kills herself reveals how much he, as well as Dorian, underestimate value in tandem with art. d so she has never really died. . 104). This aesthetic hubris and complete substit ution of art for the failure to understand that just as life must fruitfully and provocatively embody art, so too must art take on the chaos and humanity embedded into life. After her suicide, Sibyl seemingly recedes into the background Once the portrait embodiment of his sin. Thus, rather than represent a holistic living aesthetic object, which can present beauty and life, the portrait instead becomes a narrow, action driven symbol of con science that haunts its original. The narrator makes this clear shortly after Dorian notices the ever ). Just as Sibyl was a mere a
71 was ubiquitous during the period, as evidenced by, of course, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) a nd the Sherlock Holmes tales (1887 1927). Walter Pater, in his review of The Picture of Dorian Gray Its interest turns on that very old theme, old because based on some inherent experi ence or fancy of the human brain of a double life: of Doppelgnger not of two persons in this case, but of the man and his portrait portrait as doppelgnger reveals how the portrait foretells the manner of D thus making it practically impossible for Dor ian to reach aesthetic individuation in the manner that Wilde discusses in his later critical essays. As I discussed in Chapter 1 memory, particularly memories of past suffering, became a Sorr ow, he argued, functions as the activating agent for the living aesthetic object, a being that fuses life and art together through this powerful form of affect, combining internal and external, body and spirit. Dorian, a being divided between himself and h is portrait, cannot achieve that symbiosis between body and spirit and subsequently cannot reach Wildean aesthetic individuation. Sorrow is an act that requires the living aesthetic object to assess its own life and its connection to others. Because Dorian refuses temporality he further divides his spirit from his body. Wilde symbolically underscores this flaw when he describes Dorian hiding his portrait in his old schoolr oom attic, which had not been opened in five years and holds personal PDG 117). How and where Dorian hides his
72 w ith Gothic tropes and Victorian sensationalist paradigms. Both descriptively and associatively, the old schoolroom represents darkness, the past, and repressed memories. When Dorian seems almost overcome with these connections, he assures himself of his re ideas, the portrait turns into a fe tishistic performance that eventually consumes him. In De Profundis life. I t is no less than a denial of the Soul DP 916). As a record of his experiences and an Dorian can never achieve aesthetic individuation. Rather than try to mix hi s portrait and his memory into his everyday life, he decides instead to repress both, hiding them away in a literal and metaphorical attic. As Wilde shows, however, most repressed memories or urges do not remain hidden forever. Instead, they manifest in other, more perverse ways, either as harmful fetishes or complete psychoses. So we find that Dorian, rather than just keeping his secret portrait locked away in the Gothic attic, frequently visits his portrait and compares it to his perfect face reflected contrast used to quicken his sense of pleasure. He grew more and more enamoured of his own PDG 1 27). Wilde uses this scene to pinpoint the difference between empty narcissism and a successful critic
73 beauty, just as Narcissus in myth, trapp critic, who after beholding a beautiful object, seeks to create something new. Dorian, instead, ul timately becomes a spectator rather than an agent in his life. R ather than present the well rounded, provocative life of an aesthetically transcendent individual, Wilde paradoxically reveals how Dorian becomes a desensitized decadent and subsequently a rat her two dimensional His relationship with himself, as with others, is dictated by an object; but wh 113). By taking a passive role in his individua tion and in the uncritical contemplation of his aesthetic self, Dorian loses agency over his own life and ultimately becomes a shade, frequenting opium dens, ostracized from his community, and haunted by his past. At the center of The Picture of Dorian Gra y lies the classic aesthetic struggle between art art life because of that, he deludes himself into thinking that he controls art. It is this delusion that kills at Art defines Life, and not the other horror where the memory of o ( PDG 182), ironically, in one of these dens, James Vane confronts Dorian and reintroduces Sibyl s. Before his final act of self destruction, Dorian realizes his life, like his portrait, can never be
74 given him pleasure to watch [his portrait] changing and gro wing old. Of late he had felt no such would kill the past, and when that was dead he would be free. It would kill this monstrous soul life, and without its hide In this final act, Dorian still believes that he can control and sever his soul from this aesthetic object, but in a fantastic twist, y in an unrecognizable mass, and the sin warped portrait has reverted to its pristine original beauty. But Wilde reinscribes the existential division between the portrait and the man. Rather than leave both moldering away in the attic, Wilde instead reiter the living portrait and the deadened man remain separate. ruination. The murderer and subject of the killing sentence is not Dorian himself, but instead the knife. An object, not a man, kills the living portrait. His memories and his portrait, life and the aesthetic transformation of life, rule Dorian to the point that he feels the need to kill the embodiment of both. It was an escape, as Wilde sought to underscore, that in an authentic world could ultimately never happen. While Dorian touches upon many invaluable qualities of the living aesthetic object, he does not truly embody art thr ough his life and even represents an archetypal failure to turn life into living art. In the same year Wilde introduced Dorian Gray to the world, Vernon Lee, a disciple of Pater who first established herself in late Victorian critical culture when she publ ished
75 Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy in 1880, 2 published Hauntings: Fantastic Stories (1890), a collection of short stories that were as provocative as they were diverse. As Catherine Maxwell and Patricia Pulham write in their latest edition of Hauntings themselves to interpretation within a variety of contexts including . decadence, aestheticism, embodiment of the goddess Aphrodi and the conflict be tween her material limitations and her aesthetic potential, but with a The Picture of Dorian Gray Pater and Wilde presented fully incarnate aesthetic beings, who failed in their attempts toward individuation b ecause their material bodies could not contain their aesthetic potential. Vernon Lee recognized included in Hauntings necessarily essentially supernatural beings, Lee assigns Dionea a spac e between embodied and disembodied, between reality and myth. Furthermore, rather than bow under the weight of aesthetic incarnation burdens, as did problematical dimension to the art life question, seizing her aesthetic individuation even at the 2 Like Pater, Vernon Lee was known more for her critical aesthetic essays than the short fiction she began writing in
76 works, she often, as in Dionea, extends his phallogocentric aesthetics to offer a more feminist perspective on life as art and thus paves the way for versions of the living aesthetic object that would appear in the twentieth century. oubles down on them. Like Denys (and Dorian), Dionea is a beautiful orphaned child, a status that only heightens her potential as a living aesthetic object in the sense that, like Denys (and Dorian), she is a child without origin, existing, like Art, outsi de of time. pinned onto her clothing. Shortly they become alarmed and begin asking questions about her real use these good folk had a mysterious instinct that the name is derived from Dione, one of the loves of Father Zeus, and from this mass dislike as Denys did, Dionea embraces her intimidating status as a supernatural her own creed and achieves the object of her desires, oblivious to the consequences wrought upon those around he r. She wreaks havoc on the households she serves, leading a young girl to a disadvantageous marriage and presumably driving a monk to suicide. In the spring of 1887, fourteen years after Dionea first washed ashore and once she has found her problematic pla ce, a few new visitors join the community, most notably the sculptor Waldemar and his wife Gertrude. Dionea presumably kills
77 objects, she enacts a powerful influence on those around her, often against their will or knowledge. At the outset, Vernon Lee also the story of Dionea through a series of letters sent to the aristocratic Lady Evelyn Savelli. But over ti me it becomes ever clearer that far from distancing the mythic past by filtering it through old relics and aesthetic objects, as Pater had, Doctor De Rosis is a poet narrator whose poetry living aesthetic mythos even more forcefully present. Shortly after he describes Dionea, he reveals his past am enthralled by a tragic history, the history of the fall of the Pagan Gods . . Have you ever 3 From the beginning of the narrative, Dionea is ostracized from the community, prompting De Rosis to wonder whether influence seems to be extending in a terrible way. I am almost beginning to think that our folk Calling Dionea a witch draws at 3 subsequently
78 compartmentalize her and objectify her, either through sex or aesthetics. She uses her supernatural powers t o combat the patriarchal orders that inhibit her and thus grows into more of a consummate individualistic woman and living aesthetic object as the narrative progresses. In not second et down in a disturbing and monotony of type, s lavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine femme fatale role and arguably serving the community in her own way. and through their symbolic ties to Hellenic and late Victorian aesthetics, Vernon Lee reveals the dangers in the movement founded by her mentor and fostered by Wilde. As a sculptor with an affinity for homoerotic subjects, Waldemar embodies many stereotypes for the late Victorian eful but direct address Savelli: But your Waldemar has something of the old spirit: he seems to feel the divineness of the mere body, the spirituality of a limpid stream of mere physical life. But why among these statues only men and boys, athletes and fauns? Why only the bust of that thin, delicate lipped little Madonna wife of h is? Why no wide shouldered Amazon or broad flanked Aphrodite? (92 93) The Renaissance Pater addresses why sculpture was the ideal art form for Greek culture, which explains the issues that arise when Waldemar enters the
79 na has to do more exclusively than any other art with the human form, itself one ent ire medium of spiritual expression, trembling, blushing, melting into dew, with inward exciteme R 168). Describing of sexuality embedded into Greek sculpture. Pater The beauty of the Greek statues was a sexless beauty: the statues of the gods had the least traces of sex. Here there is a moral sexlessness, a kind of ineffectual wholeness of nature, yet with a t rue beauty and significance of its own female figure . is almost inevitably inferior in strength and beauty; wom an is not form, but artists like Michelangelo, sculpture underwent to a certain degree the sacrifice of what we call expressions ; and a system of abstraction which aimed always at the broad and general type, at the purging away from the individual of what belonged to him R 52). Lee, this is most apparent in the female figure. Lee uses her Dionea to address the anti individualism embedded into sculpture, that highest form of art according to classical art critics. She deconstructs sculpture as an ideal art form and men as the idea l art subject.
80 Both Pater and Wilde entered into these conversations involving sculpture and the female as art object, but their discussion of the objectifying potential sculpture possessed takes different paths and represents a much larger late Victorian cultural conversation. As I already indicated, order to create a beautiful sculpture, the artist had to rid the subject of any personal attributes that would corrupt these two requirements. In The Renaissance Sculpture finds the secret of its power in presenting these types, in their broad, central, incisive lines. This it effects not by accumulation of detail, but by abstracting from it R 172 ). Such abstraction can be a great strength when creating a living aesthetic object, but it can also do more harm than good to a subject, especially when that subject Dionea, in this case is already a living aesthetic object, capable of making and unmaking herself as a transcendent being. Dionea confronts this great threat from Paterian aesthetics the tendency toward abstraction to the point of objectification or aes thetic individual, and thus in De Profundis he denigrated sculpture as an ideal art form: Modern life is complex and relative . . To render the first we require atmosphere with its subtlety of nuances, of suggestion, of strange perspectives: as for th e second we require background. That is why Sculpture has ceased to be a representative art DP 907). the male form and possess her own value within the aesthetic communit Madonna like wife, assumes the role that makes this possible, providing an antidote to misogynistic aesthetic criticism, which often excluded women and their desires for one another. Gertrude, like Lee and other female Aesthetes, is
81 and begins looking for a female subject. 4 diaphanous creature . scanning the girls of our village with the eyes of a slave hy Paterian a fisher boy, whom aesthetic and erotic triangle with Waldemar and Gertrude. Although by this move from sorceress to muse and model Dionea may seem, as the earlier discussion of sculpture and Paterian aesthetics demonstrated, to take a backwards step away from aesthetic transcendence and towards objectification, Vernon Lee utilizes this seeming devolution to address the objectification embedded into Pate rian aestheticism, which often stripped the female of her individuality. Psomiades also notes this controversy, pointing out that there were subtler means of silencing the female aesthetic voice and keeping her from being an active participant in her own c reation, which is an essential part of becoming a living aesthetic object. She argues estheticism could be both enabling and oppressive for the women who produced and consumed it, and not necessarily in obvious and predictable ways act, the Victorian aesthetics and offers the most modern version of a living aesthetic object heretofore 4 Psomiades mentions how Lee was described by admirers and enemies alike as eschewing physical contact with the women she admired, yet she produced a theory of the aesthetic grounded in the congress between female bodies (Psomiades 21).
82 seen. This triangular aesthetic relationship and the sculptur e that almost results from it deconstructs many of the communities and prejudices that often ousted women from critical conversations. embody that complexity and strangeness Wilde mentioned as between the fe male as art object and the female as living aesthetic object respectively. De Rosis rd a woman so carved in stone. As a comparison, Lee then offers how Dionea constructs herself through storytelling. During her time variations of Greek myth. De Rosis stumbles upon her describing the Judgment of Paris to two children. Rather than parrot the old myth, set before the Trojan War and featuring Paris, Priam, and figure is tempted to become the Emperor of Rome and the Pope (99). Dionea is aware of her own personal history through myth, then nationalizes and modernizes that myth for a new audience. Her creation represent s a wonderful mix of repetition memory, which takes from the past and remakes it for the present. Waldemar, on the other hand,
83 can only depict Dionea as the stereotypica l, staid Venus. Lee thus argues for the enlivening effects of myth in response to the objectification of sculpture, especially when the female creator is in charge of her own self creation. In trying to transform a living aesthetic object (reincarnated god dess Dionea) into an aesthetic object (Dionea as sculpture), a process prized by Pater but flawed in practice, Vernon Lee reveals the fault in idolizing the aesthetic object and placing it above the individual. This demonstration is best shown through the Th over London of Pre and fascin ating type of beauty, invented and emphasised [ sic ] by two imaginative painters, has so Lee, however, does not allow her Dionea to become a static imitation of her statue. The statue does indeed bring certain aspects of her bea uty to light, but it particularly his belief that Art always supersedes Life, and if Dionea were just a normal woman, then the narrator would indeed be calling them into question. Dionea, however, is far from a ty pical woman; she is a living aesthetic object, powerful as both a sorceress and a storyteller in full command of her own past and, as the finale reveals, her future.
84 qua lities serves to prove Art and Life within herself will, of course, always trump a static sculpture. Waldemar also s understanding of his own art and arguably of his aesthetic opinions in general. When De Rosis silently contemplates spoke that odd ferocity dilated in his eyes, an d seizing the largest of his modeling tools, he reconcile his art with the living Dionea, especially since Dionea outstrips his art object in every possible way. Bo Life: Dorian stabs his painting without realizing the consequences, and Waldemar destroys his cide. Given intertextual argument regarding whether Wilde influenced Lee or vice versa; nevertheless, this destructive impulse toward the aesthetic object, tre ating it as a living being that must die, reflects individual. an end similar to s eye suddenly fell upon a little altar, one of my few antiquities, a little block of marble with a carved
85 this altar to introduce into the text a Paterian reli Waldemar, who places it in his studio, calls for wine, drinks some of it and throws the rest on the artis tic community. Yet, Lee does not consign her heroine to the kind of sacrifice such a ritual where the living aesthetic object breaks free from a confining comm unity. De Rosis describes of seeing her and his statue by an artif icial light: you remember he had theories about the way in c ability to outdo and overcome her statue. When De Rosis saw her in this artificial light before, he he drapery round her flanks, Through this description, Dionea not only outstrips her statue, but she completely replaces it. She is no longer a mere reincarnatio n of Venus or a tribute to her. Instead, she becomes Venus and wreaks havoc on those who seek to objectify, contain, and destroy her status as a powerful living aesthetic object.
86 On the night of the fire that destroys his studio, Waldemar places the livin g aesthetic object Dionea in front of the borrowed altar to Venus, and Gertrude stumbles upon them in this aesthetic triangle the artist, the art object, and the model. The next morning, De Rosis finds g the ashes of the incense, her blood . remains of Gertrude and way, as Denys and Dorian did, Dionea has disappeared, which further enhances her ind eterminate status as a being between body, spirit, and aesthetic object. Vernon Lee does have explanation lies firmly between myth and reality: . a sailor boy assur es me . that the day after the burning of the Castle Chapel . he met at dawn . a Greek boat, with eyes painted on the prow, going full sail to sea, the men singing as she went. And against the mast, a robe of purple and gold about her, and a my rtle wreath on her head, leaned Dionea, singing words in an unknown tongue, the white pigeons circling around her. (104) detail, delineating how he transformed from living god to description of his mortal corpse rivals the best of penny dreadful sensationalism. Lee, on the other hand refuses to attach a body to Dionea at the end of her text. Instead, she offers yet an impossible dream.
87 embodiment of misogynistic late Victorian aesthetics, undergoes a justly gruesome dea th, actualization, does exclude him from the ritual and the aesthetic community he did not merit. As an incarnation of motherhood and Madonna like (102) virtue, Gertrude is a proto typical living sacrifice to the witch Dionea. She represents the er for the femme fatale to live; she seems a mere human sacrifice to a more advanced aesthetic being. Rather than kill the femme fatale, as most Victorian texts often would, Vernon Lee instead kills the th While Lee does not sacrifice her liberating femme fatale to Victorian readers, she still does sacrifice an enlightened, artistic female, a rather distasteful and anti feminist compromise. Lee realized that her femme fatale could not exist within the same community as a Gertrude, but this problematical undercurre nt casts something of a pall over the femme fatale and living aesthetic Dionea escapes yet her story, the mythic legend of her, continues. Her individualism remains intact, but only at the cost of human sacrifice. This result highlights t he central issue shared by the attempts these late Victorian aesthetes made towards embodying their aesthetic theories each of their protagonists stay trapped within the maze of too much humanity or too much artistry. Unable to reconcile the seeming divide between Life and Art, they either are
88 killed, commit suicide, or flee their communities. Each of them approached and momentarily embodied the aestheticism Wilde discusses in his essays, but they cannot sustain this existence without causing serious harm t o themselves or to others. Although the late Victorian aesthetes did not ultimately solve the puzzle of how to live life as a work of art, how to become a living aesthetic object, the underlying darkness and tragedy within their texts did clarify some of t he difficulties involved and also gave some insights into what might prove to be more positive regard, particularly their experiments with division and unity, to bring the living aesthetic object to a more human level, pulling it closer to an achievable ideal. Writers like W.B. Yeats and Virginia Woolf bridged at least two very different eras, possessing both Victorian and early twentieth century sensibilities, and built upon the efforts of their late Victorian predecessors. Indeed, they successfully combine the tension between division and unity, which thwarted late Victorian writers, and then experiment with that modern tension between time and space, especial ly via memory.
89 CHAPTER 3 AESTHETIC MUSES, MOTHERS, AND LOVERS The late Victorians looked to gods and monsters to create provocative characters that tread the line between life and art. Their inspiring imaginative ambitions, however, a lso created fractured beings who aspired to live a human life that embodied the qualities of a great work of art but were unable to meld successfully those two modalities. Moreover, in utilizing deities and the supernatural, Wilde and his contemporaries cr eated aesthetic heroes and heroines who could not survive their own plots, much less inspire any real life manifestations of art. The early twentieth century Modernists who followed in their footsteps took the strongest aspects of late Victorian creations their provocative performances, their influence upon communities, and their ties to mythological pasts and embodied them instead in deeply personal figures. Early twentieth century authors William Butler Yeats, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Virginia Woolf perso nified art through their most intimate relationships in creating Maud Gonne, Jay Gatsby, and Mrs. Ramsay respectively. Rather than utilize only myths and the supernatural, like their Victorian predecessors, these writers brought the idea of living life as art to a more existential level. The living aesthetic object in the early twentieth century thus transforms into an imminently possible being, complete with flaws, personalities, and desires, and so, among other e as art more self evidently practical. As both a late Victorian and a Modernist, W. B. Yeats provides a valuable bridge from the limitations of Victorian aesthetics to the new forms and creations of Modernism. When torians, particularly Pater and Wilde, critics like Matthew Schultz and Phillip L. Marcus focus on his Byzantium poems or his Cuchulain plays and reveal how Yeats continues creating supernatural objects and gods to embody late Victorian aesthetics. While t hese conversations are valuable, they do not reveal how Yeats advances the life as art
90 public, which already marks a liminal arena that all the figures studied in thi s project fight hard to negotiate successfully. Moreover, in transforming his lover into a muse and a mythic symbol, Yeats also begins a conversation as to whether the female aesthetic being can exist authentically on. F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his The Great Gatsby continues this conversation, and, unlike Yeats who still uses patriarchal myths and other conventional objectifications to create his poetic Maud, Fitzgerald offers a more politically and aesthetically mode narration and packaging, Gatsby embodies the idealistic promises of 1920s America. While Gatsby represents the first living aesthetic object I study who does not require ancient mytho logies or the supernatural to gain his desires, he nevertheless falls victim to his ambitions, which include possessing Daisy Buchanan as an aesthetic object rather than a fully developed living aesthetic object. I end this chapter with an analysis of Virg To the Lighthouse where Woolf directly addresses Victorian aesthetic concerns regarding subjective memory and, in transforming her mother in a fictional character, forcefully advances these issues. Through these multiple personal connections, Woolf finds a space between objectification and authentic life, as well as memory and imagination. She thus provides a fine stepping stone for the fantastical beings that literature, film, and fashion create after the World Wars. Modernist writers like Ye ats, Fitzgerald, and Woolf create poetic and aesthetic figures that draw much closer to being viable living aesthetic objects because they are drawn from life and thus lay the groundwork for the embodied midcentury art forms that will appear in film and po pular art. Yeats and his poetry straddle the Victorian and Modernist eras, both in chronological and thematic terms. Michael Steinman, in his study
91 Casement th biographic and artistic levels. Although he usually offered only glittering fragments the ideas Yeats absorbed [from Wilde] were impressive: the necessity and uses of the Mask and dialogue, the supreme duty of self realization, and the freedom and example to reinterpret Christian myth. (53) Yeats carries these important ideas that correl ate to memory, performance, and individualism into the twentieth century, but unlike Wilde (or Pater), he does not solely utilize mythic beings to embody these ideas. Instead, he situates them within the person of his muse and feminine ideal Maud Gonne. Vi ctorian poets and their Symbolist contemporaries across the channel all found their ideals in abstract terms; this was their great strength and their weakness. As Gloria Kline in the abstract, ideality, transcendence, and a living aesthetic in Maud Gonne. He is in debt to his predecessors for first envisioning life as art through the exceptional female, but he improves upon them to create a thoroughly Modernist Muse. Maud Gonne is necessarily a major focus of Yeats studies. She haunted his life and his work, inspiring his deepest desires and his most iconic poetry. Beyond herself, Maud Gonne and o the feminine for his construction of a
92 living aesthetic, for some reflection of the transcendent, and examines how this reflection is writers en masse and a dis tinction from Victorian Aesthetes in particular. Popular Victorian of h in the transcendent were most often embodied through a deconstruction of gender via the queer dandy. Yeats breaks from both the popular Victorian and late Victorian t raditions in that he uses a living woman to achieve aesthetic transcendence, tying a contemporary, real figure to a mythic past. Scholars often align themselves along two readings of Maud Gonne and her role in nrequited lover and the poetic Maud as disembodied life relationship as a highly performative partnership, where they both enacted ever changing forms. She cites a letter from Gonne to Y what you call your unhappiness and you are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never and even en couragement of his poetry. Yet critics like Gloria Kline offer, from a Jungian perspective, a more unilateral in love, not with Maud, whom he scarcely knew, but with his own projected anima individuation, both on and off the page. I believe these constru ctions of their relationship and
93 subsequently of Maud as muse were both operative and worked in productive conflict to create a poetic being who lies somewhere between fantasy and reality, which became for Yeats the best breeding ground for transforming li fe into art. Alongside his creation of Maud Gonne, Yeats also inserts surrogates of himself into his poetry, utilizing performative masks that continue late Victorian traditions regarding artistic distance and personae. Michael Steinman also makes this co nnection between Wilde and Yeats could produce an artistic or heightened version of himself into his poetry, then perhaps he would be worthy of his heroine. Yeats is as much a poetic creation as Maud is, and this is most strikingly portrayed in an e arly In the Seven Woods status as a thwarted lover of Maud Gonne. Here, he reveals his stu died ideas on who a poet should be and what his role in society is. British poet: the Romantic dreamer and the Victorian worker. The former draws from renewed interests i 6). Here, Yeats referenc es William Wordsworth and his ideals, as expressed in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads regarding how poetry and its gestures toward the work involved in poe try and the conscious decisions that create great art.
94 This stance reflects mid nineteenth century criticism from writers like Thomas Carlyle, who argued that intellectual work was equal to manual labor in both its cultural impact and the mental exertion i nd yet / Be thought an conflict between the inspired Romantic poet and the Victorian worker, both languishing alone and taken for granted. While this poetic co larger discussion of love and gender, the two are inextricably intertwined and tie to real conflicts If Yeats, in his most basic poetic archetype, is the tortured poet, then Gonne is the The Green Helmet and Other Poems (1907), Yeats addresses exactly how he creates this legendary version of his muse, transforming Maud Gonne from an unreq uited lover into an indomitable mythic queen. The 13). He poeticizes and thus immortalizes her as something past, present, and future. Holdridge c sought among disembodied eternal forms, is now sought in distinctly embodied (and therefore form c ous and possessive hold on
95 his poetry seems off to a problematic start. Responsibilities and Other Poems (1916), continues the s version of her as Helen of Troy, using a cunning truncation of the sonnet form to mix Greek myth with contemporary connections to the Irish revolutionary period and Go in it. Maud Gonne represents Helen of Troy in this poem, but she also represents herself through relationship with her. By identifying Gonn e with Helen of Troy, the speaker begs various position more complex. Ultimately, Yeats utilizes the Maud as Helen persona to address binaries such as past versus presen t, her agency versus his depiction of it, and finally Greece versus Yea ts achieves this imbrication through a careful and complex combination of ideals that Wilde claimed were essential to successfully embodying art through life. and on her community. The speaker asks: Why should I blame her that she filled my days With misery, or that she would of late Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways, Or hurled the litter streets upon the great, Had they but courage equal to desire? What could have made her peaceful with a mind That nobleness made simple as a fire, With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind That is not natural in an age like this, Being high and solitary and most stern? (ll. 1 10)
96 Her mythic past thus connects to her prese nt, for better or worse, and rather than blame Gonne for her femme fatale nature, the speaker uses a series of questions to exonerate her of guilt, either may smack of animosity, he ultimately ends the poem with acceptance or, at least, recognition: (ll. 11 12). In lieu of Troy, Gonne had Dublin during the Irish Rebell ion, and while Yeats (both them nor make them palatable for a wider audience. Instead, the speaker surrenders any part he could play in her being or in who sh e is. connecting the past and the present to provocatively influence the future. Like his late Victorian predecessors, Yeats places his aesthetic being in a specific Gre ek past, ascribing the female stablishes her place beyond the pale of normal humanity. It is a placement that does not nullify her present power, but instead strengthens it. Yeats arguably tries to create a mythic femme fatale Maud Gonne in this poem, but she breaks through that stereo his ability to pin the female figure down to declarative facts. The final two questions arguably present her as a femme fatale, unwilling or unable to control her effe ct on others, but the speaker paid tribute to a passive female subject. T hrough this truncated sonnet, Yeats provides the first
97 intimations of a poetic figure who creates herself within and through the poem itself, granting her poetic co nstruction, or truncation thereof, connects to the larger question in the Yeats as Poet and Maud as Muse debate as to whether the Muse still possesses power against the Poet. As s generic structures the traces of the one social power that most women could exert over most men: the power of Rather than silence this power, especially since i t challenges his own power as poet creator, Yeats presents Gonne as an influential female figure and allows her to perform that power in the place. This dy which heralded new possibilities for Yeats, Gonne, and the poetry that depicted their aesthetic and romantic struggle. shed in The Tower (1928), which creates a modern, aesthetic Maud and transforms the poet speaker himself into an The Tower in its entirety, addresses s place within his own oeuvre as a self aware poetic speaker. The poem allows Yeats to reassess himself, Maud Gonne, and his depictions of her. As the title of the first movement suggests, he describes his first impressions of Maud Gonne and h is feelings for her. He also depicts Maud in the same style as he did in his earlier, late Victorian poems. At first, the speaker addresses the reality of Maud 6). But then the speaker switches his characterization of the love object to something more akin to what appeared in those
98 10). He rids Maud of her humanity, transforming her fleshly heart into one of stone, but he does not extend that transformation to himself nor does the syntax of the lines absolve him of ultimate agency. Indeed, addressing the deleterious effect a male poet ca n enact over his subject, Yeats leaves one to wonder whether his sm iling Medusa, who possesses her strength via the more feminine, flirtatious act of smiling 14). Her power unmans the speaker, turni ng him into a lout and calling his authority and masculinity into question. More interestingly from an aesthetic standpoint, however, is the transformation that aest As though my sorrow were a scene Upon a painted wall, So like a bit of stone I lie Under a broken tree. I could recover if I shriek ed To passing bird, but I am dumb From human dignity. (ll. 25 32) Through the sorrow that the female figure inflicts upon him, via her smiles, her withdrawals, and her transformations, the speaker changes into a work of art, albeit a shat tered bit from the painted
99 DP 920). In Chapter 2 when Dorian Gray is confronted with sorrow, he shrinks from it real romantic and aesthetic power of his female subject. Yeats allows her to reach her full 28). willingness to depict that power even if it places him in the objectified position. objectification, but as one with her and literally twisted within her own subject position. Indeed, they become one as a productive meeting of Nature and Beauty. In one of the more famous passages of the poem, because it is often seen as the final assessm My arms are like the twisted thorn And yet there beauty lay; The first of all the tribe lay there And did such pleasure take She who had bought great Hector down And put all Troy to wreck (ll. 75 80) personal memories. However, rather than passively observe that power or question it, as he does of that wreckage. Furthermore, Yeats connects her power not to the gender appropriate Helen, but rather to the Greek warrior Achilles, which complicates a reading of the female subject and Maud herself as a mere femme fatale. Her gender no longer defines h er aesthetic reach and her agency, and by aligning her with Achilles, Yeats makes her both impervious and tragically weak. In other words, he makes her real. She moves from an object to a femme fatale to a productive interlocutor within his poetry. Yeats c an
100 no longer talk about her without her talking back, and while that troubles his own authorial stance, it grants her life and makes her a living aesthetic object rather than just an idealized female subject of the male poet lover. The posthumously publish first line, the poetic Maud seems to have taken a step backwards, as she is bronzed and placed in a museum. Yeats, however, takes that static setting and objectification to then enact in a few super 3). What ensues is her growth into a full and magnificent composite of multiple forms, simultaneously art and a woman: No dark tomb haunter once; her form all full As though with magnanimity of light, Yet a most gentle woman; who can tell Which of her forms has shown her substance right? Or maybe substance can be composite, . . (ll. 8 12) As Patrick Keane suggests in Terrible Beauty: Y eats, Joyce, Ireland, and the Myth of the Devouring Female she becomes not merely an aesthetic object like the other museum objects around her, but a multitudinous and ever child, horse, transparent eyeball; full and empty, dark and light, human and superhuman, natural such an ideal can only be achieved through the productive meeting of opposing aesthetics represented by the Apollonian and the Dionysian modes which Yeats adapted throughout much of his later
101 poetry, and set forth explicitly in his famous A Vision (1925), as the opposing tensions between simultaneous ideality and humanity. While she seems a mere bronze head placed in a museum, she morphs in the course of the po em between a static and changing aesthetic, back and forth through time and through a number of paradoxes that push her from aesthetic object to a living 15 The Rose in which the speaker through various subjects, depictions, and readings. looks at the words, as one would look at a bronze head in a museum, they seem in perfect rhyme, but if one reads and th us experiences the poem, one realizes how most of the rhymes before the final greatest Muse that may seem static and simplistically objectifying, but in fact pr esents individuality and change in the complex aesthetics at work in her depiction from the first line to the last and, by extension, from 1893 to 1939. like criticism sho uld not be static, but fluid. This idea can be mapped from Pater to Wilde and ngs to light
102 12). The living aesthetic objects of Chapter 2 often failed because their creators tried to stranglehold them into aesthetic objectification and into life. Yeats lets his Muse breathe and change, even though the result of trying to liv American F. The Great Gatsby (1925) presents an aesthetic and for American as well as British and Anglo Irish writers, especially in the written work of the Lost Generation, only testifies to the breadth and power of those theories. Indeed, just as Dorian Gray revealed in stark terms how artistic idealism has the po tential to ruin life and vice versa, Jay Gatsby enacts perhaps equally jarring revelations about art and idealization in his own life. Like Dorian, Gatsby taps into prescient issues and tastes that were gaining popularity during a period of rapid cultural change. Over the course of one summer on Long Island in 1922, gangster Jay Gatsby begins his quest to reunite with his lost love, socialite Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby recruits especially now that he has gained money and (he thinks) sufficient social status. Carraway traces their reunion and the various obstacles that inhibit and ultimately destroy it. Gatsby initially seems to rude commercialism [and] its
103 980). Through this American st ruggle between commercialism and imagination, Gatsby emerges as a modern permutation of the dandy, a central figure to nineteenth century aesthetic embodiment, and a response to British anti American prejudices. He is a self made man, an outsider by virtue of both his background and his criminality, a highly imaginative and creative person and one who approaches his ideals with focused determination. Yet that determination opposes the ideal he wishes to attain: Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby successfully incarnates both his romantic and his aesthetic ideals, until the symbols and objects he uses to support his conform to his Dionysian potential. As has become a trend in the writers we have studied to this point, Fitzgerald also does not present his central aesthetic figure without first creating a mediator, who helps the reader understand and appreciate the protagonist. Pater used his detached narrator, Wilde used Basil H allward, Vernon Lee used her narrator De Rosis, Yeats used his poetic persona, and Fitzgerald uses Nick Carraway. Our perception of Gatsby as a hero, however failed, is due in large part to ng with Daisy, Gatsby lived in mystery, with a persona that constantly shifted with each new rumor regarding his past. He had a vanishing on the horizon of significance; and this is a problem for characters like Nick and the Buchanans, whose own sense of location in time and social space is very much dependent upon a clea Contemporary critics of the novel and more conservative scholars often read Nick as a cipher for
104 the other characters to speak through, yet, as the narrative begi ns and progresses, his sympathies and interests clearly gesture toward his egotistical character and his growing infatuation with Gatsby. Before Gatsby physically enters the text during one of his parties, Nick first flatteringly presents him to the reader as an artistic archetype: the heroic and tragic performer. He declares, ick conceives personality as a performance, as evidenced by his insistence on gestures, a distinctly dramatic means of understanding how a person creates their outward selves. Through this performance, Gatsby creates himself as a living and breathing lie, and Nick enhances that creation through his nostalgic and romantic gaze. and and thus into the narrative proper embodies his cha parties and his humble American persona of the between decadence and approachability marking him as a new and distinctly American version of late Victorian aesthetic ideals: he must inspire the imagination of his community, while also not alienating himself. Fr om his introduction, however, Fitzgerald via Nick carefully positions Gatsby as a part
105 simultaneous role as host and outsider begins to distinguish him from th e West Egg community. backward on Gatsby and no French bob touched Gats exclusion at his own party, but once again, this positioning only proves his burgeoning status in the narrative as an exc is the vision of him who sits at ease and watches, who walks in loneliness and dre 1039). Gatsby embodies this description, especially when Nick sees Gatsby stretching his arms out toward the green light after the party ends. He is apart; his gaze fixed elsewhere. Through this one party, Fitzgerald casts his aesthetically dete rmined hero in vivid performative colors, from his voice to his mannerisms to his clothing, but he does so in very subtle terms. Gatsby is approachable and real, but as the narrative continues, these seeds of performance and absurdity evolve and lead to th a modern A merican embodiment of high aesthetic ideals. Nicolas Tredell, in his analysis of this But there are moments which, if one stopped the car, froze the frame, could exemplify an The Great Gatsby and, furthermore, to modern American mod es of creating beings or moments caught between art
106 and life. The static art of photography transforming into kinetic film during this period is perhaps the best example of how art can inhabit a place between motion and a freeze frame. The drive from West Egg to New York exemplifies this new aesthetic liminality in a myriad of ways and speeds through the streets, talking all the while, and performing the persona he created, but taken holistically, the sequence also represents this perfect object that seems frozen in time and yet breathes and lives. made man persona, punctuated by stock dia logue, multiple props, and supporting cast, all of which help corroborate his American Dream of a life from the poor boy to the soldier to the self made rich man. It reads like a How can be lishments and half flagging or his incredulity growing, Gatsby even frequently presents evidence to corroborate his tales: a military medal from Montenego, a photograph f rom Oxford, his card that keeps a police officer from stopping him for speeding, etc. The police officer is, in effect, a stand in for every skeptical reader, trying to stop this speeding lying machine, but Gatsby just throws another prop their way and qui ets the disbelief. He gives Nick a short autobiography complete with various flourishes distinctive to his tragic dandy persona: My family all died and I came into a good deal of money. . After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe Paris, Venice, Rome collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little, things for myself only, and trying to forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago. (70)
107 At first, Nick recognizes the transparent absurdity i esque clothing, which also gesture toward h is artificial personality. Yet, as Gatsby continues to pile on the Once Nick and Gatsby begin crossing Queensboro Bridge, caught somewhere between Long (73). This gradual, campy seduction could only be successful in an era of rapidly shifting norms as in 1920s America, where frenetically ambitious real life and its theatrical facades were often difficult to differentiate, and where the most appropriate ut terance for such a seduction could only be through such metaphors and within a speeding car. pure performance to reality, using his props provocatively to define himself ; and like Nick, we and symbols propels his aesthetic hero forward both narratively and temporally, employing new technologies and idioms to incarnate a twentieth artwork. Gatsby is truly a mosaic of various objects, and his dependence upon these objects foreshadows the fall that oc curs when those objects are taken from him. creation are the green
108 Daisy creates and destroys throu ghout the course of the narrative. After returning from his first 26). When Nick follows his gaze, he notices the green light, which is a stand in for Daisy, the idealized figure that launched his transformation into Jay Gatsby. Like the props Gatsby flashes as he bject position, but they are also destructible. As a romanticized, almost abstract being, Daisy Buchanan inspires ols and possessions attached to her begin to invites Daisy to his home after their awkward reunion. Nick watches their interaction and traces around at his possessions in a dazed way as though in her actual and astounding presence no ne of imagination and his life as the narrative continues. First, she brings into question the reality of his home, then paradoxically, she extinguishes the green ligh significance of that light had now vanished forever . . Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted o making a home unreal and making a symbol real are damaging in inverse yet very similar ways. They reveal his lif e. By finally gaining the object of his pursuits, his other objects, idealized and real, are lost.
109 Daisy is thus both an extension of his ideals and their worst enemy, but Daisy herself is merely a f. The aesthetic mode that Daisy represents is the true culprit here. Depending on their feminist stance, critics often blame Daisy or Gatsby for this disillusion and subsequent collapse, but the symbolic struggle here is an aesthetic one and best understo ideal. In mid nineteenth century France, the Symbolist movement addressed the importance of symbols in poetry, but they were also careful to point out the importance of creating symbols that name an object is to suppress three quarters of the enjoyment of the poem, which derives from the pleasure of step by 141). This poetic dogma dictated the main goals of Symbolist poets like Baudelaire and Rimbaud, but the aesthetic sensibility it necessitated also permeated through turn of the century at dogs the steps of most artists is that they realise their ideal too absolutely. For, when the ideal is realised, all gesture towards a thing without naming the thing itself. Gatsby, as an artist of life, embodies and enacts the tragedy Wilde warned against.
110 formative symbols; she represents an ideal that, once turned into an unacceptably restricting reality, Gatsby cannot understand or adapt to. Nick intimates this pen least at this point in the novel, does not blame Daisy for her shortcomings. Instead, he looks to himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright th Symbolist and Decadent aesthetics of nineteenth century poetry, but with necessarily ruinous result in this instance. Daisy is the wished for culminating prize toward which all the objects unlike the green light or the Aesthetic critic s always hidden behind symbols, but Daisy Buchanan possesses neither the insight nor the aesthetic language to understand these symbols and the man behind them. In De Profundis lack of aesthet DP result of the mismatched aesthetic that define each of them. Daisy Buchanan, in both name and background, was always clearly defined, while Jay Gatsby himself lay ever outside pragmatic definition.
111 immense distance that se parates them. Daisy, for instance, is practically repulsed by the party m entions here is that of West Egg society and its forms of revelry. After she leaves, Nick thinks, sthetic being and in tune with hard to make her unde much the same way that she cannot comprehend him. Stringent rules and societal expectations ies the idealized female object of desire. Meanwhile, Gatsby is bound by a different aesthetic decadent, lawless, and attached to an unattainable and oppositional ideal. In Classical aesthetic terms, Daisy Buchanan is Apollonian, and Jay Gatsby is Dionysi an. Nietzsche addresses these aesthetic drives in The Birth of Tragedy very different drives exist side by side, mostly in open conflict, stimulating and provoking one another to give birth to ever new, more vigorous offspring in whom they perpetuate the conflict key respects the one that Fitzgerald embodies through his characters in The Great Gatsby and thus explains, better than any goals fall apart. According to Nietzsche, when these two aesthetic modes are placed opposite one
112 another, a great artistic birth should occur. It does not, in part because Gatsby stays stub bornly fixed on this aesthetic potential without realizing that by trying to make Daisy play by his rules, he effectively arrests her own Apollonian potential that once attracted him. Rather than productively inspire one another, Daisy and Gatsby cancel ou focused on his goal: to have her, to realize his dreams, to repeat the past. After Daisy leaves the party, Gatsby and Nick discuss what went wrong, and Nick learns exactly how far Gatsby wishes aesthetic object: his nostalgia, his selfishness, and his tying of his dreams to a figure utterly at odds Daisy would seem both romantic and aesthetically ideal, yet, as Pater and Wilde argue in their respective critical essays, the true artist of life must do much more than merely recreate the past: inste ad, wishes to repeat a past rather than create a new present or, as Jeffrey Steinbrink must adapt to the present in order for it to possess the transcendent timeless qual ities so important to Wilde and other aesthetes writing before the Modernist period. Gatsby, however, wants Daisy exactly as she was, and arguably he wants himself as he was both of which are, as Nick points out,
113 impossible. Therefore, from an aesthetic st andpoint, Gatsby undermines his own goals by failing Gatsby possesses a singleminded need to achieve his goals that makes him inspiring, but also makes him tragic because these dreams and goals lie firmly in a static past at odds with and I gathered that he wante d to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone irrecoverable past. Tony Magistrale and Mary Jane Dickerson are even more critical than Nick: Indeed, this is the main dreams come at the cost of his own indivi dualism, as evidenced by the fact that, in trying to possess Daisy, he stops throwing parties, shuts up his home, and stops performing the mysterious become lesser aes thetic versions of themselves, and while Daisy can retreat to the societal constructs that support her subject position, Gatsby possesses no such recourse. He is a living aesthetic object caught in the liminalities of time and individuality, and thus once his ideals are snatched from him, his performance and his life self destructs. The New York hotel confrontation between Gatsby and the Buchanans perfectly captures ive.
114 Gatsby again acts as the heroic performer here, but this time, he possesses a formidable adversary in Tom Buchanan, who embodies the kinds of facts and reality that Wilde argued are the destruction of great art. Tom begins cross examining Gatsby short ly after they all settle mafia, and finally his affair with Daisy. Tom firmly situates the conversation as an examination gn with any truth. When Gatsby claims that Daisy always devolves into an inves that you never loved him This confrontation between truth and lies pinpoints the core struggle in The Gre at Gatsby and particularly in the oppositional relationship between Daisy and Gatsby. By boiling himself down into facts and truths, Gatsby rids himself and his relationship with Daisy of the romantic aestheticism that once inspired it. These testosterone driven embodiments of Truth and Lies her response and claim that she loves them both, an entirely human social reaction but one ends with both Buchanans shutting Gatsby out with a wall of Truth. They, unlike Gatsby, operate within real world categorical demarcations. This does not make them inherently villains, as Nick tries to position them at the end of the narrative, but it does place them within an aesthetic paradigm that Gatsby cannot comprehend.
115 The struggle between Tru th and Lies that Fitzgerald delineates in this scene also r scrutiny than a commentary on the stultifying and corroding effect facts the dispelling of mystery and the tyranny of absolutes place in h istory, but they are usurping the domain of Fancy . . Their chilling touch is over everything. They are vulgarising this aesthetic violence kills Gatsby as a potential cannot be done to check, or at least to modify, our monstrous worship of facts, Art will become sterile p at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how Gatsby now enters the world of the grotesq uely real, a fall that precipitates his physical murder. The tragic end, however, is of his own making. He tried, against reason and will, to create a life that adhered to his far flung ideals, yet, in tying those ideals to a being incapable and unwilling to follow them, he destroyed himself. Essentially, Gatsby performs through aestheticism what he performed on the road back from New York City: he wrests control from Daisy, tries to steer her away from reality, but instead he only pushes her further away f rom him, leaving behind a grotesque wreckage at odds with the fantasy he tried to create.
116 Once Gatsby dies, Nick takes direct control of the narrative once more, and just as he ties shions his hero for the reader and casts him in the same terms that began the novel. He creates a new mythology for Gatsby and ties it not only to the Long Island community that turned its back on him, but also to America itself. He contemplates the Dutch to per haps the oldest symbol in American literature the New World. In effect, he attaches fading dream of America itself. This symbolic move also critic who transforms life i nto art, and ideas, and feelings of myriad generations and to whom no form of thought is alien, no The Great Gatsby America only further establishes his place as a if only momentary living aesthetic object and arguably the most incendiary one in modern American culture. Fitzgerald thus continues the slow evolution of the living aesthetic object, but adds a distinctly human note to it via t ragedy. If Yeats provided a chronological segue from the late Victorian aesthetes and Fitzgerald represented a national break but ideological advance, then Virginia Woolf combines both strengths of being simultaneously near and far from her aesthetic prede cessors. As Woolf wrote of her childhood home in Sketch of the Past Two different ages confronted each other in the drawing room at Hyde Park Gate. The Victorian age
117 and the Edwardian age . . While we looked into the future, we were completely under the Sketch ed critic and philosophical historian, while her mother, Julia Prinsep Duckworth Stephen, was a model for Pre Raphaelite painters and photographers. Home other female classicists, Vic torian ideologies and aesthetics influenced her studies and would impact her work as a writer. In To the Lighthouse (1927), Woolf depicts a similarly divided home, where the Victorian parents grapple with their Edwardian children and guests. The central fi gure in this generational struggle is the mother Mrs. Ramsay, a character Gatsby had looked to their lovers for an aesthetic ideal, but the romantic often clouded, Woolf, on the other hand, looks to her mother for that ideal, and she saw the act of writing To the Lighthouse as a therapeutic exercise, observing in her me what psycho analysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt Sketch 81). In writing the novel Woolf came to terms with the fact of her dead mother, an exercise that she recreates through Lily Briscoe in To the Lighthouse novel was a strategy Oscar Wilde found problematical because it risked the creation of art taint ed the people who never existed, and if a novelist is base enough to go to life for his personages he should at least pretend that they are creations, and not
118 reveals the conflict between late Victorian and Modernist writers and their creations. Victorian Aesthetes like Pater, W ilde, and Vernon Lee distanced their work from factual life or autobiography and looked to the supernatural or the mythic for the tools to create a living her balk from the influence of life upon art, Woolf in To the Lighthouse addresses that influence onclusion and thanks to a fellow female artist, becomes a living aesthetic object that possesses a complex interiority and exercises a powerful effect on her community in death as much as she had in life. To achieve ultimate embodiment of Mrs. Ramsay as l iving art, Virginia Woolf first throughout the novel, each of the chara cters mentioning it in some capacity. Mr. Ramsay, for instance, watches her enter a room after speaking to one of their children and notices how, like a moment Lighthouse 14). Finally, while staring at her and t beautiful person he Mrs. Ramsay represents the Victorian ideal of mother, wife, and even Queen. Yet, as Kristina not that of a still portrait or sculpture, but derives
119 having the Lighthouse 27). Indeed, these books and their in scriptions sound as sees little value in these tributary readings of her beauty, filtered through a static past that positions her as a domineering, otherworldly woman. Mrs. Ramsay repres ents herself, which is most valuable to her development as a living art form. Mrs. Ramsay wants to solve real problems in a real world. Early on, the novel states this personal would cease to be a private woman whose charity was half a sop to her own indignation, half a relief to her own curiosity, and become what with her untrained mind she greatly admired, an investigator, Lighthouse 9). Mrs. Ra msay embodies the aesthetic and feminist crossroads of the fin de sicle, which was both too progressive for its own century and not progressive enough for its successors; she wants to trade in an aesthetically pleasing and acceptable expectation of societ y largely insignificant patrician altruism for a messy and (Dever 204). Like Maud Gonne and Daisy Buchanan, Mrs. Ramsay is constantly framed by the men around her, but unlike these other two female aesthetic objects, Mrs. Ramsay is given ample
120 opportunity to offer her interiority directly to the readers. Through these m oments we learn that she is self aware and actively working against any static appraisals of her being. Woolf is careful to have aesthetically inclined characters like Mr. Bankes, Lily Briscoe, and the children notice a powerful and magical quality in her beauty, rather than understand it as was it nothing but looks, people said? What was there behind it ( Lighthouse 28). After speaking to Mrs. Ramsay on the phone one day, Mr. Bankes wonders juxtaposes mythological bea uty and mundane reality to an extraordinary effect throughout the novel, and that close, almost jarring juxtaposition is what Woolf uses as a key to unlock Mrs. n paired with the symbols and objects of everyday modern reality. Woolf explicitly reveals the aesthetic potential of mixing the mythic with the mundane in Mr. something reminds one that Mrs. Rams ay is a beautiful creature and a woman. Mr. Bankes thing, the living thing . and work it into the picture; or if one thought of her simply as a woman, one must Ramsay to flicker between subject positions and thus inhabit a space between life and art. Woolf ewpoint, and Mr.
121 Woolf allows him to take us three quarters of the way to understanding Mrs. Ramsay as a living aesthetic object, but she does not give him the fi nal word. For that, the chapter ends with Mrs. Ramsay framed as if a work of art speaking kindly after chidin again in just these few sentences keeps that tension up through the end of the chapter. The scrapbooking Mrs. Ramsay is doing with her son becomes itself a picture to be cut out, and the one directing the cutting and smoothing is Mrs. Ramsay. Mrs. Ramsay awareness and control over her beauty and its power is integral to her transformation, over the course of the novel, into a living aesthetic object. Indeed, as we have overpowering gaze, or self imposed exile to harness her own potential has halted her transformation into living art. Mrs. Ramsay, however, knows her beauty and understands its aesthetic power, which is why her internal musings are equally a s important as her external appearance: She bore about with her, she could not help knowing it, the torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room she entered; and after all, veil it as she might, and shrink from the monotony of bearing that it im posed on her, her beauty was apparent. She had been admired. She had been loved. (41) The metaphor of her beauty as a torch she must bear connects to that ultimate calling of life as Renaissance 189), from Pater The Renaissance just as her desire to veil her beauty speaks to its burden, as Wilde put it, to find
122 These moments the extern thoughts provide in microcosm what Woolf also traces at the macrocosmic level of the text the text is integ ral to its overarching aesthetic aims and addresses how that flickering between life and art can be sustained past life and through arguable artistic stand in for the author are each valuable in reading who she i s and what power she holds over the text. Yet, each of these subject positions introduces potential issues, particularly her proximity to Mrs. Ramsay as her portrait artist, her house guest, and her possible biographical connection to Woolf. As a painter, she may naturally call to mind Basil Hallward in The Picture of Dorian Gray but while Wilde acknowledged a direct connection between himself as author and his character Basil Letters 352) the connection between Wool symmetries in the novel, one outstanding asymmetry lies in the figure of Lily. Part Vanessa, part Vita, part Virginia herself, the shy, innovative painter reminds us that however long w e gaze in represents an amalgam of all the artistic women with whom Woolf shared a deep bond. Furthermore, this transformation from facts into art also strikes upon an undeniably important 978). Woolf could easily have
123 bias towards her art subject. Woolf seems aware of these potential stumbling blocks and is prepared to combat them from the outset. Lily, rather than introducing herself, is introduced through the gaze of her subject Mrs. Ramsay. While thinking of her ( Lighthouse 17) The subject is thus aware of her painter and is actively employed in aiding her process. This understood dialogic relationship between two women introduces a new and sophisticated aesthetic dynamic in the early twentieth century: Mrs. Ramsay, the Victori an feminine ideal, will help Lily, the modern female painter, become an artist, and in return, Lily will transform Mrs. Ramsay into a living art. While Mrs. Ramsay understands her aesthetic power as a beautiful woman, Lily is still learning how to utilize her power as an artist. At the beginning of the novel, she shrinks from it. pon the can be read as an extended discussion of this issue. Women writers need a room of their own because, without it, the gap between the mind and the creation grows eve n wider, thanks to domestic combat her anxieties, Lily tries to get as near as physically possible to her subject, in order to find and thus relate her hidden life.
124 pres know Mrs. Ramsay as an artist knows her subject; she also wants to know her as a woman may know another woman. Yet, rather than hide these desires and her art from others, as Basil did in Dorian Gray eyes should see the residue of her thirty three y balances her agonies with her excitement and finds a viewer like Mr. Bankes, who, as Woolf has already shown, Hallward, in contrast, refused to show his painting, gave it to his morally corrupted subject, then was killed when he finally did ask to show it to the public. Lily, however, overc omes her fears early on, accepts her painting as a work in progress, and dares to show it to a man. By pushing physical beauty to last beyond such flawless performa nces as that summer by the sea, as well as the dinner scene that centers the first section. aestheticism moves beyond these external appraisals and even beyond her own inter nal musings. For her aesthetic potential to become living art, she must perform it; contemplation or observation is not enough. Woolf, as she did in Mrs. Dalloway uses the upper middle class hostess as her ideal performer who directs and participates in l ife as art. Groover also notes this
125 everyone during the extended dinner sequence, as she decides who sits where, who speaks to whom, and even who should marry whom. Furthermore, she realizes her own power as the merging and flowing a Lighthouse 83). Woolf uses the same artistic language of color and mixtures here that she will use later for the actual artist Lily Briscoe. These aesthetic skills applied to the dinner table elevate the art of the domestic, a s pace that Oscar Wilde frequently valorized in his essays and performed in his life. Wilde first brought attention to the domestic arts during his American tour in 1882, d that their seemingly trivial subject matter, he readied a respons too mean, in common things too trivial, to be ennobled by your touch, nothing in life that art To the Lighthouse and Woolf is careful to call attention to domesticity as a space ripe for artistic expression, especially from women. While those around Mrs. Ramsay try to elevate her aesthetic potential through painting, nostalgia, or glorified objectification, Mrs. Ramsay establishes herself as artist and a rt object as both the hostess and participant in the dinner within this living, feminine space. She first minimizes its power, seeing it only as a transitory art object. While leaving the dining room, s vanishing even as she looked, and then . it changed, it shaped itself differently; it had become, she knew, giving one last look at it Lighthouse 111). In this moment, Woolf accentuates the problem of time, which
126 t self created aesthetic moment is extraordinary, but it also speaks to how her subject position as mother and hostess make her more susceptible to this real ization. The narrator emphasizes these and chairs, tables, maps, w ere hers, were theirs, it did not matter whose, and Paul and Minta 114). Here, Woolf mixes aesthetic associations so valuable to nineteenth century philosophers and art critics, like memory and community, 1 but then ties them to specifically feminine associations, like the nursery door, the furniture, and even culture, embodies these artistic crossroads and advances them, sowing the seeds for a Lily Briscoe to create her own living art. influence. They understand it, accept it, and are in awe of it, which adds a community and thus valid ity to her artistic expression. During the dinner, Lily observes Mrs. Ramsay as a fellow ( Lighthouse Vernon 1 We may recall the famous observation from The Renaissance While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist's han
127 unlike these predecessors, Mrs. Ramsay is presented through a fellow female gaze. From the frightening initial moment, Lily continues: Mrs. Ramsay, Lily felt, a s she talked about the skins of vegetables, exalted that, worshipped that; held her hands over it to warm them, to protect it, and yet, having brought it all about, somehow laughed, led her victims, Lily felt, to the altar. It came over her too now the emo tion, the vibration, of love. (101) The tension between Mrs. Ramsay and Lily ties to various aesthetic tensions: performance versus painting, Victorian versus Modernist, the wife versus the single woman, and finally the Dionysian versus the Apollonian. T he finest paradox of To the Lighthouse lies perhaps in how Dionysian signifiers, like fear, emotion, and the supernatural, to Mrs. Ramsay, Woolf enhances her those aesthetic tensions resolve the same way Mrs. Ramsay is part of hers. The aesthetic tension is reciprocal rather than combative, which sets the foundation fo text. the narrative into an extended contemplation of the relationship between nature and humanity, particu larly as nature represents the passage of time and as humanity responds with memory. Woolf utilizes an extreme stream of consciousness that not only encompasses various persons who were attached in life (members of the Ramsay family, their servants, etc.), but also gives
128 sentience to the house itself as it undergoes n atural decay. The passage of time and our human When faced with nature, time, and memory, the beings who try to live as art often fall victim to these external aggressors. Like the other artists and art objects we have examined so far, Lily To the Lighthouse even years after Lighthouse 149 150). Lily must now also contend with the demons and distortions of time. As a result, Lily now sees theoretical work, he mapped out a way through the mnemonic maze that led his Dorian Gray to suicide In De Profundis in the sight of God, in whose sight we should try to live. Time and space, succession and extension, are merely accidental conditions of Thought. The Imagination can ( DP 956). recollection and invention lies the creative agency of memory. Proust saw this as involuntary, but
129 and drives her past a space of animosity towards memory. She remembers one moment when she threw stones with her artistic nemesis Charles Tansley on the beach as Mrs. Ramsay observed the human soul! . That woman sitting there writing under the rock resolved everything into Lighthouse th, lies in the then this, and so made out of that miserable silliness and spite . something . which survived, after all these years complete . a nd there it stayed in the mind affecting one almost like a work desc memory, into an infinite, undying being, who still inspires another core member of her small community. She made life into a work of art and through that, Lily realizes a reciprocal relationship from art towards life which fuels the consummation of her painting. Consequently, when the final section initial summer, Woolf here gestures to an underlying belief instrumental to her work as a writer, namely th at one should write through receiving capacity is
130 wool [of daily life] is hidden a pattern; that we I mean all human beings are connected with this; that the whole sudden memory of Charles Tansley and Mrs Ramsay, which triggers her imagination and allows her to finish her painting. Thus, through memory and her depictions of those memories, Woolf blurs the line between life and art, and she connects that epiphany, integral to her work and arguably to the a esthetic project of Modernism, to the fictional embodiment of her Victorian mother. Transfiguring memory is a difficult task; it requires imagination, balance, creativity, and, perhaps most crucially, the restraint of egocentric desire. As we have seen, it was in this last the mercy of the artist, and Lily, in her hub ris after her artistic breakthrough, thinks she can override her wishes, improve away her limited, old Lighthouse 174). Lily 7). She believes she can not allow Lily this power and lets that Victorian past talk back to the proud modern artist: It has seemed so safe, thinking of her. Ghost, air, nothingness, a thing you could play with easily and safely at any time of day or night, she had been that, and then suddenly she put her hand out and wrung the heart thus. ( Lighthouse 178 179)
131 Woolf via Lily reveals the important balance in depicting and creating a l iving aesthetic object. First, the artist can and should tap into her own subjective impressions and memories of the life as even command those initial impressi abnegating deference to can sufficiently inspire Lily to finish her painting and transform it into a transcendent aesthetic vis ion. 2 By the end of To the Lighthouse Lily recognizes the importance of distance both in slopes of a hill running Lighthouse 195). This proportional perspective contrasts wished to know all the treasures stored within her soul. Lily is no longer interested in breaking apart the machinery to see how the cogs and gears grind together; she can now leave a beautiful thing alone. This restraint mirrors how Woolf as author transformed her mother into art. As Alice Kell convey, through a certain detachment, the universal import of the scene before her as Lily elley 47). 2 In contemporary queer theory, queer(ing) time depends upon the past to inform and advance the fut ure. In Cruising Utopia I think of queerness as a temporal arrangement in which the past is a field of possibility in which subjects can act in the present in the service of a new futurity functio n Mrs. Ramsay performs for Lily Briscoe, a modern artist who felt a queer desire towards Mrs. Ramsay in reminded us, Early critics of Vir ginia Woolf often accused her of being a n elitist, of including her art only a sliver of life intellectual, upper middle class, aesthetic and omitting anything that took place outside the impressionistic world of the mind. But Woolf was keenly aware of the outer world and the role it played in shaping all aspects of experience, includi
132 The final line of To the Lighthouse is in a key respect more spiritual in its import than Lighthouse 2 09). Here, Woolf fuses together the two past at the end of The Great G atsby with a vision that is simultaneously past, present, and future. The novel works as concurrent portrait and written work. When Woolf allowed her sister to read a sublime, al most upsetting spectacle. She says it is an amazing portrait of mother; a supreme portrait painter; has Diary confirms, To the Lighthouse mixes art with everyday reali ty, painting with writing, death with advancement that the Modernist life as art writers discussed in this chapter make toward the final creation of the liv ing aesthetic object. Yeats pulled life into his art, creating an immortal albeit problematic muse figure; Fitzgerald allowed two different artistic lives to contend with one another, but also underscored in this process how not only does life taint art, b ut a stagnant art cannot live. In To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf brings the living aesthetic object even further into the personal, performing a successful transformation from life into art and back into life again, proving that such a transformation is possible even if the worldly consequences are not always as triumphant as one would hope. Through such achievements, these writers signaled the requirements a living aesthetic object must possess to survive and thrive in twentieth century culture. In the mid real people in real life who also function as art.
133 CHAPTER 4 MID CENTURY ACTRESSES AND BALLERINAS, MANNEQUINS AND MODELS It is justifiably acknowledged that Alfred Hitchcock helped define film major themes and aesthetic concerns during the post World War II period and advanced the art form beyond the groundbreaking innovations made by German, Russian, and Hollywood filmmakers. Yet when Francis Ford Coppola, Brian D e Palma, and Martin Scorcese, major film auteurs of the late twentieth century, have been asked about their influences, they all point not so much to work in Hollywood as to the British art films of the writing/directing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, as having most strongly affected their own work. Indeed, key Powell and Pressburger themes run through the work of these directors, but they are most strikingly present in many other mid 20 th century works, including fil ms. In this chapter, starting with The Red Shoes then analyzing in turn Vertigo Patricia pulp novel The Price of Salt and Diana work as fashion editor and curator, I chart how mid century art acted as a fulcrum, tilting aesthetic personification from the largely theoretical toward real life, living human embodiments. A s twentieth century art progressed, the Apollonian creators, narrators, and managers found in Chapter 3 begin to turn on their Dionysian counterparts as T he Great Gatsby demonstrates through symbolism Like a pair of outgrown training wheels, the Apollonian inhibits more than it inspires, and, midway through the twentieth century, we are left with suicidal ballerinas and objectified Hitchcock blondes. The f igure of the living aesthetic object, by definition, vacillates between objectification and individualism, especially given the mass minded zeitgeist of the post war era, but by effectively equating life and art, artists of the midcentury get one step clos er, even if sometimes it is an imperfect step, to fully transforming life into art.
134 To help explain their artistic debt to Powell and Pressburger, both directors De Palma and Scorcese referenced a particular scene in The Red Shoes (1948). Towards the beginning of the film, before inviting young dancer Vicky to join his Ballet, respected and tyrannical ballet producer Boris Lermontov tests the commitment to her art, asking her, Why do you want to Vicky replies, Why d o you want to Powell and Pressburger establish in this moment the main tension in the film between art and life. This exchange, to which Lermontov reacted with an odd mix of shock and amusement, foreshadows inability to negotiate her place b etween art and life, and the film ends in tragedy, as Vicky majestically leaps to her death in front of an oncoming train. Powell discussed the finale and its importance to mid century, post war culture in his memoir: think that the real reason why The Red Shoes was such a success, was that we had all been told for ten years to go out and die for freedom and democracy, for this and for that, and now the war was over, The Red Shoes told us to go and die for (Moor 203). Powell here establishes the maj or cultural shift that occurs during the post war era: instead of placing their energies into service for their country, now people searched for meaning through self making, finding the means to do so most readily through art. Just as Hitchcock's single m inded direction drives his films, Powell and Pressburger's collaboration with each other and with their team filter into the implications of the life as art narrative inherent within The Red Shoes As Ian Christie argues, The Red Shoes was above all a wor k of creative collaboration between artists and technicians in many fields, on a scale rarely attempted in the (Christie 63). Like the ballet company presented on screen, the Archer company that drove The Red Shoes production comprised itself of performers, artists, and experts in various fields. This diversity is readily apparent in the cast, which features standard actors and also Moira Shearer, a trained ballerina plucked from the Sadler's Wells Theatre. Thus,
135 the play between life and art begi ns before the film does and informs many of the relationships found therein. In the film, Ballet takes the role of the production company, pushing the various collaborators toward a single goal: the presentation of Red a retelling through ballet of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of the same name. While the collaborative process certainly populates the film, Lermontov role as director of the ballet mirrors that of the directors behind the camera, particularly Michael Powell various character implications also reach back through a number of different source materials, but the main three I emphasize here are his connections to Powell, to Sergei Diaghilev, and to the queer aesthete. The shared connection between th ese figures lies in their common interest in transforming life into art, an endeavor which Lermontov, played by Anton Walbrook, dramatizes through his relationship with Vicky. The first of these connections, that of Lermontov and Michael Powell, is an inhe rently post modern reflection between the creator and his/her creation. Mirrored relationships and the reflexivity they offer were a popular artistic turn in the mid twentieth century, especially given the prevalence of post modernism and its interest in h ighlighting the mechanics of form, whether in literature, film, or the theater. Some popular examples include Samuel Beckett's plays and contemporary film, ranging from the avant garde (Fellini's 8 1/2 ) to the Hollywood musical ( Singin' in the Rain ). Powel l and Pressburger play with filmic reflexivity through Lermontov. Yet, connections to Diaghilev and subsequently the queer aesthete possess stronger repercussions upon narrative and push it into territory more blatantly aesthetic, espec ially as defined by Oscar Wilde in his essays and in The Picture of Dorian Gray In work, his artists not only blurred the lines between life and art, but they were also often queer figures, either literally through their sexuality or more
136 subtly through some outr characteristic. Powell and Pressburger present similarly queered characters in their film. Lermontov, at the beginning of the film, is a spectral figure. Various characters mention his name and his genius, but we do not see him until hi s first meeting with Vicky, where they discuss whether she deserves a place in his company. Vicky passion and her tendency toward equating life and art introduce the conflict that will ultimately wrest her from her happy life and the ballet. As Andrew Mo or points out in his discussion of The Red Shoes film tells a mythic tale of the incompatibility of and (Moor 200, italics mine). As the narrative progresses, that supposed incompatibility is tested, particularly by Lermontov within his role as a fictional Diaghilev. The incompatibility of life and art, however, does not necessarily negate life strange tendency towards realizing art. Indeed, within that liminal space between a living being and a static work of art lies a potent chance for expression. Lermontov initially seems to understand this subtle distinction and only hires dancers who place art above life, thus making art their life. He first expresses this ideal at the beginning of the film when his prima ballerina, Boronskaja, de cides to marry. He ridicules such a decision and quickly begins making plans for her replacement. While backstage during last performance, he declares, dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never be a great dancer. Similarly, in memoirs and interviews relating to rule over the Ballets Russes, his performers all agreed that Diaghilev believed the stage was the only real life, and if one were to love and live off the stage, it must be done in a part icular way. This echoes what Nijinsky once wrote about Diaghilev: loved him sincerely and, when he told me that the love of women was a terrible thing, I believed (Nijinsky 92). The difference between the two statements, and lies of course in the queerness of the latter. Diaghilev decried
137 desires for marriage not only because it got in the way of his art, but also because it placed him within a heteronormative sphere. The Red Shoes replaces Nijinsky with Victoria Page and thus makes a queer source palatable for mid century film audiences. Yet, as Moor argues, queer Diaghilev Nijinsky subtext informs Lermontov's contempt for Julian and Vicky's (Moor 208). position as a queer figure sti ll remains, due to those Diaghilev traces and to Anton own homosexuality, which he was encouraged to infuse into the character. This queer subject position complicates the Girardian triangle 1 between Victoria, Lermontov, and Julian Craster (Vict husband later in the film). Lermontov role as queer aesthete begs the question of whether the female as art object thrives in blatantly artistic but also queer hands, or if it is ultimately stifled through this external management of an artist pu shing their ideals upon another artist. In his essay on The Red Shoes Alexander Doty establishes Lermontov's role as queer aesthete and ties that role back through British literary history: gay (or otherwise queer) high culture impresario or aficiona do . expresses his passions and desires in public through women's bodies and voice. Rooted in the dangerously fascinating Byronic (anti)hero of the British Romantic period, this figure found his home in the age of Oscar (Doty 46). Indeed, Wildea n traces run through The Red Shoes but my idea of the queer aesthete differs from He claims that the queer aesthete finds expression through the straight female, but the queer aesthetic tradition does not depend on heteronormative narratives as fr equently or intrinsically as Doty seems to suggest. The notion of a text or person depends not only on sexuality but also (and most importantly) in that 1 Triangular desire, as postulated by Ren Girard in his Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1961), explains how the relationship betwe en subject and object is often triangulated through the inclusion of a model or mediator; the subject desires the model rather than the object. Thus, Lermontov desires Vicky as a model for the art she represents rather than for herself. As the narrative pr ogresses, Craster then becomes the mediator, pushing Lermontov further Between Men also supports and further queers this reading.
138 othered relation to dominant cultural ideologies. Just because Lermontov uses a woman to express himself does not mean that all queer people do or need to. Indeed, use of a straight stand in actually destroys his own queer, aesthetic power and annihilates Vicky because, rather than enact his own aesthetic powers through his own body, he overtaxes powers, forcing her to embody her own aesthetic sensibilities and also his. In Lermontov, we come across a particular kind of queer aesthete, who paradoxically thwarts realization through his stranglehold upon his pure aes thetic ideals. While Wilde's aestheticism failed because, as he confessed in De Profundis he did not live through art enough, Lermontov fails because he oversteps the mark, especially for Vicky. In his introduction, Lermontov embodies the inte rest, particularly the late Victorian version, in living life as art and in making art a religion. After his production of of ends, he attends Lady Neston's party, where she asks whether he would consider her niece Victoria dancing. He immediately declines and asks, would you define ballet, Lady She responds, one might call it the poetry of motion perhaps, or Lermontov immediately cuts her off and claims, might. But for me it is a great deal more. For me it i s a religion. And one really care to see one's religion practiced in an atmosphere such as A proper atmosphere looks more like Dorian rooms or the church where Lermontov finally does watch Vicky perform and realizes her potential as a dancer. He views the ballet as a pure art form, and this ideal drives his relationship with Vicky and his management practices. As previously mentioned, he scorns his prima ballerina because of her new engagement and sees any human impetus as a contaminat ion of a pure art. His principal male dancer Grischa Ljubov points this out when he tells Lermontov, can't alter human To which Lermontov replies, I think you can do even better than that. You
139 can ignore This exchange rings striking ly similar to the pivotal exchange in The Great Gatsby when Nick tries convincing Gatsby that his idealist plan is impossible. Like Gatsby, Lermontov shrinks from any form less than an ideal and pulls away from anyone who tells him differently. This excha nge foreshadows final downfall and reveals how an art that fails to embrace human fallibility and finitude cannot live because it does not allow for a hybridization between the art object and the living body, which is the ultimate end of a full y realized aesthetic being. What the late Victorian aesthetes understood, in the abstract form, was how living a passionate life only heightened aesthetic capabilities rather than thwarted them. Life is yet another canvas for art and provides another stage to perform upon, but Lermontov only sees the ballet stage and only allows performances within that confined setting. Red ballet is of course the main performance of the film, and through an ingenious mix of techniques from the ballet an d film worlds, Powell and Pressburger reveal through the ballet sequence struggle under direction. The sequence itself is directly based on Hans Christian fairy tale and cuts the film in half, taking about twenty minutes to c omplete. Red ballet vividly confronts issues regarding the female art limited agency within art forms ultimately controlled by men. In spite of these managers, like Lermontov and Craster, her conductor, Vicky possesses a direct connect ion to art, while she is on the stage performing. Played by Moira Shearer, she immediately displays her dancing talent for her viewers, and through the sequence we finally understand the preternatural pull the ballet possesses, thanks especially to its pri ma prowess. As the ballet progresses and grows carnivalesque in nature, power, like her red shoes, spirals her into an excessive aestheticization and paradoxically reveals her dependence upon the men both on and off the stage. In his reading of the sequence, Andrew Moor argues,
140 is no safe distance between her and her role, and while this doubling of self on self intensifies her meaning in the ballet, the sense of excess also makes her image unstable. She has a dangerous over ide ntification with the image of the dancing (Moor 214). Moor finds an inherent issue within over identification and her excess, but while these characteristics may mark her performance as grotesque, they do not ultimately tarnish her relation t o her art. Indeed, willingness to become her character and risk instability only makes her dance more visually and emotionally arresting. The problem with Vicky's dance does not lie within her own body and art form, but rather it twists back around to her director and conductor off screen. Both Lermontov and Craster, during the ballet rehearsals, assert their power over Vicky in myriad ways. Craster, for instance, constantly points out his musical genius and convinces Vicky that his role not only d emands but deserves respect. At one point, Vicky cannot keep up with Craster's music; her pirouettes start too late and the sequence falls apart as a result. She claims the music is too fast, but Craster refuses to change a note and advises, see this baton? Follow Lermontov laughs at the exchange and obviously sees Craster as a double for himself, managing performance. domineering role over Vicky is apparent throughout the film. He repeatedly tells her that he will do all the t alking for her, and she only needs to dance. Like the Girl she plays in Red she is an automaton forced to continue dancing until she finally dies of exhaustion, both physical and aesthetic. Craster and managerial tendencies subtly placed throughout the narrative are brought to striking relief during Red penultimate, nightmarish sequence. The ballet takes a turn when through some camerawork the shadow transforms into a silhouette, which then takes th e shape of the shoemaker, then Lermontov, then Craster. Here, Vicky stamps her unconscious fears regarding her male overseers onto the own downward
141 spiral. Doty makes a similar claim: connecting Lermontov and Craster to the shoemaker, and Crast er to her dancing partner, trouble her creative pleasure and suggest that she is becoming aware of how she is being monitored onstage and (Doty 63). Powell and Pressburger utilize their art cinema to vividly embody their fears, revealing how the living aesthetic object under external management, no matter how loving, or artistic, or queer, can only ever die. These issues reach a head off stage in The Red Shoes when Vicky follows in her footsteps and falls in love. After her rep eated successes, Lermontov makes plans to take Vicky out to dinner and celebrate her fame, but when he tries to do so, he learns that she is off with Julian Craster, an affair that the rest of the company takes for granted but which shocks Lermontov. Ironi cally, Lermontov played an important role in putting Vicky and Craster together, forcing them into private reviews of his music and encouraging their impassioned exchanges over the ballet. Nonetheless, he sees Craster only as an obstacle, a view that only heightens when he watches her perform after he learns of their affair. From a box seat, he scrutinizes Vicky as she transforms from Odette to Odile in Swan Lake. During the performance, he notices Craster blow her a kiss, and he claims that she smiled at h im. Lermontov whines, her mind nor her heart were in her work. She was dreaming finally pushes Lermontov over the edge, mirroring Dorian disgust after watching Sybil Vane perform badly while under the influence of his lov e. After this performance, Lermontov promptly fires Craster, even though Craster had just granted him a new ballet more ingenious than the last. In this scene, biggest flaw emerges: he allows his prejudice against love and living to get in th e way of art. He believes that his obstinate disavowal of these flawed human habits heightens his art form, but instead, he loses a talented composer and subsequently his prima ballerina because he refuses to overcome the
142 seeming incompatibility between li fe and art and keeps these oppositions from productively fusing together. Thus, role as the queer aesthete and overbearing director cancel each other out, which subsequently cancels Vicky out. When Vicky leaves the ballet, she loses her last t ie to her aesthetic agency and becomes what perhaps m any women have only ever been for artistic men a muse. In a letter to Sergei, the set designer in Lermontov's company, Craster calls Vicky an inspiration for his operas, an art form that he believed was superior to the ballet. While Craster marries Vicky and thus keeps her ever near him, Lermontov languishes in aesthetic defeat. His own aesthetic stand in is lost, and his feelings on her loss are laid bare when he receives the telegram, info rming him of Vicky and marriage. He paces in a subdued but obvious rage. He smashes the telegram repeatedly in his hand, then he stops for a moment and gazes at his own reflection. Unable or unwilling to confront himself by himself and, if reading were admitted, unwilling to confront his own queerness, he smashes the mirror. By smashing his own reflection, Lermontov essentially smashes his aesthetic control over the narrative and especially over Vicky. This self effacement realizes the self effacement he sought by putting Vicky on the stage rather than himself. He can only ever live as an aesthetic being through the indirect use of some outside aesthetic tool, usually a prima ballerina. When he loses Vicky, he loses his artistic control over himself and his company. Thus, her dismissal causes not only her own aesthetic destruction but also The rest of the film follows desperate attempts at regaining control, and he can only find that control again by finding and reim agining the aesthetic object that once captured his imagination. In a stroke of luck, aunt Lady Neston expects her arrival at their vacation home, where the Lermontov ballet is also conveniently performing on their tour.
143 Lermontov hears the news, a nd his reaction borders on orgasmic. Vicky perhaps also orchestrated these events, especially since the only scene depicting her home life with Craster shows her clandestinely gazing upon her old ballet shoes. When she arrives, Lermontov meets her at the t rain station and convinces Vicky to on the red shoes . and dance for us This surely constitutes an emotional high point in the film, when the viewer is once again, like Vicky, seduced towards the dance. While Lermontov is undoubtedly a sel f involved puppet master, he still possesses an aesthetic eye, one which sees that Vicky misses the ballet. By allowing her to return again, he seems to offer her freedom, but as the film barrels into its tragic finale, Lermontov's reveals its li mits. The greatest limit to freedom lies in the Girardian triangle that stifles her energy throughout the film and squeezes her out of an aesthetic collaboration between two men, her director Lermontov and her husband Craster. Unexpectedly, Craste r arrives at Vicky's dressing room before she goes on as the Girl in Red and Vicky is caught between dancing or returning home with Craster. Lermontov and Craster hem Vicky in, and Craster accuses Lermontov of jealousy. Lermontov deliciously r eplies, I am. But in a way you will never Ian Christie reads into this final confrontation, impossible conflict between Life and Art, symbolized by Julian and Lermontov in her dressing (Christie 67). If Vicky is to transform h erself into living art, she must find a way to resolve this but her rivalry ultimately destroys her. During this sequence, she wears the red shoes although she does not wear them in the ballet's opening scene and should act ually wear the stereotypical nude ballet shoes. While this costume detail is inconsistent with the ballet, it is certainly consistent with the film itself. Caught between her director and her lover, she is dramatically led out to the stage, but suddenly, s he turns, runs out onto the terrace, and
144 artistically leaps to her death in front of an oncoming train. Thus, she dies just as the Girl in the ballet does, driven to exhaustion and madness because her shoemaker and her romantic partner refuse to address he r own aesthetic desires. Paradoxically, she lives her art, but simultaneously dies for it. The moment she tries to take control of her own image, she is driven out of the living world and into death. Powell and Pressburger greatest change from fairy tale to the film lies in their insistence on tragedy. While the Girl in the fairy tale finally finds peace through the church and her community, ascending to heaven in the conclusion, Vicky can find no such peace because the patriarchal powe rs surrounding her ultimately limit her potential for aesthetic self making. While the female as art object gains ground in the hands of a queer Svengali, body is never truly her own, but instead, it is objectified, commodified, and finally destroy ed. The aesthetic female cannot live her aestheticism without paying a price. Ten years later, Hitchcock Vertigo (1958) echoes this narrative of the aesthetic female locked between the warring desires of two men, but rather than feature a literal perfor mer on stage, Vertigo follows the wanderings of Madeleine, a woman repeatedly forced to play the part of some other woman. Hitchcock thus foregrounds the blurring of art and life, aesthetic fiction and aestheticized reality. Madeline cannot express her art freely and safely on a stage that clearly demarcates fiction from reality; rather, she is compelled to display her aesthetic skill in her everyday life, which brings the living aesthetic object one step closer to a life lived as art. Once again, two male figures pervert her creativity and ultimately drive her toward self destruction in a manner strikingly similar to death. While the two films may seem different in both narrative and technique, their common aesthetic concern the underlying interest in a woman driven to madness or death because those around her try to create her rather than let her create herself suggests why this figure is so prevalent in midcentury film. Indeed, one finds this theme
145 running through films like Mildred Pierce ( 1945), Sunset Blvd. (1950), All About Eve (1950), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and so on. In tandem with its two managerial males Vertigo plot presents two main problems: vertigo and mysterious wanderings. During a police chase seque nce that opens the film, Scottie barely manages to hold on to the edge of a roof after slipping while pursuing a criminal. He looks down at the five story drop onto the pavement below and is immediately horrified. This shock, followed by his fellow officer fall, sets narrative in motion. The camera leaves him hanging on the edge, a body in stasis and a silhouette that the film repeatedly refers back to. friend Midge (played by Barbara Bel Geddes) provides the remedy to vertig o induced mental break: doctor] said only another emotional shock could do it [release him], and probably And not going to go diving off another rooftop to find Vertigo then is about not only discovering Madeleine's true identit y, but also how Scottie is going to shock himself out of this paranoid paradigm. The story itself, like its two part problem, is cut in half, the two halves depicting two variations of the same woman: Madeleine/Judy (played by Kim Novak) being both the l iving Galatea of myth and the Galatea cast in marble. Scottie (played by Jimmy Stewart) tries understanding the mystery behind the first woman, Madeleine, and her uncanny connection to a dead relative. During his investigation, Scottie falls in love with M adeleine, but he also indirectly leads her to her suicide. Scottie suffers a shock after these events, but then meets Judy, an almost carbon copy of Madeleine. Unbeknownst to Scottie, the two women are actually the same woman, and the conclusion tra gically unravels shortly after Scottie learns the truth. From its interests in aesthetic memory to its overt use of art objects, Vertigo depicts mid twentieth
146 century halting attempts at truly transforming people into works of art, exemplified by Mad journey from a real being to a living portrait then back again. As in The Red Shoes in Vertigo a functions as a key metaphor for this life to art transformative process. Like Powell and Pressburger doubles in The Red Shoes Hitchcoc role as director is embedded in the main male characters within Vertigo specifically Scottie, lover, and Elster (played by Tom Helmore), supposed husband. Like Hitchcock, main interest lies in staging murder. Elster, p resumably before the film begins, grooms a young girl named Judy into Madeleine, gives her a part to play, and an audience to perform that part for. He hires her to perform as his wife for his friend Scottie, who he will then hire to investigate her strang e wanderings around San Francisco and her obsession with an insane ancestress. However, the wanderings and obsession are merely a red herring, devised by Elster, to draw Scottie into his murderous plot and use him as a witness to staged death. The Madeleine Scottie knows seemingly falls to her death midway through the film, but what Scottie does not realize is that Elster only planted Madeleine as a double to distract him from the real crime murder of his real wife, whom we never meet. Like Hitchcock, Elster is practically invisible for most of the film. The viewer first meets him in his lush red office. Hitchcock stages this scene so that Elster's power over Scottie and, in retrospect, over the events to follow is on full display. The window behind his desk looks out on his construction works, and he remains standing while Scottie only sits and listens. At one point, the set up allows him to take a step above Scottie and above the regular plane of the camera, forcing g aze and our own to look up towards him. Through this sequence, Hitchcock establishes the puppet master within the text of the film. Elster gives Judy her
147 directions before the film begins and, in this scene, Scottie receives his. His plot goes according to plan, the murder goes off without a hitch, and similar to own audiences from Rebecca to Psycho Scottie is left disturbed by these events, especially since he believed that his lover Madeleine really was killed. Unbeknownst to him, she survive d the plot and continued to live in San Francisco. Yet, from first encounters with Madeleine, the eerie quality of her subject position lends an undertone of impending doom to their relationship. Indeed, Scottie is never quite sure whether he is falling in love with Madeleine or with a mere projection of Carlotta Valdes, the woman Madeleine obsesses over. While Vertigo was still in production, the decision over the title caused a stalemate between Hitchcock and Paramount. While Hitchcock a lways wanted Vertigo thus placing the focus not on Madeleine but on Scottie and his acrophobia, the producers sought a different approach. Of the many titles Paramount offered, the most interesting include: the Face M ask and the Mask and and (Auiler 113). The common denominator among these alternative titles is their connection to Madeleine and her uncanny physical attributes. These titles, although partly encour aged by their slightly more marketable nature, cement Madeleine as an unreal being. As we learn more about Madeleine herself, she begs the question: Is her face really just a mask? And if it is a mask, does that make her any less real? In his essay Face of Roland Barthes poses a similar question in relation to Greta Garbo, greatest star and symbol immediately preceding Vertigo own cinematic era. Barthes argues, the temptation of the absolute mask (the mask of antiquity, for inst ance) perhaps implies less the theme of the secret (as is the case with Italian mask) than that of an archetype of the human (Barthes 56). Paradoxically, the mask seemingly hides a real
148 face, while also simultaneously revealing some essential quality of that same face. We recall that Wilde presented the mask as a lie that paradoxically tells a greater truth about the hidden face. Thus, t o understand Vertigo Madeleine, one must address her as both mask and face, as symbol and reality. While proposed title The Mask and the set the two ideas at odds, Madeleine fuses the two together and reveals the Barthesian insistence that the face and th e mask need not be mutually exclusive or set in opposition to one another. Masks, subterfuge, and multiple identities need not deter, but rather should pique, a aesthetic interest, as they pique mask/face is first presented to the viewer at the same moment she is first presented to Scottie at restaurant. Scottie's gaze first lands on her while she sits with Elster at dinner; she wears a black dress and is draped in a green shawl, a color which frequently points back to memory and loss as evident in The Great Gatsby green light. As Madeleine and Elster leave the table, the lights in the main dining hall dim significantly, an obvious cinematic effect rather than a real restaurant occurrence. This lighting adjustment i mmediately thrusts the sequence from simple introduction to elaborate performance, not entirely unlike the spotlights and shadows both on and off the stage in The Red Shoes When Madeleine enters immediate gaze, she stops and the lights are brigh tened. She stands in profile, and the shot frames her bust. Thus, her first presentation is aesthetically overdetermined. She is performer, statue, and portrait all at once. She is real, we assume, but this shot and its set up make her a static image, prov iding the first instance of face becoming mask. From this arresting moment, Scottie thinks outside of his own neuroses and accepts the job, as is suggested when the next shot shows him waiting for Madeleine to leave her home the next morning. H e does so
149 because she draws him in not merely as a woman draws in a man, but more particularly as a work of art draws in an aesthetic gaze. Similar to what Baudelaire suggested of in The Painter of Modern Life when Madeleine positions her self as object within gaze, she invites his appreciation as both a man and a spectator. Baudelaire wrote, under the spur of so forceful a prompting, the imagination receives a clear cut image of the impression produced by the e xternal world upon the mind of Monsieur (Baudelaire 16). Monsieur G., in essay, refers to the artist Constantin Guys, but in Vertigo Madeleine represents both artist and art; she not only prompts the image for the spectator, but she also is the image. This initial aesthetic punctum draws Scottie out of his near death experience that opened the film and introduced his vertigo, then places him within the aesthetic narrative. As if following advice, he experiences a new shock, and Mad introduction is the first of many shocks that will eventually push him out of his fears. His obsession no longer lies solely within his own neuroses, but also includes his fixation on this woman/object. Her name alludes to the iconic madeleine of Marcel In Search of Lost Time in which the narrator dips a madeleine into his tea, then suddenly is transported back to a specific memory. The madeleine is the means toward this involuntary memory, and Hitchcock's Madeleine acts in a similar fash ion: as a mnemonic art object, she pulls Scottie towards herself and thus paradoxically closer to addressing his own neuroses. Besides the vertigo shots and the almost psychedelic opening and dream sequences, Vertigo most famous sequences occur while Sc ottie follows wanderings through San Francisco. During these sections, similar in length and in visual play (such as overlays and abstract forms) to the ballet sequence in The Red Shoes the viewer is always already complicit in
150 gaze. This is due to ingenious use of point of view shots and eye line cuts. 2 Although initially reluctant to take the job, Scottie settles into his role as spectator of the beautiful female object, and his comfort in this role is mirrored in the fl uid sequences, almost twenty minutes long, in which we follow Scottie following Madeleine. As we follow him, his gaze becomes our gaze, and thus the world within the film and the world of the film become inseparable. This gaze filters through every represe ntation of Madeleine as an aesthetic object and as the creator of her personal aesthetic self, because we never really see Madeleine except as a refracted figure through the obsessed eyes. Yet, this stalking sequence, which most critics view as ideal pure cinema, is actually broken apart by various tableaux that Madeleine enacts for her viewers, thus transforming a diegetic sequence, under control, into a mimetic one, under limited control. 3 Scottie watches as she leaves her home in a gray suit and goes to buy flowers. Then in the flower shop, Madeleine presents the first tableau: in her fitted gray suit, she is a statue surrounded by a riot of floral color. From here, she travels to the cemetery, where she performs her s econd tableau, standing transfixed in front of Carlotta grave and holding the flowers she bought. Her next stop, and the most important, is the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, where she gazes upon a portrait of Carlotta. Scottie looks at her as she looks at Carlotta, establishing the concentric gazes that drive the film and that are visually represented in the graphic sequences and vertigo shots. Finally, Scottie follows her to the McKittrick Hotel, where she sits in a room, and the windo w frames her contemplative pose. The scenes are so 2 First developed by French filmmakers i n the 1920s such stylistic tricks strip the film experience down to basic ideas of rhythm, motion, and visual composition. 3 I refer to agency in this sequence as limited because, as in Kim Novak and relationship, Madeleine is dressing, moving, and acting the role her Elster constructed for her.
151 meticulously designed that, as Dan Auiler has noted, love story at the heart of Vertigo was photographed by Alfred Hitchcock and his production team with such beauty and craftsmanship that many of the individual shots . resemble carefully composed (119). The painterly composition of these scenes is not merely for its own sake, but instead punctuates in memory particular moments and aesthetic objects. Madeleine consciously poses herself, and these tiny Baudelairean stick in mind and help him solve the mystery in the second half of the film. He continually returns to these tableaux, thereby testifying to deft hand at performance and at transforming h er body into an aesthetic object. In this regard, she is not unlike Powell and Vicky, who is a performer and artist in a more literal sense. The episode at the gallery is especially transfixing for Scottie because, unlike the others, the gal lery scene features concentric gazes and concentric portraits. When Scottie first enters the gallery, a long shot captures his silhouette, looking out onto sitting figure as she in turn gazes upon the portrait of Carlotta. This composition prod uces an imagistic ripple effect, originating at the portrait itself. As the scene progresses, Scottie moves closer and begins matching physical attributes to those of the painting. He notes the uncanny resemblance between her hair and s, while also comparing the almost identical nosegays that both female figures hold. During this sequence, characterized by multiple eye line cuts between Scottie, Madeleine, and the painting, the movement holds, and the pictures become still life s. Brigitte Peucker discusses Hitchcock's preoccupation with paintings and still lifes in her essay Cut of Representation: Painting and Sculpture in . we can say that in Hitchcock films character and spectator attention is drawn to still lifes not only as the space of the feminine, but because these paintings embody an uncanny contradiction no matter that their subject is organic, was
152 once living: still lifes are natures mortes dead nature their flowers and fruit killed off into and fixed within the space of representation. (Peucker 142) While Peucker correctly identifies the importance of painting and of its connection to the feminine, I would point out that this particular moment accentuates not one but two still lifes: both portrait and Madeleine herself. The important differ ence lies in one still ability to get up, walk outside the gallery, and continue wandering through San Francisco. distinction as both portrait and person challenges reading of art through death, at least for a time. Madeleine o f course dies twice in the film, but she lives multiple lives before that. Moreover, how she lives colors the manner and the aesthetic significance of her repeated deaths. As the case progresses, Scottie and Madeleine grow attached to one another, and he now has a personal investment in helping and curing Madeleine madness. Yet halfway through the film, Scottie fails, and Madeleine seemingly throws herself from the same tower Carlotta once used to commit suicide. This fall shocks Scottie, much like his f ellow police fall that opened the film, and he is placed in a psychiatric hospital. There, he falls victim to nightmares, and the film vividly depicts one such nightmare in a visual sequence not unlike Saul opening titles, except that John Ferren, artistic consultant for the film, created and directed the nightmare sequence. Ferren utilizes color, composition, and specific images to achieve an almost hypnotic moment for the viewers and a terrifying one for Scottie, particularly as portrait transforms into a living woman. The nightmare begins as pulsing flashes of color disrupt the shot, and throughout the scene, these flashes mimic a quickening heartbeat. 4 The graphics enter own head, depicting his major aest hetic fixations, beginning with 4 Ferren himself pointed out this mimetic pulse i n his production notes.
153 the nosegay Madeleine and Carlotta carried. The floral bouquet breaks apart into abstract petals, then Ferren cuts directly to a shot of Scottie and Elster from earlier in the film except in this shot, a variant living versi on of the Carlotta portrait stands between them in the key sense that this woman is not Kim Novak as Madeleine; she is an entirely different actress, representing the portrait as a living being. The shot sequence then shifts to the same different actress i n the sitting position as depicted in the portrait, and the shot centers on the necklace she wears. This nightmare sequence stands apart from the film because of its visual style, but this separate position only emphasizes the important role it plays in es tablishing and by extension interest in uncanny portraiture and art transformed to life. During the nightmare, we are presented with a living version of the Carlotta portrait, an explicit realization of what Madeleine only subtly re presented. Vertigo second half concerns itself with replicating the uncanny, dreamlike nature of this portrait woman and does so through transformation back into Madeleine and thus back into a living aesthetic object. Once Scottie leaves the hosp ital, he revisits the tableaux that punctuated his wanderings with Madeleine. As he wanders, he begins seeing various doubles, most of whom bear a minimal resemblance to his Madeleine. Then, in a new place, Scottie happens upon Judy, a woman striking in he r resemblance to Madeleine. If it were not for her brunette hair, cheap clothes, and heavy makeup, Judy and Madeleine would be exact copies. Scottie, like the Pygmalion of myth, notes the uncanny resemblance and completely makes Judy over, molding her into the Madeleine of his memory. Here, the artistic power shifts from the female to the male protagonist, and like Monsieur G., Scottie enacts the two elements necessary to creating mnemonic art: first, an intense effort of memory that evoke s and calls back to life a memory that says to everything, the second, a fire, an intoxication of the pencil or the brush,
154 amounting almost to a (Baudelaire 17). Scottie embodies description during the makeover seque nce, as he takes Judy to a dress shop then forces her into a salon, where her hair is given the stereotypical Hitchcock treatment with a bottle of peroxide. Scottie constantly refers back to specific attributes, so as to recreate them exactly o n the canvas of body. Judy, unlike Madeleine, is not a self constructed aesthetic object. She does not perform for her own sake, as evidenced through her repeated protests of demands. She tells Scottie she simply will not wear the suit or dye her hair, and Scottie answers, it for me. It can't matter to This moment closely mirrors the train station scene in The Red Shoes when Lermontov convinces Vicky to put on the red shoes again. Citing his power over her and her disin terested self, Scottie sees only a shadow of a woman, who will become Madeleine again if he can only physically transform her in exactly the right way. His artistic frenzy drives him, but it simultaneously destroys Judy, who in her role as Madeleine once p ossessed aesthetic power and personification Judy ultimately succumbs to this manipulation, essentially handing her aesthetic power over to an obsessive directorial male. The dream fulfillment inherent in this relation climaxes in Judy's final reveal as a newly made Madeleine. Once she emerges from her bathroom post makeover, she is bathed in green light, and when Scottie finally kisses her, the camera spins around them, while a shot of the Spanish mission is projected onto the mise en scne. Thus, Scottie 's vertigo, Madeleine's past, and the green light all coalesce, resulting in an orgasmic moment where a woman becomes a memory, an object, and a work of art all at once. Judy/Madeleine has once again become an aesthetic object, but rather than signify more productively through that transformation, as any great work of art would, she dies less than ten minutes later.
155 Once the spinning, kissing moment has ended, the couple emerge into a post aesthetic reality, where the newly made Judy returns to her Madelei ne tendencies. Scottie reaches for her while she finishes getting dressed for dinner, but she shies away from him saying she her face While she is obviously referring to her makeup, this line subtly recalls the mask/face tension of ch aracter and so, while ostensibly a rebuff, is in fact an equivocal push pull response. Judy, although initially resistant to her transformation back to Madeleine, now relishes the change because it has brought her closer to Scottie and arguably closer to t hat ideal aesthetic object she was in the first half of the film. psychological ambivalence mirrors Kim own feelings during production: she initially outright refused to wear the gray suit Hitchcock wanted and Edith Head had designed, only t o obey eventually as Hitchcock remained adamant. Yet, she did so because, as Auiler reports, she formulated her own rationale to justify the wardrobe: is trapped into portraying Madeleine, and she doesn't want to . But she always has to go along with what someone else wants in order to get what she (Auiler 67 68). That circuitous route to agency defines journey as well. Throughout the film, men manage her aesthetic potential, but within that management, she also carves out space for her own creativity. The tableaux of the stalking sequences serve this purpose in section, and Judy displays her own creativity during this scene shortly before the conclusion: she has her face on and has essentially masked hers elf in makeup, but she also puts on necklace, an object she kept to remember her successful aesthetic journey through Madeleine. On the one hand, we are reminded of argument in the of chapter in The Pa inter of Modern Life that makeup paradoxically reveals a more and even transcendent face than a real face ever
156 could; on the other hand, the keepsake Carlotta necklace is an attempt to retain a measure of her own agency. Rather than end the film here, allowing the heroine her mask and her keepsake, Hitchcock shows his hero immediately drawing a fatal connection between the necklace and the repeated tableau of Carlotta portrait, a tableau that Madeleine planted in brain and tha t punctuated his nightmares in the psychiatric hospital. It is uncanny proof of claim that All good and true draughtsmen draw from the image imprinted on their brains, and not from (Baudelaire 16) and of the fact that aesthetic agency ultimately undoes her. Connecting necklace back to the Carlotta portrait, Scottie once again drives her to the Spanish mission and thus fulfills the circularity and doubling inherent within the narrative. Subconsciously h e needs this Judy/Madeleine creation to die the same way his first Madeleine did, not because he seeks a complete realization of his Galatea figure, but because this woman duped his faculties as a detective. On their way to the mission, he tells Judy, h ave to go into the past once He reverts again to his mnemonic neurosis and seeks another shock to push out of this Judy/Madeleine/Carlotta loop, thinking that confronting Judy about his realization will help him do that. During the final sequence, S cottie follows her up the fatal tower, and on the way up, he begins uncovering her plot as Madeleine and his part as an auxiliary victim to her performance. He confronts her with her she is not a pure aesthetic object but a fraud, a mere copy of El wife: was the one who died. Not you. The real wife. You were the copy, you were the While this accusation does not completely invalidate Judy/Madeleine as a true aesthetic object, it does call into question whether she is an auton omous aesthetic creator. Even if she deserved credit for a flawless performance, the purely mimetic nature constitutes the main problem, which Scottie articulates
157 when he says (with Judy helplessly nodding agreement), played wife so well, J udy. He made you over, he? Just as done. But better! Not just the hair and the clothes, but the look, the manner, the words, those beautiful phony trances. . Did he train you? Rehearse you? Teach you what to say and what to All these a ccusations implicate a director, that increasingly apparent puppet master role that runs behind the machinery of this entire plot and of Vertigo itself. When Scottie and Judy reach the top of the tower, Judy again falls to her death because a dark shadow b ehind Scottie frightens her. The dark shadow reveals itself as a nun, but in that dark shadow resides the same specter that drives the penultimate sequence in Red ballet. Just as that shadow terrified Vicky on the stage, the specter of the many men controlling Judy and Madeleine (and even Kim Novak) also thwarts her/their aesthetic agency and causes her final fall. is, in fact, classic aesthetic indictment of impure Life constraining potentially transcendent Art, that her role is purely mimetic, not truly creative. Plato held that art itself is purely derivative, but for Wilde, the forms that t ruly push and break the boundaries between art and life must necessarily separate from previous forms and present an inherently new (if hybrid) figure or work. In short, they must embody notion of repetition interpretation rather than just mere repetition: must, through repetition interpretation of the way in which the feminine finds itself determined in discourse as lack, default, or as mime and inverted reproduction of the subject show that on the feminine side it is possible to exceed and disturb this (Moi 138 139). Judy/Madeleine ultimately dies because she is really the mirror of another woman, whose performance and aesthetic sensibilities were controlled by a man. Rather than resist these embodiments of patriarchy, Judy and Madeleine ultimately surrender. Ironically (or not so ironically, from a feminist standpoint), in
158 trying to retain some control over her aesthetic identity she fails to pass the most fundamentally Wildean test of aesthetic self development, to create a new truth that is both personal and original. While both Vertigo and The Red Shoes enjoyed major popular success, this mid century period also saw the emergence of other art forms the revival in American theater, the television boom, and the rise of comic bo oks and pulp magazines; the latter of which were not as universally popular as the cinema but nonetheless reached a similar kind of audience, hungry for new means of expression. Like the heroines of The Red Shoes and Vertigo many protagonists in undergrou nd pulp fiction, particularly queer pulp novels, ultimately die for either their provocative aesthetic sensibilities or queer sexualities both usually intermingled. Patricia The Price of Salt (1952) broke this destructive cycle, set by preceden t and by censorship laws, when she allowed her lesbian heroines a happy ending. Yet, before her characters reach this end, the protagonist Therese must first come to terms with her lover uncanny aestheticism. Through this novel, Highsmith r eveals how queer sexuality enhances aesthetic potential and suggests that queer subjectivities may ultimately offer a means around the living art object which can only find individuation through death. Perhaps not as generally canonical as Vertigo o r The Red Shoes The Price of Salt nonetheless holds a groundbreaking position in the lesbian pulp canon. Patricia Highsmith first made a name for herself in 1950 with the release of her first novel Strangers on a Train an immediately successful thriller that Alfred Hitchcock later adapted to the screen. Both the novel and the film drew a wide audience, thus establishing Highsmith as an author worthy of
159 flair for adaptation. 5 The pulp novel frequently interested Hitchcock, and indeed even Verti go was adapted from a French pulp novel, revealing the potential for aesthetic depth. Despite this early success, Highsmith adopted a pseudonym for her second novel The Price of Salt which differs dramatically from the psychological thriller narr ative of Strangers on a Train Her second novel follows Therese, a young shopgirl and stage designer, who falls in love with Carol, a disillusioned housewife, whose husband will later divorce her and cite her deviant sexuality in a bid for their custody. Highsmith thus begins the narrative from a conventional lesbian pulp starting point: the experienced lesbian Carol draws out closeted queer sexuality. Before The Price of Salt lesbian pulp novels typically shared similar qualities: a sorority (or other all girl institution) setting, the innocent blonde and tempting brunette dynamic, and brutally morbid conclusions. Highsmith, however, makes pointed changes throughout her narra tive to distinguish her story from the others. Instead of a contained sorority house, Highsmith places her women in Manhattan, its suburbs, and throughout America; she reverses the standard roles of the blonde and brunette; and finally, she ends her novel on a positive note with her lead women deciding to live together in a Manhattan flat. Therese reaches this happy ending with Carol because she confronts Carol as an aesthetic object and, unlike Lermontov and Scottie, accepts her uncanny nature. Bot h women escape tragedy because they overcome the aesthetic and sometimes grotesque obstacles Highsmith places in their way. Like Powell and Pressburger in The Red Shoes Highsmith in The Price of Salt utilizes the fairy tale form as a means toward introd ucing a highly aesthetic narrative into an otherwise 5 Highsmith, however, never cared for what Hitchcock did with her work and frequently decried his duplicitous method of gaining the rights to the novel.
160 typical life, starting with one of the first scenes of the novel: entrapment within her coworker Mrs. dungeon like apartment. In her new job as a department store counter g irl, Therese reluctantly befriends the achingly normal Mrs. Robichek, who invites Therese to her home in a bid for her further friendship. T he scene that follows prefigures larger journey toward aesthetic individuation. Once Therese has spent som e time with Mrs. Robichek in her apartment, the narrator comments, Mrs. Robichek and her apartment were like a horrible dream that she had just realized she was dreaming. Mrs. Robichek was the hunchbacked keeper of the (Highsmith 23). Al so, the descriptions of Mrs. body are almost nightmare inducing. Therese notes terrible, shocking ugliness of the short, heavy body with the bulging (20) and her head . tilted (21). Mrs. Robichek is physicall y at odds with the Carol to whom we and Therese are introduced two chapters later, who falls nothing short of Grace Kelly in her description and portrayal. As Russell Harrison notes in his discussion of The Price of Salt contrast between Mrs. Robiche and way of life is . a contrast between the of everyday existence and the possibilities that open up when one decides to (Harrison 99). reading highlights everyday life and choice, two ideas that the heroines of Vertigo and The Red Shoes reach for along with their aesthetic fulfillment. Yet, both women die in their journeys, and greatest challenge arises when she must mesh the two existences represented by Mrs. apartment and Carol uncanny portrait, life and art respectively. Furthermore, eventual escape from this fairy tale distinguishes her from connection to the fairy tale in The Red Shoes Whereas Vicky could only achieve an empty fulfillment of the fairy tal e narrative, Therese eventually breaks through this narrative and establishes a new aesthetic self realization.
161 Importantly, during this initial fairy tale sequence, complete with dungeons, hunchbacks, poisons, and chains, Highsmith introduces the symboli c mirror, which forms a lens through which we can better understand Therese and relationship later in the novel. Forced to try on one of Mrs. dresses, Therese confronts herself in the apartment's mirror: It was the dress of queens in fa iry tales, of a red deeper than blood. She stepped back . and looked back at her own dark hazel eyes in the mirror. Herself meeting herself. . She wished she could kiss the person in the mirror and make her come to life, yet she stood perfectly sti ll, like a painted portrait. (Highsmith 22) Before delving into the mirror itself, Highsmith first establishes the distinctly fairy tale qualities this moment possesses. For instance, one of the most important mirrors in female literary tradition is in th e character of Snow White. The Queen looks into her mirror and not only sees herself but also what she lacks Snow beauty. (Even the color of dress, deeper than recalls Snow body, as the reddest as presen ted in Hans Christian s tale .) In case, she sees her literal self what/who she is and her portrait self what/who she desires. This same duality defines how she reads and misreads Carol as a character and lover. The mirror motif runs t hrough fairy tales, Gothic literature, and finally the female or lesbian narrative, as evidenced by Gilbert and use of Snow White to undergird their groundbreaking feminist work The Madwoman in the Attic Through this canon, the mirror consistently holds the dual power of determining and distorting meaning. struggle with her own identity is as important to The Price of Salt as her relationship to Carol, especially since we see her move from an unemployed, uninspired young woman to a hired stage designer and lover. During the mirror sequence, she wants to kiss the mirror and become this manufactured image rather than live in a reality this side of the looking glass. Carol even comments on love of reflected images later in the novel. At a
162 rest stop on their cross country road trip, Carol says, wonder if you'll really enjoy this trip . You so prefer things reflected in a glass, you? You have your private conception of (Highsmith 177). After this remar k, Therese thinks, felt Carol meant, too, that she had a private conception of her, and that Carol resented it. Real people? She thought suddenly of Mrs. Robichek. And she had fled her because she was (178). Mrs. inclusion in this reflective moment speaks volumes on how Therese constructs herself and her world. Carol is not Mrs. Robichek, which means she is not real. constant shrinking from reality and her love of reflections represent her greatest obstacle in the narrativ e, and one she must overcome if she is to fully confront her aesthetic self. Just as Therese understands herself through her own reflected images, she places motives, character, and actions how like or unlike she is from her initial underst anding of Carol when they first met at the doll counter of the department store within this continuum. The first description of Carol is striking in its ability to convey own sense of wonder toward the beautiful woman who has just ent ered her department. The speaker and Therese, by extension, note, was tall and fair, her long figure graceful in the loose fur coat that she held open with a hand on her waist. Her eyes were gray, colorless, yet dominant as light or fire, and, caught by them, Therese could not look (39). Much like entrance in Vertigo Carol immediately transfixes her future romantic lover and also the audience. While the novel form does not possess the filmic ability to arrest Carol mid stride and pre sent her as a portrait to the reader, Highsmith nonetheless uses certain Freudian and consumerist symbols at her disposal to crystallize introduction and thus establish obsession at first sight. Russell Harrison takes a consumerist, objec t oriented stance in his reading of the sequence: first sees Carol as a model, objectified almost in a
163 showroom: in point of fact, in a department store. And this facet of Carol, and of relationship to her, is underlined a number of tim es in the (Harrison 102). As the description reveals, reading of Carol as a model is not too far from the mark. Taking this idea of Carol as model, her uncanny potential as a figure situated between a living body and a static object begs a reading of this scene through Freud. conception of the uncanny posited that an object whose reality or unreality proved difficult to distinguish also triggered repressed memories in whatever person looked upon the uncanny figure or object. Rath er than Carol as model, however, the truly uncanny figures in this scene the ones that establish the unreal mood and set the uncanny nature in motion lie more blatantly in the dolls surrounding Therese. When she first makes her way to Therese, Carol does not ask to see the dolls, but, as if to emphasize this moment, she makes another purchase, leaves the counter, then comes back to purchase a doll. From point of view, woman was walking toward her, and as if time had turned back, s he leaned gently on the counter again and gestured to a doll and asked to see (Highsmith 42). This purchase ends the scene and their first meeting, but it also establishes their uncanny relationship, which eventually uncovers repressed memori es along with her repressed homosexuality. Freud, while discussing the uncanny and objects which blur the lines between reality and unreality, writes, dolls, of course, we are not far from the world of childhood. . children are not afraid of thei r dolls coming to life they may even want them to. Here, then, the sense of the uncanny would derive not from an infantile fear, but from an infantile wish, or simply from an infantile (Freud 141). When the uncanny exists between two women, critics usually point out a mother/daughter psychological dynamic and move on with their analysis, but this assumption of heteronormativity, which dictates that two women trapped in the uncanny must be enacting their
164 mother/daughter roles, distorts moments like t his scene and turns it into some infantile sexual deviance. By using dolls to punctuate the uncanny, lesbian narrative establishes not that there is some weird mother/daughter dynamic going on here, but instead, foreshadows the childhood memory that shocks Therese once she sees portrait later in the novel. Highsmith adds another uncanny undercurrent in this scene by establishing eerie sense of familiarity toward Carol. After they meet, Carol immediately triggers memo ry, but for most of the novel, Therese does not know which memory or moment Carol reminds her of. Instead of frightening her, this familiarity forms one of strongest attractions, much like mnemonic attraction to Madeleine in Vertigo Duri ng their first meeting in the department store, glanced at her, and the sensation returned that she knew her from somewhere, that the woman was about to reveal herself, and they would both laugh then, and (43). Later, on their first lu nch date, Therese again that instant of half recognition. And knew, too, that it was not to be believed. She had never seen the woman before. If she had, could she have (51). Highsmith establishes and carries this tip of the tongue memory through the rest of the novel and their relationship. Therese is almost constantly plagued by the familiarity and the simultaneous distance she feels toward Carol. Her familiarity also reinforces the uncanny motif set up earlier with the dolls. Again, Fre ud argues, uncanny is that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been (Freud 124). The uncanny then not only depends on two objects, frightening in their similarity and dissimilarity to reality, but also hearkens back to some earlier, often repressed, point in the consciousness. At this point in the narrative, however, uncanny familiarity does not frighten Therese; instead, it attracts her. However, Carol uncanny qualities, li terally rendered in an aesthetic object (her portrait), do terrif y Therese.
165 After they meet, the plot drives forward with frequent trips to house and finally the road trip they take across America. Along the way, a detective hired by Harge, husband and the villain of the novel, records their nights together, includ ing the night they consummate their relationship. Carol leaves Therese and returns to New York after she learns that Harge knows about her relationship with Therese and plans to use it against her in their custody battle. After Carol leaves, Therese encoun ters uncanny portrait, which forms the aesthetic climax of the text. To reach her happy ending, Therese, the Gothic heroine in this moment, must overcome this terrifying obstacle, which reveals both her superficial view of Carol and her repressed c hildhood memories. This obstacle, especially its particularly supernatural nature, does not belong exclusively to the uncanny tradition, but as Paulina Palmer posits, this scene is also very important to the lesbian Gothic narrative: writers, in striving to transcend the sexual and social restrictions imposed on women in hetero patriarchal society, frequently relinquish the territory of realism and move, during episodes of key importance, into the realm of the utopian and the (Palmer 6 ). The portrait scene in Sioux Falls epitomizes this move from lived reality to the fantastic, and thus justifies the placement of The Price of Salt amongst such works as The Red Shoes and Vertigo both of which feature a pivotal, often fantastic scene whe re the protagonists must come to terms with an embodied aesthetic object. The portrait scene itself is as stereotypically fantastic as the sequence in Mrs. apartment, which occupies an exactly mirrored (and opposing) place in the narrative stru cture. Just as Mrs. apartment defines the beginning of the text, so portrait defines its conclusion. confrontation with the portrait takes place in the dusty, uninhabited third floor of the Sioux Falls library. The bookshelves are enclosed by glass, various oil paintings
166 cover the walls, and Highsmith adds a dust covered bust of Homer for good measure. Therese wearily sits down at a table, but immediately senses something amiss about the place. Without understanding why, fe lt prickles of terror in the roots of her (Highsmith 259), then turns around and confronts the portrait. Therese recognizes it immediately and remembers that had seen it many times in the hall that led to the music room before they had taken it down when she was a small (259). The portrait then connects to not just any memory, but a memory from her childhood in particular. This moment brings to fruition the thread Highsmith sustained throughout the narrative regarding uncanny sense of familiarity. Finally, Therese makes the connection blatant: It was Carol. Now in the long moment while she could not look away from it, the mouth smiled and the eyes regarded her with nothing but mockery, the last veil lifted and revealing nothing but mockery and gloating, the splendid satisfaction of the betrayal accomplished. (259) Therese immediately runs from the scene of her betrayal, but the break is already made, and for the rest of the novel, she must reconcile the two Carols that have now em erged: the real Carol and the portrait Carol. This shocking aesthetic moment bears a strong similarity to Dorian confrontation with his own portrait in Chapter 2 discussion of The Picture of Dorian Gray But this scene and its denouement in the novel falling action also pinpoint the changes that the embodied aesthetic object has undergone from incendiary novel to pulp narrative, specifically from a purely supernatural object that essentially kills Dorian to a psychoso matic object that threatens individuation. In either form, the fictive portrait acts as a means toward understanding a duality. When Dorian Gray first confronts his portrait, even before the curse is cast, he implores Basil, did you paint it? It will mock me
167 some day mock me ( P DG 30). Then later, when first sin against Sibyl mars the face, he wonders: Once, in boyish mockery of Narcissus, he had kissed, or feigned to kiss, those painted lips that now smiled so cruelly at him. Morning after morning he had sat before the portrait wondering at its beauty, almost enamoured of it, as it seemed to him at times. (105 106) This mirrored kiss brings to mind own Narcissus like moment during the fairy tale sequence in Mrs. apartment when Therese she could kiss the person in the mirror and make her come to life, yet she stood perfectly still, like a painted (Highsmith 22). Thus, through her confrontation with a portrait uncanny in its relation to the living Carol, Therese also confronts her own aesthetic double established earlier in the narrative and, like Dorian Gray, she is variously sedu ced and disgusted. Both portraits, portrait and mirror, establish this ability to perfectly illustrate two beings: the real self and the fantastic other. In The Picture of Dorian Gray portrait acts as both portrait and mirror because it reveals himself and is completely external from his living body. dual use of the portrait and mirror, however, reveals how an aesthetic object can infiltrate the human mind and direct its actions in a positive way, and this pr actice also establishes an important advancement where the portrait and the body truly become one. This synthesis, however, between our real and imagistic selves is never easy and often requires a literal struggle in fiction, as the falling action in The Price of Salt reveals Toni McNaron describes the ability, within a lesbian aesthetic, to help the heroine define herself against others and/ or her imagined other. This symbolic potential explains inclusion early in the novel of a fri ghtening, but also fantastic mirror moment in Mrs. apartment. As McNaron writes, that mirror casts back an image too dissonant with our own self concept, we wind up split at some root and crazed. Each of our relations casts back an image
168 tha t can be located on this continuum from such nightmare reflections to a sense of total identification between outside and (McNaron 295). In The Price of Salt own portrait sequence, portrait is already powerful enough, but considering the structural placement directly opposite to mirror scene, use of the portrait as both artistic object and mirror underscores the aesthetic goals. How Therese thinks about and even talks about Carol from this moment to th e end perfectly depicts that split McNaron speaks of, not only in Therese but also in her idea of Carol. While Therese bides her time in Sioux Falls before finally returning to New York, Danny, one of possible heterosexual suitors alwa ys a few in the lesbian pulp narrative), shows up, and Therese almost tells him all about Carol and the portrait: She had an impulse to tell Danny the rest, about the picture in the library, the picture in the school. And about the Carol who was not a picture, but a woman with a child and a husband, with freckles on her hands and a habit of cursing, of growing melancholy at unexpected moments, with a bad habit of indulging her will. (Highsmith 269) Therese has already constructed two comple tely separate Carols: the perfect portrait Carol and the imperfect real Carol. Also, in her interactions with Carol after this moment, Therese has trouble getting the uncanny portrait Carol out of her mind. While she speaks to a mutual friend on the phone, who asks her why she has not called Carol, Therese thinks, why hadn't she? Because she had been thinking of a picture instead of (265); and even when she speaks to Carol in person, stopped, her thoughts obstructed suddenly by the mem ory of the portrait in Sioux (275). Here, we see explicitly the divide that Therese has made between the real Carol and the portrait Carol. To use terms, portrait, like a mirror, reveals an analogous self and other. Therese must re concile these two Carols and their uncanny
169 implications or ultimately keep them divided, which in turn would divide her from Carol, foreclosing the sexual and aesthetic potential. conclusion to the novel resolve s the mystery surroundin g portrait and thus averts ultimately falling into the tragedy of the standard patriarchal narratives, Vertigo The Red Shoes and the other mainstream pulp novels. By including Genevieve Cranell, an uncanny double of Carol, in the final section, Highsmith gives Therese a way out of her aesthetic obsession with portrait and, in giving Carol another uncanny double, paradoxically solves the mystery through repetition. After seeing Carol and initially refusing her offer that they live together in an apartment she just bought in Manhattan, Therese goes to a party hosted by her future employer. There, she meets the actress Genevieve Cranell and immediately notices the uncanny similarity she bears to Carol. When Genevieve enters the room, Therese feels the same spark she felt when she first met Carol: knew before they were introduced that this woman was like Carol. And she was beautiful. And she did not look like the picture in the (Highsmith 283). These last two characterist ics obviously signify in a highly positive manner toward ability to move on from Carol; this woman is not only beautiful, but she also has no association to the portrait. main characteristic, however, lies in her physical similarity t o Carol, which initially attracts then repulses Therese. She feels a surge of flattery at the thought that Genevieve may be interested in her, as she obviously is. Yet, attraction comes to an abrupt halt when she realizes that Cranell would never mean anything to her, nothing apart from this half hour at the cocktail party, . the excitement she felt now would not (285). If she did start a relationship with Genevieve, she would only be chasing an uncanny apparition of Carol rather than a real human being. She realizes the emptiness of such a relationship and decides against it.
170 From this larger realization, Therese then descends to the details of Genevieve appearance and wonders, What was it that told her? Therese stared at the taut line of her blonde eyebrow as the first smoke rose from the cigarette, but the answer was not (285). blonde eyebrow, although a small detail, holds the key to understanding exactly what happens here. From the first moment Th erese and Carol met, Therese made a point to notice eyebrows, which blonde, curving around the bend of her (40), and after they make love in Waterloo, Therese notes bending blonde eyebrow that she (190). f acsimile eyebrow, however, does not hold the answer to problems, precisely because it is a facsimile rather than the real physical characteristic on Carol. She is, once again, looking into a mirror for meaning rather than at the object itself. In Vertigo continued obsession with a woman, who he eventually realized was nothing more than a counterfeit of another woman, ultimately drove Judy to her death and presumably drove him to further madness. Therese, on the other hand, realizes the emptiness within repetition and searches for the living portrait Carol rather than her pale copy. Thus, Highsmith uses another jolt of the uncanny to bring Therese back to Carol. The almost Irigarayan excess of mirrors and mimesis throughout the final sect ion finally drives Therese to action. Thanks to their earlier conversation, Carol is still completely available to Therese since she mentioned the restaurant where she would be dining. Therese gets to the restaurant and immediately sees her: raised her hand slowly and brushed her hair back, once on either side, and Therese smiled because the gesture was Carol, and it was Carol she loved and would always (287). After going through the course of the novel with the mythic, fairy tale journey in m ind, this gesture becomes all the more important. Therese recognizes Carol when she sees her do something completely ordinary, mundane, but her own. Highsmith takes this
171 culminating moment for Therese and the aesthetic narrative one step further when she a dds another gesture that ends the novel: Then as she was about to go to her, Carol saw her, seemed to stare at her incredulously a moment while Therese watched the slow smile growing, before her arm lifted suddenly, her hand waved a quick, eager greeting t hat Therese had never seen before. Therese walked toward her. (287) With this gesture, the mimetic continuum of the narrative ends. Not only has Therese returned to a real Carol, whom she knows, but she also returns to a Carol she does not know. From the beginning of their relationship, Therese struggled with familiarity. The portrait set her on a tragic trajectory, but the addition of another uncanny figure brought her back to reality, illustrating that individuation need not come from a struggle of oppositions, like the love triangles at work in Vertigo and The Red Shoes but can indeed rise from a series defined by mirrors, doubles, and uncanny portraiture. The Price of Salt adds another stage to the evolution of the living aesthetic object and reveals how aesthetic coupling, between two characters and between an aestheticized female and external stimuli, can move a person or persons closer to fusing art and life. At this point in mid century art, fictional forms still required some mediator to h elp their characters achieve full aesthetic embodiment. Some outside force, for instance, draws out a aesthetic potential, but that same Svengali force often chokes the potential out of the statue once it becomes a living being. Through this strug gle of oppositions, between the managerial figure and the living aesthetic object, auteurs like Hitchcock, Powell, and Pressburger begin that transition from a Modernist aesthetic ideal to a postmodern aesthetic realization. Mimicking their own roles in th e filmmaking process, their heroes try to direct their aesthetic heroines into a full embodiment of the life as art ideal.
172 Highsmith, in The Price of Salt arguably does the same, utilizing external stimuli to jolt her heroine into a fused understanding o f her lover as both living and aesthetic object. Yet, the objects and moments Highsmith utilizes, such as the uncanny object, the portrait, and the doppelgnger, all depend on likeness through disparity. Vicky and Madeleine ultimately die because they cann ot reconcile the warring men around them, but Highsmith aids her journey toward aesthetic fulfillment by providing her with objects that only emphasize unity through difference. Therese overcomes the mundanity of life and moves into a space where art can inform life and eventually outstrip it. Ultimately, The Price of Salt follows Therese as she moves from mundanity to art, and through that journey, both her and her partner emerge as fully aesthetic beings. Not only has Therese accepted her mirror self and Carol her portrait self, but Therese gets a fashion makeover and a job as stage designer in a major theater company, while Carol opens a furniture store and looks into interior design. Highsmith uses these career choices, centered in design, to f urther establish her move from a normal life to an aesthetic life. This successful postmodern transformation of life into art occurred not only in a particular genre and form obscure pulp novels that arguably invites outr sexualities and sensib ilities, but also in the mainstream world of high fashion, not least in the extremely popular work of Diana Vreeland. As the editor of Bazaar and Vogue during the 1950s and 60s, she transformed models not unlike Carol into works of art and made th e fashion editor a major role in establishing international aesthetic taste. After getting unceremoniously pushed out of Vogue thanks to their interest in selling clothes rather than creating art, she began working at the Metropolitan Museum of Costume Institute. There, she presented her most groundbreaking work. Through provocative curation and an irreverence for historical accuracy, she redefined the cultural importance and transformed the museum space into a living
173 art scene. H er aesthetic sensibilities, both in her art and her life, gesture toward the pop icons she invented and who in future generations would eventually fully embody themselves as art objects. Like the many discussed in this chapter, Diana Vreeland ru led her worlds with a firm hand, in both the magazine and the museum, and gives us a fine example of a woman managing the living art objects she hired and immortalized. While film directors work within a collaborative team, there are few creative projects more collaborative than the creation of a fashion magazine. As Amy Fine Collins argues, fashion editor in those days had to be a resourceful combination of movie director, propman, seamstress, and (33). Going beyond the coordination necessar y in own body, Vreeland collaborated with the greatest photographers of the time, like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Cecil Beaton, and also of course managed various artists, actors, models, and public figures. aesthetic hand thus reach ed off the magazine pages and into daily life, transforming that life into art and encouraging readers to make the same transformation. Through this process, she elevated the art of fashion, previously only seen as a feminine concern and a trivial one at that. In the nineteenth century, Baudelaire did much for women fashion when he argued in The Painter of Modern Life should thus be considered as a symptom of the taste for the ideal which floats on the surface of all the crude, terrestrial and loathsome bric brac that the natural life accumulates in the human (Baudelaire 32 33). Vreeland likewise elevated fashion magazines from their former society woman voice, giving advice on how to hold a party or a teacup, and transformed the fashi on magazine into an artform worthy of notice, as opposed to just an assemblage of commodified objects. Judith Thurman compares Vreeland to Stphane Mallarm, another symbolist poet: cryptic work as a poet demonstrates that it is possible to fab ricate an experience of revelation from which the
174 conventional meaning has evaporated like a volatile spirit, leaving an essence only the senses can grasp. And as he and Vreeland both understood, that is what great clothes (Thurman 33). own fashion journal, La Dernire Mode only strengthens this connection and proves that fashion is an art. Vreeland drew from this tradition and infused a strong, aesthetic eye into her work as an editor and manager of other aesthetic senses. In the process, s he pushed fashion itself into a higher, more idealized realm and also performed the same transformation in her role as fashion editor, especially a female fashion editor. Before Vreeland joined Bazaar editing team, the magazine served as more a handbook than an art text. After seeing Vreeland in public and admiring her persona, Carmel Snow hired the completely unexperienced, high school dropout as her new fashion editor and, around the same time, hired Alexey Brodovitch, the famous graphic desig ner, as her new art director. This collaboration between Snow, Brodovitch, and Vreeland, although tense at times, made Harper's Bazaar a groundbreaking cultural text. In her role as fashion editor, Vreeland approached the job as she approached her life: fa shion must say something or do something beyond just covering the body. Betina Ballard, fashion editor for Vogue immediately following World War II and during the time Vreeland worked for wrote of Vreeland, concept of being a fashion editor is to create fashion for Bazaar to motivate it, not simply to report on what Seventh Avenue has to (290). Thus, Vreeland was not a gatekeeper to fashion but rather a tastemaker, turning the artform into a real possibility for any woman to achieve and manipulate. Her fellow collaborators both on and off the editing team, however, often felt her aesthetic sense was too strong or too totalizing. Judith Thurman summarizes many memoirs and witness accounts when she writes:
175 As Avedon once rem arked, Vreeland invented totally new the fashion editor as a creature of myth Pygmalion. Models, assistants, designers, and photographers all had stories of her sometimes inspired, sometimes alarming efforts to meddle with their c lothes, images, posture, grooming, manners, and even their sex lives. (34) In this description, Thurman casts Vreeland as a figure much like The Red Shoes Lermontov, including his real life inspiration Sergei Diaghilev, and Vertigo Scottie. While the cinema casts Scottie as a tragic character and allows Lermontov his apologetic moment in the spotlight, Vreeland as a female Pygmalion was very often an object of ridicule. Before The Devil Wears Prada satirized Anna tyranni cal rule over contemporary Vogue Stanley Funny Face in 1957 did the same to Bazaar presenting her as an imperious bully. Vreeland nevertheless gave mid century American culture a new aesthetic sense and defined a fashion zeitg eist that made the 1950s and 60s one of the most exciting and pivotal times for fashion in the entire twentieth century. During her time at Bazaar then afterwards at Vogue Vreeland believed in the power of essentialization and present ed models that immediately became art objects under the simultaneous influence of her direction and the genius of the photographers she commissioned. Richard Avedon, one of these photographers, remarked during her memorial service in 1989, soon became clear to me that the photographers were there for her . only to put into action the amazing gallop of her imagination. She like being inspired by anyone alive; her references were always to the past, to the sphinxes of the early nineteenth centu ry, to the intonation of (Avedon 73). retrospective aesthetic taste might surprise those who have read her memoir and remember her famous first line, loathe (Vreeland 3). However, what Avedon references in his me morial speech is not nostalgia, but rather a complete reimagining of the past for the present, a subtle distinction that
176 certainly defined her work for the Costume Institute. But even in her time at Vogue and one notices how she used history and its various beauties to her own ends. She drew inspiration from the past, then completely reinvented it. The practice is apparent in the portraits she commissioned, which toe the line between past and present, as well as art and reality. In the work of he r principal photographers Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Cecil Beaton Diana Vreeland pushed into territory that situated itself within the liminality between photography and painting. There are a myriad of their fashion spreads that exemplify this prac tice, but the most visually arresting are those photographed by Richard Avedon for Bazaar In an April 1954 spread entitled of Our Avedon photographed a number of society women and used high contrast lighting on them, which immedi ately rid their skin of any imperfections. Furthermore, he only photographed these women as busts, which enhanced their uncanny similarity to Greek statues. Vreeland frequently commissioned these bust like spreads, and a similar spread occurs only two year s later, again by Avedon. Her presentation of these models as static, statuesque figures deconstructs the binary between life and art. In Vertigo we first see Madeleine presented in a statuesque manner, but her agency is always in question because her aes thetic form is never her own. No second gaze, like disrupts Vreeland and collaboration, and the women daringly stare at their viewer. styling and lens transform these models into aesthetic objects (statues), but they lose none of their distinct, individual natures in the process. Indeed, their human qualities only grow more visually arresting through their transformation. Over ten years later, Vreeland again makes this deconstruction between life and art explicit for Vogue when she commissioned Avedon to photograph the Soviet born ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Avedon photographed nude form in various expressive b allet poses
177 and included specific shots of his outstretched arm, his foot tensed on its toes, and his strong neck twisted backwards. A brief blurb introduces the spread: everyday miracle of man, made suddenly memorable and rare by the exultant stretch of Here, quite explicitly, the message is clear; body is immortalized and transformed into art. Vreeland does not stop here though. She organizes the spread so that various works by Michelangelo directly juxtapose Nurey body in stasis. Excess, as shown in the previous works I discuss, often spirals the living aesthetic object into chaos and death, but Vreeland does not fear this oversignification. In fact, she embraces it and throws in her face that Nureye body is a living work of art. masterful photography only hammers this point home. Their interest in a ballet dancer conjures visions of the over aestheticized and mismanaged Vicky in The Red Shoes but unlike managers, both Vreeland an d Avedon allow body and its juxtaposition to Michelangelo to speak for itself. His aesthetic potential for a living embodiment of art only grows under their direction, while the inherent queerness of the spread, through both Michelangelo and Nure queer sexualities, enhances this deconstructive subject position. Vreeland performs the same deconstruction between life and art through her relationship with Irving Penn. Noted for his extreme close ups, which Vreeland likened to paparazzi candids, Penn also possessed the ability to thoroughly mix his photographic textures with that of painting. In 1970 for Vogue Vreeland commissioned his close up, painterly lens for a spread on the Japanese geisha. The figure of the geisha had captivated Vreeland from a young age, and in her memoir she discusses a trip to Kyoto where she first saw geishas and meikis, geishas in training: A geisha is very tenderly made up, and everything about her hair and her clothing and everything else is very exquisitely do ne. But everything about a meiki is a great exaggeration her obi is this wide, her skirt is padded at the bottom with a
178 row this wide, her back panel is out to here ; she has very white makeup, very red makeup. . (Vreeland 27) Here, Vreeland r eveals her love of two artistic senses: artifice and exaggeration. In her memoir, she continues, idea must be that you learn from the exaggeration. This is a very serious subject with me. . I adore (27). In the makeup, Vreeland identifies a major feature of her own aesthetic; she seeks something essential through artifice and through its hyperbole. Her remarks on cosmetics again recall the symbolist poets, especially Baudelaire. In The Painter of Modern Life he argues that cosme tics grant the human face unity, which, like that produced by the tights of a dancer, immediately approximates the human being to the statue, that is to something superior and (33). fixation on a makeup, and its subsequent imp lications for art and artifice in general, circle back upon her work with Avedon transforming women and dancers into statues. The paradox lies in how their aestheticization, whether through cosmetics or the statuesque, only draws them closer to some overar ching ideal humanity. In 1970, when Penn photographed a red lips, her black eyeliner, and her pale almost stony skin, he embodied all these aesthetic ideas and arguments that Vreeland first discovered when she looked at a meiki and made her career motto. Hyperbolic artifice, according to Vreeland, is the key to finally forming a living aesthetic object. These painted and statuesque figures all point toward a promising trajectory in Vreeland artistic career. At this stage in the other narratives I cite in this chapter, the managed living art objects begin facing their own mortality and their own weaknesses, especially when it comes to fully embodying art within their human forms. Therese and Carol, in The Price of Salt overcome this seemingly in evitable artistic death, but they do so only through a painful, traumatic experience, heavily tinged with Freudian undertones. work, however, seems to march brashly forward, using models and artists to break the lines between life and art.
179 Howev er, like the heroines of these other texts, Vreeland also suffered a shocking, traumatic experience in the form of her abrupt dismissal from Vogue in 1971. With the emerging commercialist take on fashion magazines, far flung photoshoots, her mer curial nature, and her insistence on artistic photospreads over empty advertising all damned her in the eyes of magazine owners. Unwilling to return to life as an idle society lady, especially after twenty years working in the fashion industry, Vreeland ac cepted a position as head consultant for the Metropolitan Museum of Costume Institute. The Costume Institute had languished in obscurity due to poor curating and a general lack of interest in museum presented fashion. Vreeland recognized an opportuni ty to mix her interests in history, fashion, and blurring the lines between life and art. With the Costume Institute, she made her magazine work three dimensional, pushing the living art object one step closer to a complete embodiment. Vreeland exhibitions for the Costume Institute each focused on specific eras or designers and included subjects like the Ching Dynasty, the Hapsburg Era, Balenciaga, La Belle Epoque, and even Ballets Russes. Each of these exhibitions featured Vreelan flair for the fantastic, but nothing was more unsettling for the curators than her complete irreverence for historical accuracy. In her essay on the Costume Institute, styling Judith Clark writes, historical si lhouettes to her own taste, re created the costumes she loved, and turned a blind eye to chronology. A dress became valuable insofar as it served the narrative her chosen narrative and importantly the mise en overall look and ( 231). Costume Institute was a completely immersive experience, but that immersion depended on the acceptance of own narrative. Rather than settle merely to deliver a history lesson in another medium, these exhibitions sought to awaken the essential core of these eras or design catalogues. Judith Clark
180 references an interview with Harold Koda, who worked with Vreeland at the Costume Institute, where he discusses flippant approach to history: . she was not repres enting the historic truth but in a strange way she was capturing the real truth which is the sense of the integrity of the idea; that the idea is bigger than the actual (237). Just as made up geishas and statuesque models paradoxically dr ew their lives even more vividly, her irreverent take on history arguably reached some essence regarding what the Ching dynasty or the Hapsburg era or La Belle Epoque was really about. Wilde argues in favor of such practices in Decay of when h e explains how relations of history, especially that of the Greeks or the Middle Ages, are truer in fictional form than through facts: great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an 988). Vreeland unde rstood this subtle distinction between a mimetic art and a transcendent art, the latter of which informed her decision to present exhibitions that can relate to contemporary audiences in a deeper way than any other historical exhibition could. Vreeland greatest obstacle at the Costume Institute eventually turned into her greatest triumph; she transformed static and unlovely mannequins into vivid human like forms. During her time at the magazines, Vreeland possessed a strong aversion to mannequins in phot ography, but even then she noted a aesthetic potential. In Allure she wrote, are either divine or the most boring girls in the ( Allure 50). Here, she is actually referring to living women as mannequins, a subjective slippage that further reveals her tendency toward mixing the statue and the living body. When she joined the Costume Institute, Vreeland termed the mass of mannequins ready for their period clothes as mannequin but she overcame that problem ingeniously. Clark argues, cast mannequin bodies, like photography, were an opportunity for Vreeland to play with reality, to improve on (231).
181 Unsurprisingly at this point, Vreeland masked her mannequins in paints and other embellishments, and t hus made them more lifelike by first making them more artificial. Korda explains, painted the mannequins because she felt that nothing suggested a time frame more than makeup. So she actually was getting rid of one of the details that help us understa nd the (231). Through her work with the mannequins, Vreeland practiced the ideas that she only toyed with in the magazines. She uses artifice and particularly hyperbolized artifice to realize a long dead era. In this process, Vreeland again shows how the aesthetic object, left to its own devices and allowed to signify as multitudinously as possible, eventually returns with a depiction of life more vivid than nature and ultimately more real. The Costume Institute progressive exhibitions went beyond mannequins and presented a complete experience to visitors. Judith Clark even places work at the Costume Institute in opposition to her work at and Vogue : contrast to her years as a magazine editor confined to the two dimensional do uble page spread, Vreeland knew that exhibitions existed as three dimensional worlds and needed to be totally (227). Given her already outstanding work at a two dimensional level, her work at the museum not only outstrips her magazine career, b ut completely exemplifies how art should redefine and outdo life. Vreeland utilized various props, including actual horse carriages and bandstands, painted the walls vivid colors, and utilized music when and where she could. As Clark explains, la yered the experience, unafraid of excess. Perfume was hand sprayed into the galleries every (233). Like John to a exhibitions captured every sense that her visitors possessed. Walking through her exh ibitions differed only slightly from real life, especially since engaging every sense was necessary to fully enjoy the experience. Unlike life, however, all the colors were made hyper vivid, with people wearing the
182 best clothes, and the scents being Chanel Cuir de Russie or Yves Saint Opium. art reimagined various historical periods and, in the process, argued that present life should be lived through, and as, art. Diana Vreeland rom a constantly displaced cosmopolitan child to an uneducated society woman and finally to the creative force she became once she joined Vreeland continually reinvented her persona, trying to keep up with those around her and her own heig htened aesthetic sensibilities. Judith reinventions, Vreeland fabulousl y succeeded at such an enterprise and pulled the rest of fashionable society with her. Her memoir, D.V. sometimes reads more like fiction than fact, with many scenes beggaring belief, but nonetheless capturing the imagination with aesthetic flair. Whether D.V. 19) during George transforming potentially wooden history with glamorous art. Before inter viewing Vreeland for Rolling Stone in 1977, Lally Weymouth first asked Truman Capote for his thoughts on Vreeland, American women in the sense of the way they mov traditional (especially W estern) aesthetic sensibilities and diminished recognition of the extent of her genius, including the integral role she played in wresting mid century art from the patriarchal suffocation exemplified by Vertigo and The Red Shoes hered in the
183 golden age of performance at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty first centuries, when personified art objects took the stage as pop icons.
184 CHAPTER 5 THE HASHTAGGED LIVING AESTHETIC ICON The end of the 198 0s marked the end of many major cultural movements tied, in the West, to the Cold War and the beginning of some new movements in pop culture and technology that are still evolving These major advancements shifted the idea of a living aesthetic object off the page or screen and out of the museum. As we have seen the most fecund spaces for living women or stereotypically feminine aesthe the charge of potential living aesthetic objects then, and female pop stars, gay fashion designers, and selfie addicts carried the living aesthetic object into the twe nty first century A l iving aesthetic object must have the ability to live in everyday life amongst everyday people, and that core issue thwarted its successful embodiment throughout the twentieth century. A century and a half ago, when Walter Pater first released The Renaissance and ignited the Aesthetic movement, work It seemed that, in order to live a fully realized artistic life, to burn with a hard gemlike flame, one must also read the Classics at a major university and possess some ineffable, inherent taste. Oscar Wilde kept this critique in mind early in his career and allowed it to shape his own aesthetic theories regarding the relationship between life and art. On his American lecture tour in 1882, Wilde discussed the power of art when the masses gain access to its deepest and most benefit of the people, for the real basis of art is t o be found in the application of the beautiful in Wilde then discussed interior decorating and such other that create a beautiful life. These mundanities have now become artforms in
185 and of themselves. How we create our personae, choose our outfits, and live our daily lives fully embody the aesthetic ideals first created by theorists like Wilde and his contemporaries in the y living aesthetic object s but these creations were firmly attached to works of literature, thus The Price of Salt d life advance the living aesthetic object further, but these examples are still housed in books, magazines, and museums. This chapter will examine artists who have become sustained and arguably successful living aesthetic objects, displaying a connection to themes of memory, performance, individualism, and current era. Madonna has been a pioneer in expanding the scope of the living aesthetic object, having underst ood how an aesthetic persona can transform oneself into an icon and thus a living aesthetic object. Alexander McQueen represents the deconstructionist impulse that both reforms s most basic forms in the process. Lady Gaga combines the work of her immediate predecessors and direct ly addresses aesthetic ideals, particularly those espoused by Oscar Wilde, in a pop cultural context, creating a space for more living aesthetic objects to create themselves both on and off the stage. Finally, various social media organs, such as Instagram and its users have extended the idea of a living T he living aesthetic object s studied thus far hav e been exceptional figure s whose abilities and circumstances were mostly limited to the privileged or the famous. T he advent of the camera phone and social media, however, have
186 enabled more complex and creative constructions of art and life than Wilde fir st foresaw during the fin de sicle. In December 2016, Billboard Music honored Madonna with the Woman of the Year award. Madonna took advantage of this opportunity to candidly discuss her position as the last woman standing after a year filled with the d eaths of major performance icons like David Bowie entertainer. Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for thirty four years in the face of bla often opens her music videos with a similar admittance of her victimization. She encourages the trained sympathy for a wronged woman, then continues in a confront ational tone to dismantle that sympathy and the systems that encourage it. Aware of the cultural moment, she references the fallen music icons, but goes one step further than the superficial tributes offered at award shows throughout the year. She states, male and female spirit and that suited me just fine. He made me think there were no rules. But I Prince as well. Wh en discussing the various critiques and condemnations of her provocative speech and indeed in most of her career, Madonna is provocatively (or provokingly) aware of her subject position and where she stands in relation to other artists. Madonna understood early on that creating an iconic status depended upon addressing every detail of her life and the lives of others as an art. Rather than sculpture or literature, however, Madonna uses
187 her study of Madonna in Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna Pamela Robertson discusses this artistic choice, and, like Madonna herself twenty years later, Robertson places her in relation to David Bowie : rock stars, especially David Bowie, because of h er shifting images and play with gender roles. 124). It is another acknowledgement of the importance of Madonna as a female performance icon and the importance she posits in that differentiating dynamic Beyond just gender, Madonna also seeks to upgrade embracing pop discourse, rather than rock, and a postmodern malleability, rather than a romantic relevant and influential to large r numbers of people, which thus allied her a rt more forcefully to life whether through fans mimicking her look or her free sexual expression. Beyond this initial connection, however, her work deconstructs the patronizing male gaze that had presented women to viewers, especially in the twentieth cen tury popular media that had created then destroyed sex symbols rather they possessed a direct response to how a woman can take ownership of her sexualized performance persona e. Readers with a cursory understanding of Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde and the late Victorian Aesthetic movement usually summarize with the simple t heir philosophy an art: I altered the minds of men and the colours of things: there was nothing I said
188 DP 912 ). Ar t must pos sess affect; it needs to move or even disturb it s audience. It no longer requires a moral lesson, as was often expected of mid Victorian literature or art, but it needs to impact the reader or viewer. Madonna has mastered this ability and arguably turned i t into an art itself. So much so that, by the mid 1990s, scholars and had become as der troubles, and always the power of commercialism. She became, in short, an object and a site, she cultivated herself in order to create an icon rather than just a product. Yet, by addressing Madonna and her work as merely symptomatic of larger cultural issues or contexts, critics often miss the artistry within the work itself and how the work beget the era, rather than vice versa. Through music videos, docume ntaries, stage performances, and interviews, Madonna transforms her work and life into a shifting and persistent art. She has adopted a relatively low artform and packed it with high aesthetic potential, using the multitudinous modes and media at her behes t to actively create an icon worthy of the name given to her at birth. changing personae are her greatest tools towards becoming a living aesthetic object and have themselves become a matter of cultural interest. With each new al bum release, fans wonder which Madonna will emerge next, and many critics have traced her reinventions back to commodity culture or artistic predecessors like David Bowie. Madonna has sometimes been taken as a reflector or creation of cultural fashion, but as McClary has noted, understood as head of a corporation that produces images of her self representation, r ather than
189 Madonna herself usually undermines her shifting personae. In a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone less reactive than proactive shaping Madonna controls her living art to an almost neurotic degree a tendency that has been well documented by producers and collaborators o ver the past thirty four years. Critic Paul arguing : She was the master publicist who fashioned her own self as myth, one reason why people wondered whether there was anything authen tic about Madonna and why biographers later had such difficulty separating the fact and the fiction in her life. (178) As Rutherford suggests, Madonna was the first woman to create such quickly shifting personae and this fluid individualism invites critiques of inauthenticity. Already, in this discussion of how Madonna creates herself, she begs questions regarding truth, authenticity, self, and myth all of which were major buzzwords for Oscar Wilde in his aesthet ic theories. Madonna is the first figure in this project who actively seeks to ensure that her art is always vital and evolutionary ideas regarding authenticity. The only constant aspect of which is also according to Wilde and like minded aesthetic theorists a great aesthetic strength like Madonna, was criticized for his seeming inconsisten cies. As Lawrence Danson ob is a slap in the face of Victorian earnestness, and his inconsistency an implicit resp CA 1048 ). By multiplying
190 personalities, a living aesthetic object can ultimately achieve a complex and sh ifting individualism that cuts through to various communities in different places and times. As we have seen frequently in this project, the c onformity or immutability of otherwise powerful and influential living art figures often keep them from achieving a true status as a living aesthetic object. Exactly a century after Wilde was subject to rebukes for his alleged inconsistencies, Madonna faced the same kinds of critiques from the same, to use a Wildean insult, Philistine s Philistine culture ultimately cornered and defeated him, Madonna has shifted and effectively responded to changing times, trends, and communities in ways that, first, keep her successful and, second, make her into a pop icon. Understanding the times faci has similarly strengthened each of her subsequent reincarnation s Most provocative artists if they are to be both popular and initially successful, must adapt an old medium to their new aestheti c. The figures and fictional characters throughout this project each manipulated a conventional form and redirected it towards the possible creation of depende d on, the introduction of MTV, the cable television station that paradigmatically represents the postmodern explosion of technologies, acceleration of images and information, and mass in 1982, MTV having first gone on air less than a year before in 1981. Madonna and music videos created one another in a reciprocal relationship that was consummated at the first MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), when she infamously gyrated across the stage provocative rhetorical positioning has continued through most of her career. Indeed, her
191 the individual, and that it is not the moment that makes the man, but the man who creates the CA 1021 ). Without artists like Madonna ( and other provocateur artists like Michael Jackson ) MTV would not have existed as a provocative space for artistic innovation. As a consequence of such artists th e late eighties and nineties became the MTV era and arguably began an obsession with short form videos, direct artistic expression, and pop culture that has now transferred to social media. From a cultural standpoint, the concurrent birth of Madonna and MT V speaks volumes to the power of new technologies to advance aesthetic ideals, and have exploit ed this power to perhaps its highest degree. From the 1980s to the 1990s, m She acco mplished this through her allusions to iconic past visual images or cultural symbols, which she then redirected towards the formation of her own shifting current aesthetics For Desperately Seeking Susan lusio ns to the past, which seem at first glance to do little more than these film allusions and far less than the controversial visual/musical remix and persona reinvention. Through its self titled direct address imperative and its innovative stylistic allusions s ability to innovate the music video form past its purpose as mere visual accompaniment and instead use it film oeuvre that includes hyper masculinist films like Fight Club and The Social Network and
192 women centered thrillers like Panic Room Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo In etics are often made to expressionist film Metropolis (1927), but rather than having an upper class hero save the objectified lower class woman, Madonna centers her self as both subject and object, overseeing her well sculpted male workers and using them for her pleasure when she desires. She transforms an old and rather conservative Marxist text for use in the sexual aesthetic that she begins to develop during this p eriod. While the gender and power reversals from Metropolis to the further the aesthetics and subjects play out in the video. The video begins with a backlit Madon While the address, in both the speech and the title, seem direct and understandable, the lyrics and accompanyin g aesthetics complicate the simplicity of her initial call For example, the lyrics, Madonna undresses behind a curtain, then dances in her lingerie. This juxtapos ition places a tension between the mind and the body and arguably between romance and sex that is further enhanced when the next shot features Madonna in a loose fitting, double She sings that a man should desire her mind, while direct towards her scantily clad feminine body, which she then covers in the ultimate signifier of sartorial masculinity. Furthermore, while Madonna initially symbolizes liberation for these men from their Metropolis tinted work, also seems to enjoy being dominated with chains on her bed, with a sexual partner. As soon as
193 her viewers/listeners can begin to feel comfortable with one gender performance or one romantic narrative she deconstructs that base performance or narrative with a dissident or even contradictory message. She pushes each of these patriarchal power con structs to their breaking point, leaving the viewer from multiplicity and possible contradiction, Madonna embraces them, which adds complexity to her aesthetic personae and contradicts conventional, singular media presences. From lyric to image, Madonna is all of these variations at once, and the more thes e various Madonnas conflict, the better. The motley messages in this mixed media format continue through the song itself, which calls into question issues of origin and the traditional means of creating music canon. The music video differs drastically from the track on the album Like a Prayer The album version features a brass accompaniment, a lackadaisical tempo, and background male vocals. The music video version, however, packs a dance punch, replacing the brass with synthesizers and the beat with a powerful bass that drives the song forward. Indeed, c is one of the things that characterize t he final product is never final and always in flux, which allows a se condary product to 1989 VMA performance, and the version that still plays on the radio comes from the video rather res the reinventions that continue to fascinate fans of her ever morphing career, sound, and persona. Great art lives multiple lives, switching versions to m anipulate her art herself in a paradoxical mix of control and lack thereof that is mirrored in the gendered power dynamics she enacts in her vi deos both within each video and across them.
194 urning crosses or a filmic past with expressionist cityscapes, grant a measure of stability to her ever fluctuating media. Most interestingly within this retrospective aesthetic, Madonna also references and an almost shot for sequence in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). As the song title and the source material suggest, anti en karat d backwards across multiple texts. She references back to herself not to reinforce her past selves, but rather to replace them, whether from album to video or from video to video, creating a new self before the old can go out of style She controls her own manipulation across a shifting media landscape and, through that control, creates herself as a living aesthetic object that fans can appreciate and follow just as closely (if not more so) as they can her albums themselves In the next era of her career and ever evolving personae her fluid individualism to the queer communities that enjoyed her work and were also surviving the AIDS epidemic. In 1992, Madonna released the album Erotica along with Sex a coffee table book featuring sexually explicit images of herself and others. The album materials for Erotica included a condom and safe sex tips, an addition inspired by the AIDS crisis and the two friends Judith Peraino
195 to be a gay icon than Madonna, and she has done so by using every possible taboo sexual fantasy ndeed, the sexual fantasies Madonna most often references are those shared by gay men and women, particularly fellatio and the use of sex toys. In the twenty community has bec ay community. It was 1979 and Katy Perry all accessorize their albums with gay anthems in varying degrees of trikes a harsher chord than just neoliberal, identity affirmation politics. She infused Erotica from its pleasure and pain of sex and sorrow, which Wilde argu ed was the final and most powerful activating agent in transforming art in communities as they did on individuals. His persona in the public consciousness often leans toward unabashed narcissism; ma to customs agents at the American border, but few understand the community awareness embedded into De Profundis Throughout this project, failures of aspiring living aesthetic objects often lay in misunderstanding the existential realities of their communities especially their sorrows. This myopia before d the
196 Erotica album established her d her individualism to a community and thus to the era. (1990) features tributes to the LGBT community, their art, and their powerful potential for re constituting identity via performance. Madonna is careful, though, to place herself within the community without overshadowing that community and its serious trials. Filmed in b visuals and costumes heavily reminiscent of cl assic Not only does she subvert the heteronormative gaze in classic Hollywood aesthetics. As the video opens men and women pose alongside classical statues and art, which blurs the line between life and art The posing then slowly transforms into the literal act of vogueing dancing to music by punctuating it with a series of stylized poses characteristically struck by fashion models on a catwalk 1 Gay dancers are featured in the video either posing or vogueing with Madonna or completely on their own. 2 Vogueing in and of itself possesses enormous potential for deconstructing the statue/body binary instructive message regarding how the living artistic icon may achieve individuation through a community artform without manipulating that community. 1 s song and music video were the first introductions to pop culture of this underground dance art. 2 Truth or Dare and are gay men already inference based on appearance, performance or some combination of the two.
197 The choreographic p rogression for each chorus develops toward unity between the aesthetic icon (Madonna) and a real living community (gay men). In the first chorus, Madonna constructs a typical pop dance configuration. She vogues in the front with three male backup dancers v three backup dancers become the only dancers; Madonna absents herself from her own video, while they use their entire bodies to dance in advanced vogue moves. The third and most fascinating chorus configuration features Madonna and a single male dancer dueling in active vogue positions. At one point, Madonna ends her vogueing, but the male dancer continues, essentially showing her up to the point that she elbows him to s top. He does not, however, and the scene cuts just as Madonna relents and seems to begin dancing again. She grants a measure of her position of power to the outsider, an act in opposition to, but just as powerful as, the final chorus, all the dancers black, white; backup, principal; women, men community rather than simple individualism. Madonna carefully constructed her connection to an othered community to ensure that the community had the last word. Rather than advise the s what pop stars should do best: write a great dance song, get in the background, and let the people dance to it. In doing so, her art pervades popular culture in a more radical way using queerness as an ally and not as a publicity tool. Traditional m usic videos exist as texts that are planned, produced, and released on MTV and BET to a consumer public. Madonna, however, also exists as an aesth etic creation off these screens, in the status of icon and, most importantly for this project, living aesthetic ob ject.
198 During her Erotica era, Madonna manipulated the constructed and often misogynistic idea of the As Robertson comments of the negative criticism of Madonna relates to her sexuality an d gender her image as a kind of aside from her debut album, Erotica number one status in the U.S. A lth ough crit ics then and now agree greatest musical achievement, t he public balked at its g rotesque tone 3 was setting back the movement and willfully objectifying herself. Yet, through this grotesquerie and self conscious objectification Madonna paradoxically took control of her status as a sexual object on and off the screen, highlighting the danger inherent in sexuality by using her sex appeal and shock value to transform into a frightening sexual being reminiscent of Dionea. had clearl y taken possession of a new persona and a new connection to the public at large and to a specific LGBT public. The following year, she released Truth or Dare a concert documentary that featured intimate backstage moments, shot in black and white, interwov en with full color performances from her tour. In this long visual work, she continued to blur stage and unabashedly revealed how her entire life is a self conscious performance. In a famous sc ene with then lover Warren Beatty, Madonna allows the camera to continue rolling as she gets camera . What point is there of existing off ns, borrowed from The 3 In the grotesque tradition, Erotica possessed a lot of sex and shock in different media: an album, a book, and a documentary.
199 Wizard of Oz sore throat singer, femme fatale, grand dame, gossip, rebel, and benevolent leader (to name a few) continued off stage. Truth or Dare (1991 ), Erotica (1992), and the Sex book (1992), all deconstruct t he binary between art and life and made Madonna into a living aesthetic object, who begs the questi ons, When is she performing? When is she herself? She was no longer a performer on a stage or an entertainer on screen; she was also a woman with a specific point of view that tied her to one diverse community and unsettled a larger public. Yet, Madonna created that woman just as much as she created her songs, videos, and performances. In 1996, immediately after the Erotica era, SPIN magazine released an interview by Bob her critics, partic ularly those who were either frightened or disgusted by her grotesque sexual antics in the preceding years, and revea led her understanding of herself as an aesthetic object whose greatest strength and weakness lay She men tions the controversies surrounding Erotica and the Sex book, prompting Guccione to ask whether her control over her own objectification was the problem. Madonna answered on every level and that is unacceptable. When Guccione then points out the irony of men desiring her for her sexualit only the con cept and the fantasy that turns them on. But the actual reality that I live off the page italics mine). She understands herself as both conception and realit y, a combination that creates a living aesthetic object and also deeply disturbs the l arger community. She transforms herself into
200 a living femme fatale who has also shifted beneath the public gaze, connected to an othered community, and problematized the distinction between art and life. Madonna carefully assembled multiple levels of aesthetic power through cultural memory, provocative performance, shifting individualism, and community contact. In doing so, s public during the Erotica era (now retrospectively seen as the height of her career and influence, both artistically and personally) were repulsed by her grotesque behavior and her sublime ubiquity. From feminists to conservatives, many social groups pla making her an e mbodiment and signal of Clinton era decadence. As the rest of the 1990s and particularly the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal revealed, however, the sexual freedoms and self conscious objectifica tion Madonna possessed, despite strong outcry, were still unavailable to if we understand that power is privilege and that Madonna speaks from a privileged position related to her economic power, whiteness, and infl uence we need to consider what, if any, access we and others have to the kind of mobile utilizing spectacularly the various tools and media at her disposal, has been able to transform herself into one of pop icon s and thus a successful living aesthetic object, h er physical art products becoming just as important and often secondary to her livin g appearances and performances. Alexander McQueen the Brit ish couturier who was chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 before founding his own Alexander McQueen label, transformed a fact of cultural life into a provocative artform, partic ularly through his runway shows, which ofte n coupled a retrospective, historicist glance with an extreme performance
201 aspect not yet seen in the conservative fashion world of the early 90s. His fashion designs newly constructed the female body, presenting clothing that transformed living bodies into statues, monsters, and walking art both on and off the runway. Heretofore, my aesthetic subjects and creators have experimented with and, at times, created life as art. Alexander McQueen, however, represents a deconstructive impulse. He not only transform s life into art, he also uses his art to this use of the grotesque in popular media, and McQueen carried it to arguably decadent extremes. By pushing the limitati ons of the body and its clothing until they distort into new forms, McQueen creates living aesthetic objects that multiply beyond a singular woman and reshape the fashion community at the turn of the millennium. In the late twentieth century, equating fash ion and art was controversial and arguably still is, twenty overshadow attempts at treatin g sartorial fashion as a subject worthy of serious academic placed fashion within a museum setting, these disparaging arguments began to change. In a journal a trations of the New Art History . have established a widespread cultural permission to recognize the new authenticity of fashion, in the sense that it most accurately reflects and communica tes the values and complexities . of During his American lecture tour in 1882, Oscar Wilde often discussed the importance of fashion. He admitted its substandard qualities, but
202 people to construct o ur apparel are artists, and not modern milliners, whose chief aim is to swell Wilde blamed late Victorian commercial culture, which arguably ruled fashion ho uses and their development throughout the subsequent twentieth century. Alexander McQueen, as a designer who set out to create work that did not conform to a popular market and instead lived as It was ashion, as a medi um of artistic expression, draw closer to life in its daily, most nuanced forms, while also remaining true to aesthetic ideals of beauty, the sublime, the performative, and even th e tragic. Remarking on the direct connection between fashion and high art, Radford he full range of treatment is also equally available to both [art and fashion], extending from the Apollonian values of balance, economy and restraint to the an art, but also an art as expressed through Classical Greek ideals of sculpture and the theater, both of which McQueen directly tapped into through his garment constr uctions and his runway shows. From a contemporary critical stand point, fashion possesses most if not all the attributes traditionally assigned to art. predecessor Charles Baudelaire. In The Painter of Modern Life Baudelaire had analyzed daily as well as to argue for their legitimacy as art. He states, . as a sublime deformation o f Nature, or rather a permanent and repeated attempt at her reformation PML 33). M ixing the beautiful with the grotesque, Baudelaire posits that fashion is art because it reflects an ideal hovering over life. Indeed, his definition for fashion as art run s eerily like his definition
203 of modernity itself, and his connection between reformation and deformation finds one of its greatest embodiments in Alexande combined affect with classic definitions of the sublime and Seely discusses how what he calls affective fashion transformation and connection (i.e., affect), in order to force it to become otherwise, beyond the That is fashion via its affect ive properties transfo rms into a provocative art and way of life; in effect, it reflects the deformation and reformation Baudelaire first called for in the mid nineteenth centur y and, as the body beyond As Seely points out McQueen was the first and the best to employ this fashion modality, carving out a space for those women who collabo rated with him models, mentors, magazine editors, and pop icons to become and embrace their potential for strangeness beyond what stereotypical fashion allows. In his runway fashion models performed his affective designs throug h two main aesthetic modes: the sublime and the grotesque. In an interview with Time Out t led to disgust, and McQueen often achieved his goal. As Andrew Bolton reports to the limits of reason, eliciting an uneasy pleasure that merged wonder and terror, incredulity and revulsion. For McQueen, the Sublime was the s trongest of passions, as it contained the potential for exaltation and transcenden n the mid
204 eighteenth century, Edmund Burke distinguished the sublime from the beautiful and tied it to horror, particularly the viewer gaining pleasure through horror. 4 McQueen wished to achieve this mixture of beauty and horror, so while his desire for emot ional reactions seemed impish vomit for the sake of vomit his work possessed a complex aesthetic and cultural relevance. Bolt on dramatic scenarios, which often hinged on subjects that tapped into our cultural anxieties and een use d this tensio n between the past and present, const ruction and deconstruction to, elevating his aesthetic goals in most of his runway shows. A ll of them deserve specific, critical study but I will focus on Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims, No. 13 VOSS and each of which embodies provocative aesthetics and reveal s how his fashion reformed life and deformed its bodies. Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims (1992) 5 graduating thesis collection at Central Saint Martins, in the ear ly 1990s. While his classmates sought inspiration by conducting research and creating spreadsheets for ma rketing strategies, McQueen cited his personal background as serving both: 27). This claim was probably inspiration artform. Like a good artist and were allied to historical and particularly Victorian truth. Andrew Bolton notes 4 For an extended disc ussion of Burke, Kant, and the s ublime, see Chapter 1. 5 name Alexander once he started gaining popularity.
205 were far reaching, he was inspired particularly by the nineteenth century, drawing especially on Yet McQueen was never satisfied with routinely conservative historicism; on the contrary, h e felt it necessary to infuse himself personally and aggressively into the very fabric of his work. Of Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims Caroline Evans relates souvenir and memento mori These locks of hair were sewn into the clothing, often in the lining of a jacket or the waist of a skirt. Thus, the lie that inspired the collection that he possessed a personal, DNA level connection to a Ripper victim becomes part of the art itself. The individuality is not for its own sake, like a grade school child scrawling his name on a desk, but adds yet another deeper connection to the cultural moment of late Victorian London. As locks of hair were often exchanged by lovers, some of whom bought the hair from prostitutes ra ity mix seamlessly with his art; hi back again like an ouroboros circling back on itself to prove The Renaissance that every great artis t draws from the past and transmutes it for their present. work in Jack the Ripper revealed an artist in strong command of his subjective viewpoint, but more importantly in a fashion context it introduced a new style of tailoring and shaping a w of fabrics mentor Isabella Blow said, attracted me to Alexander . is the way he takes ideas from the past and sabotages them with
206 his cut to make them thoroughly new and in the context of today. It is the comple xity and severity of his approach to cut that makes is transcendental historicism manifested obliquely through kitschy additions like locks of his hair or ancestr al connections, h is bold cutting, especially of silhouet tes and designs from a late Victorian past, strikingly demarcated his work and its paradoxical insistence upon reshaping the past to push confrontationally toward the future. The runway performances that highlight these cuts and distortions, both of fabric and of history, are the other defining feature work. When McQueen debuted his Spring 1999 collection No. 13 he had already cemented his fame in twelve shows that highlighted his continued commitment to depicting revolutionary historicist fas hions within an affective runway setting. No. 13 however, closed out twentieth century aesthetic by taking his commitment to mixed media, historical transcendence, and provocative performance to a new level. Like Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victi ms No. 13 again borrowed from a Victorian past, particularly the Arts and Crafts movement, and reimagined it for a pre millennial present and its new bodies. The show began with model Aimee Mullins wearing a pair of wooden boots heavily inspired by Arts a nd Crafts aesthetics. These boots, however, represented more than immediately met the eye being in fact prosthetic legs made specifically for Mullins, a double amputee and Paralympian. Nathalie Khan discusses But at the same they were a functional piece of clothing that had all the decorative qualities of a pair of boots. Through this functional purpose as well as aesthetic, lies a belief system that challeng muddle this divide between body and art, he achieves the deconstruction and reconstitution of a
207 Victorian aesthetic steeped in handmade work that sought to bring art back into pe Almost a century and a half later, McQueen looks backward to bring calling into question how a model walks, what a fashion line includes, and finally the limits (or life. Drawing from the the rest of No. 13 continued to give the audience aesthetic ideals, but also how those ideals get reconstituted ing a technique often used by Arts and Crafts practitioners to draw attention to their workmanship, McQueen left the edges of this This purportedly incomplete view that handmade art should acknowledge its own imperfections ; it is an aesthetic that also leaves the work in a perpetual state of becoming, a technique and artistic choice that Walter Pa ter discussed in The Renaissance with Michelangelo and his David Pater explains how crown of the head of David there still remains a morsel of uncut stone, as if by one touch to maintain its connexion with the pla ce from which it was hewn . as if to realise the expression by which the old Florentine records describe a sculptor master of live stone with him the very which were known then for their impecca ble tailoring, unfinished. Thus, McQueen b ecomes a master of live fabric, sustaining a tension between contro l and a deliberate lack thereof that paradoxically keeps him in control. McQueen dismantles this control, however, in No. 13 piece, osten sibly surrendering his work to an increasingly mechanized contemporary culture. T he finale features Shalom Harlow in a white frock, spinning on a rotating wheel set into the runway, as two large
208 robotic arms spray paint onto her dress. Harlow watched in di dress, but the former ballerina was also careful to make her shocked movements aesthetically pleasing by positioning her body in classical dance like poses achieving an effect best described as sublime. Of this finale and the show in its entirety, including Aimee Mullins on her prosthetic on a pedestal 191). Most artists work out their demons through their art, as Virginia Woolf depicted in To the Lighthouse but there is more at work here than an artist rebelling against the constraints of life and art. In No. 13 and its finale particularly McQueen called attention to the helplessness of all artists, especially at the turn of the millennium when a hyper mechanized culture seems poised to wipe out handmade crafts. Then, rather than fight against technology, McQu een let technology win his runway and thus permitted the shifting chaos of art and life in the mechanical age to influence his designs. But of course the domination was illusory: t hrough symbiosis rather than obstinacy, McQueen created a show that accent uated the contradictions inherent in American fashion and its culture generally, and thus he performed a living conundrum within art. If No. 13 VOSS (2001) two years later, offers the same humili ation to his fashion elite audience, robbing them of their critical stance as spectators of an art and forcing them to become the art themselves. Once again, depi runway show took place within a transparent cube that featured padded walls in the far corners, white tiled floors, and a two way mirror not unlike those used in observa
209 audience is forced to observe these models in perhaps the most objectifying setting available. He combined the historical connotations attached to madness in the nineteenth century and the inherent objectification embedded into all ru nway shows. Indeed, VOSS literally incorporates th em into the text. Before McQueen allows the audience to become spectators of what lies within his cube of fashion, he first chastens the audience and makes them by deliberately starting an hour late, forcing his audience to sit around an enormous reflective Callahan 216). The box itself was not only transparent, but also reflective. Traditionally, The Price of Salt mi rrors distinguish and deconstruct the self ; Highsmith used mirrors to call attention to the uncanny nature of the Like Highsmith, McQueen uses his medium to ad vance the message, which, according to him, crowd question thei r physical selves mirrors the same self critique experienced by women as class outsider. McQueen also simultaneously makes his audience both observer and observed, which reflects Classical Greek ideals found in the theater, a corollary to the runway show, especially as McQueen constructed it. In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche wrote possible, given the terraced construction of the theatre in concentric arcs, for everyone quite literally to overlook the entire cultural world around him, and to imagine, as he looked with sated
210 gaze, that he was a member of th permeates life almost simultaneous with connection to the play and disconnection from their daily lives aided by the actual theatre constru ction, the two binaries of art and life become one. VOSS reflects this performative ideal while also perversely deconstructing it. His spectators look at show, but they also should not look because it denotes vanity. Then, when the lights in the box come up, these spectators do not want to be women trapped in a box, but they still want their clothes. This double bind strains the relationship between subject and spectator heavily and calls into question several intrinsic assu mptions about fashion and art particularly the assumption that a pleased audience wants to draw closer to a subject and the assumption that living persons are in a position of power over art. Finally, it embodies that sublime pull between pleasure and horror that McQueen further enhances in the finale. grotesque halt with a tableau vivant. Michelle Olley whose body does not conform to the rigid rules on weight and shape that runway models usually follow, lounges on a raised platform in a cube within the cube. Breathing tubes and a mask cover her face. The tableau is a recreation of Joel Sa nitarium (1983) : heartbeat on the soundtrack stops, replaced by the steady tone of a flat Gleason 85). The text itself reflects a life and death, but ends with a dead art object brought to vibrant life, within a caged space, that the audience is also caged within, and thus not caged at all. The Greece. As ollections, VOSS offered a
211 commentary on the relationship between the beautiful and the grotesque. For McQueen, the body was a site of contravention, where normalcy was questioned and where the spectacle of VO SS embodied a master class in allowing an art object to live beyond its textual limitations and thus simultaneously reform and deform the lives within and without the text. Here, McQueen reaches the pinnacle of his work and its ability to redefine the runw ay space and perform a living creation that questions the basic assumptions of life and art, especially within the fashion world. With his immense success came an extraordinary amount of fame, both within and outside fashion society. Fame was both friend and foe to artists like Madonna and McQueen ; it allowed them to build complex communities through their performances, as Madonna did with the LGB T community, but it also created antagonistic communities that can potentially destroy individuality. At this s tage in his career, McQueen represented an embodiment of and victim to s to was running he community that created him. But r ather than allow his art to deteriorate amidst these d estructive impulses, McQueen used his fraught relationship with fame and the technologies that fed and distorted this fame to inspire his final show. (2010) confronted the existential and aesthetic issues at work in creating art in the ear ly twenty first century. F or this show, McQueen created living art that also lived simultaneously on the internet. today and what
212 transcendence by borrowing from a Victorian past and adapting its silhouettes and aesthetic concerns for his present. In however, McQue en borrows from the future as he imagines it in order to create a living art that moves beyond current bodies and spaces. beautiful reverberations of a people to come or remarkable example of the use of fashion to decenter the human, to imagine the future otherwise, and to transform the body in nonhuman or other than achieves the highest objecti ve for affective fashion, creating work that questions preconceived notions regarding bodies and imagines what they may become once those preconceptions are shattered. It is a fact that fashion creates culture; runway fashions in the fall become the clothi ng commodities worn in the spring. McQueen, however, goes several steps further. His concern was not merely with clothing trends, but he also attempted to shape bodies themselves. was one of the first major shows simulcast on the internet and the streamed show also played behind the runway itself. The audience could watch the runway, while also watching it as presented to millions of viewers on their computers. Rather than create ready to wear clothes commissioned by banks or department s tores, McQueen created : the sublime experience of nature was paralleled by and supplanted with that of technology the extreme space time compressi Bolton 15). McQueen offered his viewers both the show and its technological representation. Almost ten years later, streamed live content is commonplace, but it still opens an endless cavern of uncanny doubling and deconstruc just as VOSS
213 cube did tapped into the problematic doubling embedded into creating art in the internet age. Ginger Duggan calls McQueen a spectacle designer, who sought to performances that are firmly rooted in the historical precedents of theater. Their association with contemporary celebrity pop culture also serves to further blur boundaries between fashion, art, theater and performance, resulting in shows that ar e cross VOSS he performs historical transcendence, imaginatively adapting the ideal that unde rgirded late Victorian aesthetics, especially and applies them to spatial transcendence McQueen made this connection from cross media spectacles to celebrity pop culture a blatant concern, which became evident as Fame Monster Thus, the technological concerns attached to fame announced its next embodiment within the art of McQueen in effect, passed the baton to Lady Gaga, who will continue experimenting with nonhuman forms and fu rther address the double edged power of fame and its surprising ties to late Victorian art critics. death was still presented to select, small audiences in a few simple shows that showcased the designs themselves. Susannah with his passionate desire to pus h fashion into the future may well have reached its zenith in the capabiliti es in collection, McQueen joined images from the past with current technology to create extraordinary
214 work. Images from religious paintings were electronically scanned and woven using digital deforming its iconic silhouettes. At the end of his career, with new technologies at his disposal, McQueen transmuted the past directly onto his fabrics, wea ving it into his work. He saw technology as an ally rather than an adversary, as some of the flickering attempts at living aesthetic objects glimpsed throughout the twentieth century realized. That which seems destructive can also create the new art that W ilde and his contemporaries first theorized in the nineteenth century. Alexander McQueen, as the man and the label, underwent an almost immediate repackaging after his death, both as an artist worthy of museum exhibitions and as a British provocateur wort impossible to know whether the future Queen of England would have commissioned a McQueen for her wedding gown had he lived but McQueen has indeed become a poster boy of Britishness, even though his work often criticize d British imperialism. provocative work has lived on in uninhibited form in part through the the museum space first created by Diana Vreeland to foster and generate living art through fashion exhibitions. Savage Beauty which the Metropolitan Museum ran May 4 August 7, 2011 recreat es the most iconic runway moments of Met curators Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda almost immediately constructed an exhibit that catalogued his body of work. Most ar tists require a period of silence for readers and viewers to organize their work into one holistic, individual vision. That was unnecessary for McQueen; his
215 vision was distinct and strikingly apparent from the outset. In the book accompanying the exhibit, artist who staunchly followed the dictates of his inspiration. As a designer, he doggedly promoted freedom of thought and expression and championed the authority of the imag (13). Supporting this widely held view Bolton organized the show itself according to different Romantic impulses, especially as enhanced through Victorian and Symbolist a esthetic creeds, inspired his most provocative work, a telling example of how a great imagination relies upon and adapts the past for the present. Over 650,000 people saw the exhibit, making it the most popular fashion exhibit ever at the Met. The living a esthetic objects that McQueen created in his silhouettes and on his runways F ashion can and should achieve this ultimate aesthetic goal. Charles Baudelaire made this case m any decades earlier : And if to the fashion plate representing each age he were to add the philosophic thought with which that age wa s most preoccupied or concerned . he would see what a profound harmony controls all the components of history, and that even in those centuries which seem to us the most monstrous and the maddest, the immortal thirst for beauty has always found its satisfaction. ( PML 3) As Baudelaire and Wilde both declared, f ashion or what is fashionable becomes the ultimate signifier for an age and its culture. McQueen understood this and sought to embody it from his first to his incomplete last collection. As he said himself silhouett personal aesthetic infused his collections with a certain viewpoint that would become the late 9 0s, early 2000s
216 fashion viewpoint. It was the kind of hubris that echoed De Profundis realised this for myself at the very dawn of my manhood and had forced my age to realise it 912). F esthetic, as he said it would; h still find their way into c ontemporary runway shows showing us bodies, new modes of bodily being and becoming, and new ways of producing connections and assemblages between bodies and materials that offer a glimpse into the future so as to transform th Seely 264). McQueen understood that art should challenge life as much as embody it, propelling forward into new forms and presentations. Lady Gaga, wearing McQueen designs, will carry this impulse into the 2010s, refine it, and disseminate it t hrough pop visual and musical media. Lady Gaga is a figure as polarizing as Wilde himself was during his own period. While most concede influence over pop music, characterizations of Lady Gaga talent continue to fluctuate between absurdity, ge nius, and in 2017 conventionality. Over the past decade, she has defined, redefined, and deconstructed herself, and she has done so primarily through a Wildean mix of truth and artifice. Madonna established how to create a female pop icon using music video s, shock performances, and direct connections to othered communities. Yet, Madonna was inventing as she went, and the inspiration which she drew from was her own fluctuating self as she presented it to the media. Lady Gaga advances upon these principles a ligning them even more closely with ideals regarding the creation of living art. Furthermore, as a friend and aficionado of Alexander McQueen, she incorporates his aesthetics into her living body. By combining pop music, fashion, and emerging techn ologies, Lady Gaga
217 advances the living aesthetic object form, bringing it closer to its ultimate fruition via social media. Lady Gaga began her career under her birth name Stefani Germanotta, recording and writing music in New Jersey with record producer R ob Fusari after dropping out from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Her talent as a singer and songwriter were easily recognized, especially since she was selling her work to major pop acts of the time, and she was quickly signed to Def Jam Recordings altho ugh she was dropped from the label after three months. Shortly thereafter she broke out of her singer/songwriter shell and began experimenting with various performance personae that worked in provocative t andem with her music. In this respect she tracked Wilde, who argued in Decay of The more abstract, the more ideal an art is[,] the more it revea ls to us the temper of its citing music as an example of an abstract artform ( 988 ). After being dropped from a major recording company, she reinvented herself as the kind of abstract artform Wilde discusses here, an artform that only grows more decadent when paired with music. Lady Gaga followed lead and created a persona dependent upon performance, hyperindividualism, and connec tions to othered communities, rather than relatability or authenticity. When she broke onto the pop scene with her hit singles and in 2009, Lady Gaga donned the hyper futuristic leotards, TV screen glasses, and exaggeratedly long wigs that defined her initial persona and separated her from female pop artists at the time, who were mostly committed to looking and acting as relatable as possible to a consumer public. She was distinctly outr, utilizing makeup, costumery, and highly st ylized performances to establish herself as a self conscious commentator on popular culture, who only presented a to her audiences.
218 Whereas female celebrity icons in the twentieth century, like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and Bette Davis, f ound their public personas restrictive, Lady Gaga takes cues and relishes her performative role. Furthermore, unlike Madonna, who often strained her art by refusing to admit its constructed nature, Lady Gaga often consciously exposes the fact tha t her life is indeed an elaborate performance a lie. Her work on The Fame and The Fame Monster her debut albums released a year apart from each other, cemented her status as pop music's new performance queen but Lady Gaga sought early on to distinguis h herself from the female performers that preceded her. Jack Halberstam, in his study of Lady Gaga in Gaga Feminism argues, Instead of tethering her to pop hopefuls who came before her, we need to make the connection to a long line of feminine anarchists musicians, and writers. As Lady Gaga herself has said: I mean not to be so direct but I just think that people need to come up with better references than Christina an d Gwen and Madonna all the (Halberstam 139). Here, Halberstam reads Lady Gaga a s giving arguably a dismissive reading of her predecessors, when many of Lady Gaga's pop peers, from Madonna to Britney Spears to Christina Aguilera, also register as feminine anarchists that is, artist s who provocatively redefine conservative sex and gen der notions of femininity Rather than standing apart from these women Lady Gaga resides clearly within their pop lineage but introduces a distinctly Wildean aesthetic into pop music, advancing it as an artform beyond what artists like Madonna have alread y accomplished. In a 2011 interview with Stephen Fry, Lady Gaga provides a few thinkers that she deems her major influences, including Rainer Rilke, Bertolt Brecht, and Oscar Wilde. Stephen Fry first poin ts out the connection between her work and Wilde s Truth of a connection which she endorses and which helps her define performance of my life, every day reminding people that the curtain has not closed and that if they don t want to sit in the audience, that s fine By
219 aligning herself w ith Truth of and simultaneously with s general aesthetic both on the page and in his daily life, Lady Gaga understands that her life is also a pop performance, and one that she plans on executing along the same parameters of her stage pe rformances. Later in the interview, she brings Wilde up again and extends point: When you were mentioning Oscar Wilde and talking about the mask and how it is a disservice to identity to say that we are compartmentalized as different masks as opposed to one ultimate and complex being, I would say that if I could describe myself as an artist in terms of theatrical philosophy, I would say that I am Brechtian. With this comment, Lady Gaga extends the range of influence s on her own work, eq uating her pop music to canonical plays and poetry. Yet her emphasis on the philosophical bent of her work was a rather late development. When she first embarked on her career, she was honored when Madonna attended one of her early performances, regularly cited Queen as her s trongest influence, and frequently name dropped David Bowie. Her theatrical/philosophical reading of herself in this 2011 interview with Stephen Fry reveals how she was already playing with concepts that would define her next two albums Born This Way and ARTPOP While breaking major commercial and Billboard records, Born This Way (2011) most provocatively established Lady Gaga as an experimental performer, especially through her frenetic use of various personae. The lead single on the album was This an LGBT r allying cry, which made a dance theme out of the idea that sexuality is a birth trait rather than a choice, as many conservatives claimed. In the chorus, she sings, beautiful in my way / God makes no mistakes / m on the right tra ck, baby / I was born this Queer theorists have stressed the idea that what Lady Gaga sings here is not necessarily the whole truth. Queerness, especially in terms of gender, often has more to do with performance than an essent ial identity. However, the way she performs This offers a different reading to
220 her own song. During t he 2011 Grammys, she performed This to an international audience for the first time. Aside from her usual inventive choreography and bevy of dancers, Lady s own body was covered in various prosthetics that distorted the shape of her cheekbones, her shoulders, and more. Thus, while belting out a song about how queerness is natural, her body argues more for the importance of performa tivity and artificiality. Rather than deck herself out in beautifying makeup and costumes, Lady Gaga was instead interested in becoming, to quote from Oscar Wilde, not beautiful merely, but also ( 106 6). Wilde also states in Decay of Lyi What Art really reveals to us is Nature s lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her a bsolutely unfinished ( 970). Through both her lyrics and her performance, Lady Gaga embodies the tension between Art and Nature that Wilde describes here. Also, she takes a page from playbook and reinvents a song through either music videos or performances. Her performance corrects and truly queers a song with a rather staid, neoliberal stance, and through this sim ultaneous reading of her song and its performance she enacts Wild favorite aesthetic dichotomy, Art versus Nature Lady video for the also off Born This Way similarly reflects a Wildean sense of aesthetics and performance, espe ci ally as Wilde presents it in Decay of Presented as a narrative film rather than a music video, in the Night Lady Gaga recounts her mental breakdown after Def Jam Recordings dropped her from their label. The scene opens as two nurses wheel her through a mental hospital. In a voiceover, Lady Gaga narrates, I look back on my life it s not that I don t want to see things exactly as they happened, it s just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way, and truthfully the lie of it all is much more honest because I invented With this line, Lady Gaga revives Wildean lying,
221 mirroring his claim that lies are often more revelatory than the truth. Furthermore, through this commentary, she simultaneously characterizes herself as a Wildean critic, as defined in his essay Critic as As Lawrence Danson neatly summarizes the case The critic must see the object as in itself it really is not in order to escape the prison of the already constructed, to be creative instead o f imitative. The Wildean critic neither knows nor feels the world, but makes (Danson 90). That is critic is not only a stereotypical critic, pulling from other work to flesh out his own, but also an artist himself: is, in f act, both creative and ( 1026 ). Lady Gaga embodies critic as artist, as she continues her narration, s sort of like my past is an unfinished painting, and as the artist of that painting, I must fill in all the ugly holes and ma ke it beautiful Essentially, Lady Gaga looks back upon her life and, like any good Wildean critic, makes the necessary cuts and critiques that eventually lead to a new work of art that is both creative and independent from the original work. Madonn a arguably accomplished the same feat in her remixes of and her personae respectively. However, w hat distinguishes Lady Gaga from her predecessor is her willingness to tap into a deeply personal sorrow. She severs the veil between privat e and public and makes her life double as her art. This aesthetic decision bears more similarities to Virginia tactics in To the Lighthouse which featured a fictional living aesthetic object drawn from memories of her deceased mother. But r ather than using a literary text Lady Gaga performs these personal memories, revised and remixed, through her living body. While her work during the Born This Way era strikingly illustrates s philosophical relevance t o millennial culture, Lady Ga s next album ARTPOP (2013) arg uably represents s transition into the decadence in the final years of his public life and career. To intr oduce the first single Lady Gaga first revealed on Twitter the s cover art.
222 She wears the traditional garb of Pierrot, the stock clown figure of Parisian pantomimes and an important symbol for various art movements throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 6 Lady Gaga, in her cover art, also embellishes her Pierrot face with various paints, thus further aestheticizing an already decadent figure. Rathe r than diminish her face and persona, her costume and mask place her self on vibrant display, proving s claim from Pencil and that A mask tells us more t han a face. These disguise s intensified [the] ( 995). Earlier in his career, Wilde had explored this territory in Truth of which discusses the importance of historical and archaeological accuracy to plays makin g the case that the mask represented a face that revealed more than any natural face possibly could. Lady cover art for pushes this idea and makes one wonder whether her conversation with Stephen Fry about masks created an even la rger i mpact on her subsequent work indeed, looking at ARTPOP in its entirety, it is difficult to find a reading of this album that does not tie back to Wildean aestheticism and decadent artifice. If the cover art for the single transformed the pop artist persona into an embodiment of aesthetic history, then the music video for provided the filmic accompaniment, portraying the human as art ideal ad nauseam In The Critic as Artist Wilde argues, know anything about oneself, one must know all about others. There must be no mood with which one cannot sympathize, no dead mode of life that one cannot make CA 1040 ). Lady Gaga performs this in her video for utilizing a pop art form perfected by Madonna to embody ae sthetic theories. Unlike the Lady Gaga uses the traditional 6 For instance, the late Victorian decadents utilized this archetype in their art, their poetry, and their prose, genre (the tragicomic). One need only ta s ubiquity amongst the decadents.
223 music video format and length on but she packs that small space with a plethora of artworks, art references, and self references. As she sings an ode to perf ormance and to her fans, her body and its costumes run through the gamut of high art, low art, and pop art, citing texts as diverse as The Little Mermaid music video, The Birth of Venus the myth of Icarus, The Cabi net of Dr. Caligari and her own music videos for and After the video was released, it became a game to find all the differ ent references in the video; BuzzFeed of course made a list out of it, which identified thirty six reference s. In four minutes Lady Gaga mutates her body into various art forms, reviving historical works of art and becoming a work of art herself. While the video itself may seem like frenetic sampling and even plagiarism, it nonetheless produces an intense conver sation about art in popular culture and whether someone like Lady Gaga really could or should equate her own work with a Botticelli painting or Andy Marilyn Diptych Extending the aesthetics she established in the music video, Lady Gaga performed for the first time at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. If her This performance queered the actual song, perfecting its initial public release, then with her performan ce, Lady Gaga literally embodied the Wildean aesthetics a lready present in the video beginning her performance dressed in a large white canvas. Throughout the song, her dancers use d brushes to paint on her face and costume. In later renditions of this performance, the audience members were given paints, which they were encouraged to fling on her canvas as she sang. Thus, she transformed her own body into a work of art, an addition to aesthetics that he himself may not have literally performed but which he certainly theorized in his work, especially in The Picture of Dorian Gray and De Profundis
224 Lady performances during the ARTPOP era only further harness ed her role as pop icon and art critic/artist. In keeping with the title of her album, these performances are single minded ly interested in exploring the divide (or lack thereof) between the art and pop music worlds, a divide that Wilde also sought to bridge through his essays and hi s daily life. Most of Lady s early performances for ARTPOP occurred in major New York art galleries and at Art Basel show, placing her pop music within blatantly high art settings. Indeed, many other major music performers like Jay Z, Kanye West, and the Wu Tang Clan have also begun placing their work in art galleries, revealing h ow Lady Gaga began a trend which has allowed artists of various genres to infiltrate predominantly white, upper class environments. While placing their work in these settings, these artists nonetheless do so on their own terms, which are often Wildean term s as well. More than perhaps any other attribute, Wilde was probably best known for his flippant mixtures of high and low art forms, placing a fabulous boutonnire on the same level as a painting in the Royal Academy. Further dismantling privileged s paces, a new community of and have taken the ideals of living aestheticism boldly into the next era using social media platforms like Instagram and user centric creative outlets like YouTube. Through the combination of visual i conography, technical manipulations, and Lady deft combination of the critic and artist, a new living aesthetic object emerges through the selfie artist and their apps. ARTPOP performances, the selfie and subsequently Inst infiltration into our daily lives deconstructs the aura previously surrounding museums, galleries, that #foodporn is still life; all those #selfies, self p ortraits. All those vacation vistas are #landscape; art historically speaking, #beachday pics evoke the hoariest clich of middle class
225 to narcissism, but as D avis points out, this movement only echoes established, conventional art genres and tropes. C past particularly Wildean dandy culture to create new aesthetic selves, new forms of se lf marketing, and new communities. Rather than mere self obsessed narcissism, selfies reveal how people (especially women and marginalized minorities) are provocatively taking their aesthetic self call y communal structure allows users to post their selfies and immediately connect to other users, forming aesthetic communities that challenge traditional art forms and hierarchies. In short, the lives performed and posted on Instagram and visual apps like i t reveal how the living aesthetic object now belongs to the masses and has become the preferred new form of creating oneself on and off the internet. Our contemporary issues with selfies and their dissemination lie predominantly with how, according to critics, they lead to narcissism and distort experience. The first of these critiques is the most common and has generated almost a decade of repeated use from the anti selfie camp. We are fascinated solely with ourselves, so much so that we transform a tool for communication the smartphone into a tool for self obsession. James Franco, the poster boy for millennial overeducated sloth, wrote an op ed in the portrait is an easy target for charges of self involvement, you are, what yo communicate in new and inventive ways, forcing us to be both s ocial and creative. Users do more than just say how they are feeling; they perform it. This practice reflects the perform ance always already embedded into life itself, especially as theorized by queer theorists and as
226 exemplified by Madonna and Lady Gaga. Yet, with performance comes the inevitable distortion of experience, and these distortions most often lead to popular dis comfort with selfies and the posting selfies on Instagram leads to selfie artists and their audiences entering an unhealthy spiral of misconceptions that cau lots of time carefully curating and filtering your images, you spend even more time staring at me on. And the more you do that . the more distorted your perception is that their lives are happier what most people have experienced on social media after a friend posts their vacation photos or their weekend adventures. By 2017, this sensation was Missing Out. We wonder whether our lives are just boring, uneventful, and ugly in comparison t, what strikes me about these critiques that of narcissism and of the screen hangover here and elsewhere is how the opponents make it seem as if these problems are somehow new and a pr obsession with new technologies. But fascination with t he modern individual and his/her connections to emergent technologies is hardly a recent phenomenon; it purpose in the nineteenth century. The industrial revolution, urbanization, and new artforms all combined and put into question what identity and the self meant during this period. In her analysis of the twenty first century selfie, Tara Isabella Burton traces contemporary selfie culture back to the constructed and self conscious nature of the nin eteenth century dandy: portrait: not among the Twitterati, but among the silk waistcoated dand ies of nineteenth century
227 Paris. She points out how m id his humanity by choosing and creating his own identity, he remains splendidly aloof, unaffected by ot The dandy, performing an emergent form of masculinity, pr ided himself on the careful composition of his daily clothing, manners, and movements. Wilde, a noted nineteenth century dandy, of course also wrote extensively about self presentation and daily performance as avenues toward transforming life into art. But f or Wilde, necessitates an inherent narcissism, commitment to conscious performance an d provocative self pres entation. If smartphones existed over a century ago, then dandies would have taken, filtered, and posted selfies that rivaled Kim Indeed, the nineteenth century dandy shares much with the contemporary selfie artist, which is why popular art critics have begun associating the two. In an emergent city culture, the in which the narrator stalks a distinct face that shocks him within a Parisian crowd. In The Painter of Modern Life Baudelaire focused on this fugitive face in the crowd and held forth the flneur as a city dweller who can weave his way through the city crowd and become part of it while nevertheless still retaining his individuality. In doing so, the flneur taps into a cultural hive mind that closely resembles what Instagram users experience when they scroll through their Feed. I n transferring an experience in modern city life onto a screen, Instagram deconstructs the binary between fiction and reality, as well as revealing a liminal and somewhat disorienting space between the two the social media Feed. The flneur in traversing the city crowd, a lso succumbs to mu ltiple pseudo electric
228 as Baudelaire describes, PML 10), a selfhood when bombarded b y a sea of internet reactions. As Baudelaire explains, That is, the flneur, like the social media user, As it happens Guys, a French artist and illustrator, who sk etched city scenes. For Baudelaire, the ultimate Through selfies and F eeds, an Instagram user performs his/her own part as a flneur, utilizing that selfies distort our ability to li ve our lives out in the world reveals an intrinsic flaw typical of most selfie criticism: namely, the assumption that there is a stark staged Instagram selves It is, as we personae, a variation of the ages Wil de and that, if anything, the aesthetically posed life he explained how an artist could transform life itself into a work of art through performance conscious and deliberate . . The work that
229 seems to us to be the most natural and simple product of its time is always the result of the most self consciousness, and self ). Wilde sought to uncover the inherent performance behind all artwork and to demonstrate how art deliberately manipulates life also teaches us that life is never truly natural, but only a colle ction of selected constructs from a spectrum of possible ones tyranny breaking role that art has within the community: Art is Individualism, and Individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Therein lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine. ( ) The struggle for individuation is with not just self actualization so much and frames it as such a politically revolutionary action It is a lesson definitely applicable to modern selfie cultur e. Selfies, rather than distorting daily life, reveal how other forms of media more insidious than selfies have already constructed and always will construct our so regain control of our aesthetic self presentation, which is a powerful tool, especially for those people marginalized or erased by the popular media. While Madonna, McQueen, and Gaga approached and appropriated the experiences of marginalized communities with varying le vels of success, selfies put the power directly into the hands of the marginalized. Rather than judging as a grotesque form of self indulgence we might consider how selfie culture boosts confidence in women and minorities, allowing them a voice that has heretofore eluded them in visual media unless they can become a pop star like Madonna or Lady Gaga selfie
230 multitudes to create new communities in life and art. constitutes a crowd that one simultaneously contributes to and curates. Like other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, an Instagram user chooses who m he/she follows. Unlike Facebook, however, and more lik of the Crowd, Instagram allows its users to directly follow complete strangers. Through their Explore feature, Instagram suggests algorithms construct the Explore space based on whom users currently follow and the pictures they like. 7 Instead of allowing the Hollywood film industry or other ruling class media to construct their identities, the me generation constructs itself, helping rather than hindering the productive construction of new living aesthetic objects. model for the individual in art and in life and can simultaneously connect to others and create subversive communities. Hashtags, once a mere archival device, have in recent years transformed into a nother revolutio nary means of connecting with others, utilized haltingly to mobilize people during the Occupy movement but most successfully in the recent #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movement s These hashtags mobilize living, street based social movements on various medi a sites, but Instagram in particular mobilizes aesthetic selfie movements through hashtags like #Blackout and #TransVisibilityDay. Such hashtags and others like them help African American, transgender, and other minorities mobilize and foster visibility. B en Davis, in his description of Ways of Seeing democratized image making that it has put the power once mainly associated with aristocrats to stylize your image and project yourself to an audience as desirable 7 For instance, my Explore page is filled with tattoo artists, celebrity selfies, and friends of friends.
231 Ways of Seeing often ignored or made completely invisible If selfies were to remain a purely self involved artistic act, then they would also quickly lose any aesthetic power within a self serving, elitist narcissism. They would, in short, meet the same destructive ends as the unsuccess ful living aesthetic objects examined in earlier eras. Instagram users on the contrary, have actively call ed attention to their experiences within the dominant culture. For instance, Chris Rock began taking a selfie every time a cop pulled him over, calli ng attention to racial profiling. Rather than the self absorption and delusion that selfie critics fear, posting selfies on Instagram have offered marginalized communities an opportunity to reveal their subjugated experiences and connect to one another. Th ese users create living aesthetic objects that not only connect to other communities, but, most interestingly, also shape how those communities can mobilize towards change in the present and future. While Instagram possesses this productive aesthetic poten tial, it cannot as a controlled app, prevent prejudiced users from sometimes censoring material from their archive. Davis also addresses makes possible many good things; political and economic conditions guarant ee, however, that it is constantly warped so that the has come under fire for censoring female selfie artists, which sparked an international movement on Instagra m called #FreeTheNipple. This hashtag grew in momentum after breastfeeding mothers began an outcry over Instagram deleting breastfeeding selfies as well as its often prejudicial targeting of female bodies. Thanks to hashtags and the Explore feature, these movements quickly gain ed a following, and more female users have begun to test the boundaries
232 of artistic freedom on Instagram. For instance, when Instagram deleted a series of photos posted by rought attention to the menstruating female body. Instagram deleted these photos, portraits and my work was created to crit ique. you deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that in which the company censorship is debatable this sequence of events nonetheless shows the power of the Instagram to post selfies. As the back and forth between Instagram and its users illustrates, posting selfies allows artists to create themselves and their communities, just as Wilde postulated regarding individualist art movements in the aesthetic landscape of th achieving aesthetic individuation often depended on a certain class status, which explains why most aesthetes and dandies were found in the upper classes. Burton points out that with advancements in technology made availa ble to the many, creation becomes not a narcissistic act of superiority, but a human expre Given the potential as an aestheticizing object, those who continue to criticize it merely as a form of van ity fail to realize the positive effects posting selfies can have and the new avenues for self creation this seemingly frivolous artform has paved. In the past two years, visual social media platforms like Instagram have evolved beyond binary between real life and posted life. Snapchat first introduced the co ncept of posting short
233 disappearing after twenty four hours Instagram introduced this feature in 2016, and its popularity continues to grow, often outranking stati c, permanent posts. This new development was a perfect response to critics who de cried the narcissism of the selfie movement and the various apps attached to its development. The transient quality of Stories effectively canceled out the clai m that selfies are merely a means to gaze endlessly upon oneself Stories, the mirror ed post instead reflects the impermanence Hi the ultimate transformation into a living aesthetic object. Now, Instagram and Snapchat users embrace the ephemeral. Many of the figures in this project like Dionea, Jay Gatsby, and Dian a Vreeland Stories embody that acceptance and prove how our social media apps, feeds, profiles, and stories are, to riff off Baudelaire, more living than life i tself. They foster new spaces for life and art to intermingle and create living aesthetic objects, for better or worse. As evidenced by Instagram communities and the continued efforts for artistic freedom within these communities, visual social media apps are arguably on the frontlines of achieving aesthetic rights for women and minorities that have eluded them in other stereotypical media formats. Thanks to the constant influx of black selfies, queer selfies, and self ies in general, audiences are starting to realize what Wild e identified over a century ago namely, how constructed and aesthetically arranged S elfies and their stories are not so much mirror s than the most recent Wildean deconstruct ing artform, a means of revealing how
234 Lady Gaga, and the modern Selfie phenomenon have underscored the massive impact of Wildean art on contemporary culture, rev ealing the continued relevance of Oscar Wilde aesthetics in the se final incarnation s of living aesthetic objects. Some popular forms of new media have achieved many of the ideals that eluded the potential living aesthetic objects I have discussed in earl ier chapters fact that people still read his work and adapt it into films and TV shows; perhaps more than any ields as diverse as film, fashion, music, new media, and literature. Not least among his many seminal insights has been the recognition that aesthetically crafted fiction, in its special ability to beautifully embody rather than flatly preach, is more real fin de sicle condemned to a prison deve lopments in Art and Life, each one of which is a fresh mode of perfection. I long to live so ( DP 919).
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242 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Samantha Banal grew up in Hialeah, FL, a daughter and granddaughter of Cuban exiles. She attended Florida International University, where she gained her B.A. in English, graduating summa cum laude from their Honors College. At the University of Florida, sh e devoted her graduate studies to Victorian literature, particularly its connections to contemporary ne w media, an d gained a passion for leading undergraduate class es through literary, interpretive discussions. She received her Ph D in English at the Univ ersity of Florida in the spring of 2018. She now lives in Miami, FL, where she teaches dual enrollment classes to high school students mooches off the Wi Fi and free drinks at local cafs and tries to remember what it is like to read without taking notes