The Flirt's Tragedy: Desire without End in Victorian and Edwardian Fiction [NOOK Book]

Overview

In the flirtation plots of novels by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and W. M. Thackeray, heroines learn sociability through competition with naughty coquette-doubles. In the writing of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, flirting harbors potentially tragic consequences, a perilous game then adapted by male flirts in the novels of Oscar Wilde and Henry James. In revising Gustave Flaubert's
Sentimental Education in The Age of Innocence,
Edith Wharton ...

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The Flirt's Tragedy: Desire without End in Victorian and Edwardian Fiction

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Overview

In the flirtation plots of novels by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and W. M. Thackeray, heroines learn sociability through competition with naughty coquette-doubles. In the writing of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, flirting harbors potentially tragic consequences, a perilous game then adapted by male flirts in the novels of Oscar Wilde and Henry James. In revising Gustave Flaubert's
Sentimental Education in The Age of Innocence,
Edith Wharton critiques the nineteenth-century European novel as morbidly obsessed with deferred desires. Finally, in works by D. H. Lawrence and E. M. Forster,
flirtation comes to reshape the modernist representation of homoerotic relations.

In The Flirt's Tragedy: Desire without End in Victorian and Edwardian Fiction,
Richard Kaye makes a case for flirtation as a unique, neglected species of eros that finds its deepest, most elaborately sustained fulfillment in the nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century novel. The author examines flirtation in major British,
French, and American texts to demonstrate how the changing aesthetic of such fiction fastened on flirtatious desire as a paramount subject for distinctly novelistic inquiry. The novel, he argues, accentuated questions of ambiguity and ambivalence on which an erotics of deliberate imprecision thrived. But the impact of flirtation was not only formal. Kaye views coquetry as an arena of freedom built on a dialectic of simultaneous consent and refusal, as well as an expression of "managed desire," a risky display of female power, and a cagey avenue for the expression of dissident sexualities. Through coquetry, novelists offered their response to important scientific and social changes and to the rise of the metropolis as a realm of increasingly transient amorous relations.

Challenging current trends in gender,
post-gender, and queer-theory criticism, and considering texts as diverse as Darwin's The Descent of Man and Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, Kaye insists that critical appraisals of Victorian and Edwardian fiction must move beyond existing paradigms defining considerations of flirtation in the novel. The Flirt's Tragedy offers a lively, revisionary, often startling assessment of nineteenth-century fiction that will alter our understanding of the history of the novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Examining British, French, and American novels, Kaye (English, Hunter College of the City U. of New York) argues that flirtatious eros in late-18th and early-19th century texts is a largely unexplored, distinct realm of experience. Flirtation in these novels suggests that the aim of desire is not the realization of desire by rather deferral itself. Flirting represented a reckless adventurism that violates middle-class aspirations and interests. The lack of a thorough examination by critical theorists of this vital part of Victorian and Edwardian literature is blamed on a dominating methodology in the field based on the ideas of Michel Foucault. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813922003
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/2002
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 246
  • File size: 582 KB

Meet the Author

Richard A. Kaye is Assistant Professor of English at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Fiction and the Poetics of Flirtation 1
1 Dialectical Desires: The Eighteenth-Century Coquette and the Invention of Nineteenth-Century Fictional Character 51
2 The Flirtation of Species: Darwinian Sexual Selection and Victorian Narrative 84
3 George Eliot and Thomas Hardy: Flirtation, Female Choice, and the Revision of Darwinian Belief 118
4 Deadly Deferrals: Henry James, Edith Wharton, Gustave Flaubert, and the Exhaustion of Flirtatious Desire 151
5 "Acceptable Hints of Infinity": Dissident Desires and the Erotics of Countermodernism 177
Notes 207
Selected Bibliography 235
Index 241
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