The Problem with Pleasure: Modernism and Its Discontents

The Problem with Pleasure: Modernism and Its Discontents

by Laura Frost

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Aldous Huxley decried "the horrors of modern 'pleasure,'" or the proliferation of mass produced, widely accessible entertainment that could degrade or dull the mind. He and his contemporaries, including James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, D. H. Lawrence, and Jean Rhys, sought to radically redefine pleasure, constructing arduous and indirect paths to delight through their notoriously daunting work. Laura Frost follows these experiments in the art of unpleasure, connecting modernism's signature characteristics, such as irony, allusiveness, and obscurity, to an ambitious attempt to reconfigure bliss.

In The Problem with Pleasure, Frost draws upon a wide variety of materials, linking interwar amusements, such as the talkies, romance novels, the Parisian fragrance Chanel no. 5, and the exotic confection Turkish Delight, to the artistic play of Joyce, Lawrence, Stein, Rhys, and others. She considers pop cultural phenomena and the rise of celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino and Gypsy Rose Lee against contemporary sociological, scientific, and philosophical writings on leisure and desire.

Throughout her study, Frost incorporates recent scholarship on material and visual culture and vernacular modernism, recasting the period's high/low, elite/popular divides and formal strategies as efforts to regulate sensual and cerebral experience. Capturing the challenging tensions between these artists' commitment to innovation and the stimulating amusements they denounced yet deployed in their writing, Frost calls attention to the central role of pleasure in shaping interwar culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231526463
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 07/09/2013
Series: NONE
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Laura Frost is a writer and scholar. Her work on sex, art, gender, literature, and film has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Bookforum, The Times Higher Education, Quartz, and elsewhere. She is also the author of Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Repudiation of Pleasure
1. James Joyce and the Scent of Modernity
2. Stein's Tickle
3. Orgasmic Discipline: D. H. Lawrence
4. Huxley's Feelies: Engineered Pleasure in Brave New World
5. The Impasse of Pleasure: Patrick Hamilton and Jean Rhys
6. Blondes Have More Fun: Anita Loos and the Language of Silent Cinema
Coda: Modernism's Afterlife in the Age of Prosthetic Pleasure

What People are Saying About This

Laura Marcus

A lively, coherent, well-researched work that makes a significant contribution to an understanding of early twentieth-century literature and its legacies.

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