• “The rarest, most complex & most lately developed form of aestheticism”: Olive Schreiner, decadence, and the aesthetic education of the senses

    Author(s):
    Dustin Friedman (see profile)
    Date:
    2021
    Group(s):
    Late-Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century English Literature, LLC Victorian and Early-20th-Century English, TM Literary and Cultural Theory, TM Literary Criticism
    Subject(s):
    English literature, Nineteenth century, Aesthetics, Allegory, Aesthetics--Philosophy, South African literature
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Olive Schreiner, decadence, Kant, Victorian literature, Aesthetic theory, Modernism
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/ynpf-pj81
    Abstract:
    This essay focuses on Olive Schreiner’s personal correspondence and the allegories collected in Dreams (1890) to explore her complicated relationship to late-Victorian Decadence. I argue that Schreiner modified Decadent writers’ use of intersensoriality and synaesthesia to educate her readers into a new kind of common sense, one aligned with her own position as a progressive woman writer from the global periphery. While she rejected the exclusivity, individualism, and celebration of sensual indulgence for its own sake found in much canonical Decadent writing, she was nevertheless inspired by its deployment of the aesthetic to retrain the body to appreciate alternatives to a sensus communis of the kind described in Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790). She saw Decadence encouraging the discovery of new ways of perceiving reality beyond the apparent “common sense” of Victorian liberal humanism. Like the Decadents, but in her own way, Schreiner challenged the aesthetic norms that helped to secure the hegemony of bourgeois European culture, contributing to the late nineteenth century’s broad eruption of interest in art’s role in both producing and contesting the prevailing liberal order.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    8 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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