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Marginal Modernity

The Aesthetics of Dependency from Kierkegaard to Joyce

Leonard Lisi

Publication Year: 2012

Two ways of understanding the aesthetic organization of literary works have come down to us from the late 18th century and dominate discussions of European modernism today: the aesthetics of autonomy, associated with the self-sufficient work of art, and the aesthetics of fragmentation, practiced by the avant-gardes. In this revisionary study, Leonardo Lisi argues that these models rest on assumptions about the nature of truth and existence that cannot be treated as exhaustive of modern experience. Lisi traces an alternative aesthetics of dependency that provides a different formal structure, philosophical foundation, and historical condition for modernist texts. Taking Europe's Scandinavian periphery as his point of departure, Lisi examines how Kierkegaard and Ibsen imagined a response to the changing conditions of modernity different from those at the European core, one that subsequently influenced James, Hofmannsthal, Rilke, and Joyce. Combining close readings with a broader revision of the nature and genealogy of modernism, Marginal Modernity challenges what we understand by modernist aesthetics, their origins, and their implications for how we conceive our relation to the modern world.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

Note on Citations

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pp. xiii-xvi

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pp. 1-20

Whatever else there might be disagreement about with respect to modernism, a consensus exists that “autonomy” is central to it. This is visible not only in those critics who see it as the pivotal category of modernist aesthetics1 but also in those who instead associate...

Part One: Philosophical Foundations

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1. Presuppositions and Varietiesof Aesthetic Experience

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pp. 23-54

As scholars of the history of philosophy have frequently pointed out, the extraordinary rise in importance of aesthetics since the late eighteenth century is due, not least, to the solution it provided to the epistemological problems inherited from Kant’s Copernican...

Part Two: Aesthetic Forms at theScandinavian Periphery

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2. Johan Ludvig Heibergand the Autonomy of Art

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pp. 57-86

The analysis in this chapter is governed by two overarching aims. First, I seek to establish the sociohistorical context for the reception in Golden Age Denmark of the idealist principles outlined in the previous chapter. Second, I lay bare the implications of these same...

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3. Aesthetics of Fragmentation in Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt

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pp. 87-113

This chapter traces Henrik Ibsen’s transition from an adherence to the principles of idealism in his early works to his rejection of the same in Peer Gynt. Its central purpose is thus twofold. On the one hand, it examines the sociohistorical critique of idealism entailed...

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4. Nora’s Departure and theAesthetics of Dependency

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pp. 117-166

The preceding chapter has made clear that the breakthrough of Ibsen’s mature aesthetics cannot be defined in terms of his rejection of the idealist paradigm (as Toril Moi claims in Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism) or through his turn to an allegorical...

Part Three: Modernism and Dependency

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5. Henry James and the Emergence of the Major Phase

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pp. 169-203

In 1891, Henry James entered the “Ibsen Controversy” with a favorable review of Hedda Gabler, his first in a series of articles on the Norwegian dramatist. While James’s defense of Ibsen is an occurrence largely neglected by the secondary literature...

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7. Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the Language of the Future

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pp. 204-219

Of all the authors dealt with in this study, Hugo von Hofmannsthal has a relationship to Scandinavian literature that is the most difficult to determine. To my knowledge, no study on the topic exists, and the archive is difficult to reconstruct. We know, however, that Hofmannsthal...

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7. Conflict and Mediationin James Joyce’s “The Dead

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pp. 220-246

It must be one of the most cited facts in the scholarship on Joyce that he began his career as an author with a review of Ibsen’s final play, When We Dead Awaken. The review, titled “Ibsen’s New Drama,” was published in the Fortnightly Review in 1900 and was based...

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8. Intransitive Love in Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

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pp. 247-268

It seems appropriate to conclude this study with an examination of Rainer Maria Rilke’s novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, written between 1904 and 1910 and centered on a Danish character. Among the many Scandinavian authors that Rilke was closely familiar with (including figures such...

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pp. 269-272

The preceding chapters have argued that an aesthetic paradigm not previously considered by the secondary literature must be understood as central to the evolution of European Modernism. Distinct from the models of both autonomy and fragmentation that the field has traditionally...


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pp. 273-300


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pp. 301-330


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pp. 331-334

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250363
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823245321
Print-ISBN-10: 0823245322

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text

OCLC Number: 820632023
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Marginal Modernity

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Modernism (Literature).
  • Dependency (Psychology) in literature.
  • Aesthetics in literature.
  • Philosophy in literature.
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