The Flirt's Tragedy
Desire without End in Victorian and Edwardian Fiction
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Table of Contents
Many individuals helped with the writing of this book. I would like to thank U. C. Knoepflmacher for his patient, expert, and always spirited attention, Talmudic in its intensity, to the details and substance of my writing. To Elaine Showalter, whose good humor, erudition, and warm encouragement have been everywhere in evidence, my fondest gratitude....
Introduction: Fiction and the Poetics of Flirtation
“All the great European love stories take place in an extra-coital setting,” observes the narrator of Milan Kundera’s novel Immortality (1991), noting the stories of Madame de Lafayette’s Princess of Clèves, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s Paul and Virginia, Eugène Fromentin’s Dominique, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, Knut Hamsun’s Victoria, Romain Rolland’s...
Chapter 1: Dialectical Desires: The Eighteenth-Century Coquette and the Invention of Nineteenth-Century Fictional Character
Despite her ubiquity in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French and British literary narrative, the figure of the coquette has eluded a sustained critical consideration in discussions of the novel. Although both men and women may play at flirtatious games, it is largely the coquette who in the novel of realism becomes the living symbol of a dangerous...
Chapter 2: The Flirtation of Species: Darwinian Sexual Selection and Victorian Narrative
Of the many propositions advanced by Charles Darwin, that which has endured as the most controversial, although until recently the least explored by literary critics and cultural theorists, addresses the question of “sexual selection” in the natural world. First presented at length in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), Darwin’s theory of...
Chapter 3: George Eliot and Thomas Hardy: Flirtation, Female Choice, and the Revision of Darwinian Belief
The two major Victorian novelists who consciously acknowledge and assimilate Darwinian structures of thought throughout their writing, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, had long been absorbed by the latent, prickly subtextual predicament raised by The Descent of Man: what might occur if the female grew to relish too greatly the initial stages of sexual...
Chapter 4: Deadly Deferrals: Henry James, Edith Wharton, Gustave Flaubert, and the Exhaustion of Flirtatious Desire
By the end of the nineteenth century, in works as different in tone, style, and subject matter as James’s Daisy Miller, Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, novelists increasingly represent the female flirt as a social menace, her strategies not only perniciously insincere, a threat to customary methods of unraveling identity, but unnatural as well. The coquette...
Chapter 5: “Acceptable Hints of Infinity”: Dissident Desires and the Erotics of Countermodernism
In 1882, at a reception at the Washington home of Judge Edward G. Loring, Oscar Wilde met Henry James, then the toast of literary salons in America for recently having published both Washington Square and Portrait of a Lady.1 There began the end of one of the most unlikely friendships in international letters. Wilde, appearing in knee breeches and...
Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2002