- Purchase/rental options available:
In this paper, I demonstrate the formal debt of Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled fiction to literary dandyism, a debt occurring along the axis of what I call “epigrammatic speech.” I note Chandler’s interest in the Oscar Wilde trials, from which I develop a theory of epigrammatic aggressivity drawing on Wilde’s trial transcripts and on Amanda Anderson’s work on Wilde. I look closely at Wilde’s combative deployment of the epigram as entextualized in the trial transcripts. I read Chandlerian “tough talk” as a mode of oppositional epigrammatic speech dialectically invested in the figure of the dandy. In the paper’s second half, I analyze the social content of epigrammatic tough-talk in Chandler’s first two novels, The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely--each of which, not coincidentally, prominently feature dandies. Borrowing some analytic categories from Eric Lott’s Love and Theft, I tease out the contradictory modes of identification and disidentification at play in the tough-guy’s appropriation of epigrammatic speech.