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Misreading Anita BrooknerAestheticism, Intertextuality and the Queer Nineteenth Century$
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Peta Mayer

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620597

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620597.001.0001

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The Dandy in Brief Lives (1990)

The Dandy in Brief Lives (1990)

(p.117) Chapter Three The Dandy in Brief Lives (1990)
Misreading Anita Brookner

Peta Mayer

Liverpool University Press

This chapter utilises tropes of French and British aestheticism to read character, female friendship and asexual sexuality in Brief Lives (1990). Brookner’s Brief Lives is explored as a text that embraces multiple performance modes through Fay Dodworth’s self-described dull and boring first-person narration and her biographical representation of anachronistic diseuse, Julia Morton’s, celebrity persona.Based on the intertextual indications between John Aubrey’s Brief Lives regarding inconsequential and scandalous detail, and the significance of nineteenth-century detail in aestheticism, the dandy is proferred as the novel’s key personae. Balzac’s understanding of the dandy as constituted by behaviours of talking, dressing, eating and walking operate as the central narrative categories through which Brookner’s text is read. It emphasises the text’s narrative orality and ex tempore forms, Julia’s styling by Madame Gres, Patou and Lelong, Fay’s delicately crafted menus, her walks through West London as well as a romance of interiors. In addition, the dandy’s particular forms of boredom, and gender, sexual and temporal subversion are engaged. Clara Tuite’s specification of the rise-and-fall narrative as the key form through which Captain Jesse James writes Life of George Brummell provides the device through which to propel the dandy’s movement through the text.

Keywords:   Brief Lives, John Aubrey, inconsequential detail, nineteenth-century detail, dandy, rise-and-fall narrative, boredom in literature, narrative orality, diseuse, asexual sexuality

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