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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 Degenerate in Falling Slowly (1998)

The Degenerate in Falling Slowly (1998)

(p.192) Chapter Five The Degenerate in Falling Slowly (1998)
Misreading Anita Brookner

Peta Mayer

Liverpool University Press

Silence and rereading are key discursive practices of Miriam and Beatrice Sharpe, the sister protagonists of Falling Slowly. Their forms of absence and excess cause critics to herald the decline of Brookner’s powers in her early reception.The sisters also share a number of behaviours with the aesthetes and Decadents labelled degenerate in Max Nordau’s Degeneration including Joris-Karl Huysmans, Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé. Such behaviours include dullness, decline, ennui, inactivity, boredom, invisibility, anxiety, restlessness and absence. This chapter spins the hierarchical figure of the degenerate across the sister relationship of the domestic fiction to produce a queering of the domestic fiction. Rejecting the normative impulse of the figure, it instead engages its deconstructive capacity to render transparent the mechanisms of epistemological production and expose the way in which subjects and objects attain status as real or unreal, healthy or sick, visible or invisible, literal or figurative, heterosexual or lesbian. Inspired by Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, it mobilises a ‘no future’ narrative as the narrative form of the degenerate. The rhetorical form of syllepsis, which governs shifts between the literal and figurative, is reappropriated from the male canon to underscore the open-ended nature of signification.

Keywords:   Falling Slowly, Rereading, Max Nordau, Lee Edelman, Degeneration, Degenerate, syllepsis, no future, sister protagonists, queer domestic fiction

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