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Aestheticism as counterattack: a study on the failures of Emma Bovary and Jean des Esseintes

Grant number: 16/11619-0
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2016
Effective date (End): November 30, 2018
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Literature - Literature Theory
Cooperation agreement: Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES)
Principal researcher:Fabio Akcelrud Durão
Grantee:Maria Elisa Perez Pagan
Home Institution: Instituto de Estudos da Linguagem (IEL). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


The research project at hand has as its object the concept of Aestheticism that arises in the nineteenth century; it focuses both on the idea of the autonomy of art, such as it was conceived by the l'art pour l'art movement, and on the idea of the aestheticization of everyday life that is contemporary to it, visible in different spheres such as in architecture and in the decorative arts. From our perspective, Aestheticism, as a way of accentuating Romantic ideals to the extreme, works as a counterattack of sorts to growing industrialization, massification and the disenchantment of the world that is fundamentally linked to the consolidation of bourgeouis society. However, Astheticism is also part of this same society, taking part among these very changes. Thus, we agree with Michael Löwy's interpretation, according to which Romanticism works as a kind of modern criticism of modernity and capitalist society that is undertaken mainly from the standpoint of values and ideals from the past (LÖWY, 1995, p.34). Our investigation will be based upon two crucial works from the French literary tradition, namely Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1856) and Joris Karl-Huysmans' À Rebours (1884), whose consideration for the issue of Aestheticism seems indispensable, as we intend to demonstrate. Our aim is, through an exhaustive analysis of both works, grounded in readings taken from the fields of Literary Criticism, Philosophy and Sociology (and with an emphasis on the Critical Theory of society), to investigate the issue of Aestheticism from within these works through the practice of close reading, paying special attention, at least initially, to the fundamental contradiction between the commodity-form - such as defined by Karl Marx - and the aesthetic object. We believe that the scrutiny of Emma Bovary and Jean des Esseintes and their somewhat similar hardships in dealing with everyday bourgeois reality at its most basic level, will allow for casting a different light on the concept of Aestheticism and its strategies for the reenchantment of the world. (AU)

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