«Morphologies of Becoming: Posthuman Dandies in Fin-de-Siècle France. by Marina E. Starik B.A., University of Utah, 2003 M.A. University of Utah, ...»
Morphologies of Becoming: Posthuman Dandies in Fin-de-Siècle France.
Marina E. Starik
B.A., University of Utah, 2003
M.A. University of Utah, 2005
Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
The Kenneth P. Dietrich School of
Arts and Sciences in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
University of Pittsburgh
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
This dissertation was presented by Marina E. Starik It was defended on November 12, 2012 and approved by Dr. Chloé Hogg, Assistant Professor, French and Italian Dr. Todd Reeser, Professor, French and Italian Dr. Philip Smith, Associate Professor, English Dissertation Advisor: Dr. Giuseppina Mecchia, Associate Professor, French and Italian ii Copyright © by Marina E. Starik iii Morphologies of Becoming: Posthuman Dandies in Fin-de-Siècle France.
Marina E. Starik, M.A., Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh, 2012 This dissertation provides a methodology for considering the dandy as a prototype of post-humanity in selected texts of fin-de-siècle French literature. While the enduring interest in the dandy continues to inspire numerous critical interventions, the present study’s contribution is to envision the dandy as engaged in an aesthetic and economic project, rather than an ideological one. Although largely apolitical, paradoxically, the dandy is a keen social critic who, wittingly or not, pushes to transcend the borders between humanity and animality, history and myth, body and machine.
The main theoretical framework informing the thesis is Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of becoming. Mutation, mimicry, symbiosis, proximity, athleticism, assembly into packs and couples, and foregoing subjectivity are among the ways that “dandy-becomings” are manifested in the characters of Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, Barbey d’Aurevilly’s Le Bonheur dans le crime, Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror, Rachilde’s L’Animale, Villiers de l’Ile-Adam’s L’Ève future, Colette Peignot’s Écrits de Laure, and Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps perdu. As the title implies, this study equally engages with posthumanism – a multidisciplinary field bringing together Jean-François Lyotard, Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles, and Neil Badmington, among others. Their differing views on embodiment are especially instrumental in clarifying another paradox within the dandy: as the posthumanists,
on its persistent physical presence, similarly, the dandy is torn between the drive toward imperceptibility, and a complete investment in the body as a signifying surface.
While taking into account the history of the French dandy as a cultural, intellectual, and literary phenomenon typically associated with Romanticism, the study of the dandy as “posthuman becoming” demonstrates that the figure remains relevant for a much longer period, as it projects itself well into the twentieth century. This analysis spans a period of sixty years, between 1867, the year of publication of Thérèse Raquin, and 1938, the year of Colette Peignot’s death. However, as the conclusion suggests, the dandy continues to look for new expressions and reappears even today in both high and low culture.
2.1 ÉMILE ZOLA’S THÉRÈSE RAQUIN (1867)
2.1.1 The Making of Thérèse
2.1.2 Channeling the Family Cat
2.1.3 Abjection and the Sacred
2.1.4 Thérèse and Laurent, the Symbiotic Couple
2.1.5 Laurent, the Host of a Living Wound
2.1.6 Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
2.1.7 Marriage as Camouflage
2.1.8 The Dandy as an Aquatic Creature
2.2 LAUTREAMONT, LES CHANTS DE MALDOROR (1869)
2.2.1 Au Reste, Que m’Importe d’Où Je Viens?
2.2.2 Buck, Beau, or Both?
2.2.3 Amphibian Accomplices
2.2.4 The Vampire and the Androgyne
IN LE BONHEUR DANS LE CRIME (1871)
2.3.1 “Panthère Contre Panthère!”
2.3.2 The Sparring Partners
2.3.3 The Dandy Doctor’s Gaze
2.4 RACHILDE, L’ANIMALE (1893)
2.4.1 “Friandise d’Amour”
2.4.2 Fashion and Fetishes
2.4.3 The Hair
2.4.4 Lions and Lionnes
2.4.5 The Insatiable Flâneuse
2.5 COLETTE PEIGNOT, ECRITS DE LAURE (1934)
2.5.1 “Affreusement et magnifiquement seule”
2.5.2 Becoming Laure Through Writing
2.5.3 Laure, the Fallen Angel
2.5.4 The Erotics of Vision
3.0 THE MECHANICAL DANDY: ANDROIDS, GADGETS, PROPS
3.1 VILLIERS DE L’ISLE-ADAM, L’EVE FUTURE (1886)
3.1.1 Hadaly as a Collective Science Project
3.1.2 Body Lost and Found
3.1.3 Illusion Mensongère vs. Fidèle Illusion
3.1.4 Hadaly-Sowana’s Declaration of Independence
3.2 LAUTREAMONT, LES CHANTS DE MALDOROR (1869)
3.2.2 Fashion, Spurs, and Armor
3.2.3 Fitness, Body Building, and Fencing
3.3 COLETTE PEIGNOT, ECRITS DE LAURE
3.3.1 The New Centaur
3.3.2 Vestment and Writing as Props
3.3.3 Medicine, Monsters, and Mirrors
4.0 THE SYNTHETIC DANDY: ODETTE AND THE NEW GENERATION............... 162 4.1 ODETTE
4.1.1 La Dame en Rose, Rose Stérilisée
4.1.2 The Swann/Odette Rivalry
4.1.3 Social Shape-Shifting
4.1.4 Aesthetic Alterations: Myth, Androgyny, and the Mechanics of Clothes183 4.1.5 Odette’s Franglais
4.1.6 Breakdown and Relay
4.2 ALBERTINE AND THE NEW DANDY GENERATION
4.2.1 La Petite Bande à Part
4.2.2 The Albertine-Andrée-Morel Pack
4.2.3 The Incubation Period
4.2.4 Taking Flight
I thank my parents – my style icons and my biggest fans. This project materialized with the moral and technical support of my husband. My first reader, he is now more versed in Deleuze and Guattari than anyone outside academia I know.
I am greatly inspired and humbled by my stellar dissertation advisor Dr. Giuseppina Mecchia, her intellectual rigor and personal warmth. I thank her for her confidence in my project, for being an outstanding mentor, and a true role model as a thinker and an educator. I am equally indebted to my dissertation committee members Dr. Philip Smith, Dr. Todd Reeser, and Dr.
Chloé Hogg for their invaluable feedback, guidance, and challenging questions, which helped me to better shape and hone my arguments.
Without the support of my friends and fellow graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere, the writing process would not have been as stimulating and rewarding.
A special thanks to Shannon Duggan for editing my English as a Second Language.
I am grateful to my dear friends Viktoriya Baytser and Sasha Shekhter for putting up with my stress, and putting a roof over my head for two and a half months during the final stages of writing, which happened to coincide with a transition between Washington, D.C. and Geneva.
Having had the opportunity to live in four cities during the past four years, I thank the staff of the libraries at the University of Pittsburgh, Université de Paris-X Nanterre, Harvard, George
staff of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., as well as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the archives of the Musée Galliera, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and Bibliothèque Forney in Paris, for facilitating preliminary research.
In addition, I thank the University of Pittsburgh’s Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship, and the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Dean's Tuition Scholarship for uninterrupted financial support during the last three semesters of writing.
This dissertation aims at engaging the discourse on the dandy of selected works of French literature between 1867 and 1934 with the discussion of the concept of becoming (devenir) proposed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. In Mille Plateaux (1980), becoming is not conceived as a similarity between entities or identities. It is, rather, an ongoing process where energies are exchanged between and “extracted” from discrete elements of things and beings,
beyond the contours of a unit or a body:
Somewhat unexpectedly, among a variety of examples used to elucidate this rather elusive concept is the Knight of Faith featured in Fear and Trembling (1843) by Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the Danish moral philosopher who was active precisely during the Romantic era, a period when literary dandyism flourished in France. Deleuze and Guattari describe this figure as “l’homme du devenir,” who detaches himself from current definitions of the human through becoming “imperceptible”, “indiscernable”, or also “comme tout le monde”. What could be Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “Devenir-intense, devenir-animal, devenir-imperceptible” Capitalisme et perceived at first as a description of a conformist (“bourgeois, rien qu’un bourgeois”), is, in fact, an allusion to a challenging push (“Il y faut beaucoup d’ascèse, de sobriété, d’involution créatrice”) toward a discreet “élégance anglaise” – a subtle reference to the country of historical
origin of the dandy in an essay which never explicitly dwells on the subject of dandyism:
As we will see, the problematic of becoming is also anticipated by another philosopher and a contemporary of the second, fin-de-siècle wave of dandyism in France, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). In 1878, in his book of aphorisms Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, Nietzsche sketches the project of surpassing present forms of human investment, which will later get formulated into the experimental figure of prophet-hermit that gives its title to Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883), the artist-philosopher narrating his intellectual path in Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, written in 1888 and published posthumously in 1908, and finally the more-than-human being presented in the posthumous fragments describing the Übermensch. At this later stage, the choice of using -mensch, and not –mann in Übermensch on the part of Nietzsche is indicative of the desire to surpass the totality of human existence, in all of its dimensions. The dandy, like the Übermensch, needs to leave behind contemporary conditions, Deleuze and Guattari, 342.
including morality, nationality, class, and gender, as it is impossible to attribute the origins of the dandy to a single crisis within these conditions.
The dandy takes the Nietzschean precept of “becoming what one is” to the letter, and illustrates perfectly the concept of becoming elaborated by Deleuze and Guattari, while remaining light-handed, even superficial in his or her quest for radical reformation, collapsing the metaphoric distance between being (être) and appearing (paraître): “Devenir est un verbe ayant toute sa consistence; il ne se ramène pas, et ne nous amène pas à ‘paraître’, ni ‘être’, ni ‘équivaloir’, ni ‘produire’.”3 The opposite of an engaged intellectual, if the dandy comments on the inadequacy of the social role of the subject, this is mostly an unintended consequence of being different, rather than a political strategy. One of the tasks of this study, therefore, is to track and analyze figurative language, which alerts us to the production of such dandy becomings in the characters of the works we are examining. This language can then be taken on by readers, who will seize in it elements of a political demand. However, such demand is not articulated by the dandy. When Zola’s Thérèse Raquin is on a promenade with her husband, she is still a single dandy flâneuse, taking advantage of her male partner in order to get out of the house. When Proust’s Charles Morel is called “mauvais patriote!”4, this is not a comment on his political stance – he expresses none – but an observation on his dandy deterritorialization.
Odette de Crécy as an aggressive social climber does not represent any group – she is devoid of any subversive agenda. All things considered, the dandy does not want to warrant allegiance to any of the categories that ground the subject in human society.
Daniel Salvatore Schiffer, in his book Philosophie du dandysme (2008), places the dandy precisely at the crossroads between Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. On the one hand, there is the Ibid., 292.
Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu (Paris: Éditions de la Pléiade, 1987-9), III, 354.
Nietzschean “transdescendance” – going from a religious to an aesthetic ideal – and on the other, Kierkegaardian “transascendance” – proceeding from an aesthetic to a religious existence, following the path of Johannes, the protagonist of The Seducer’s Diary (1843), a Don Juan and an aesthete whom John Updike compares to “a heartless Dr. Frankenstein in one of Romanticism’s first masterpieces”5 and whom Schiffer calls “l’archetype du dandy moderne.”6 The modernity of this dandy consists, among other things, in being outside contemporaneity, according to the narrator who introduces the diary: “He did not belong to the world of actuality, and yet he had very much to do with it. He continually ran lightly over it, but even when he most abandoned himself to it, he was beyond it.”7 At the same time, Deleuze and Guattari’s chapter on becoming is not completely dehistoricized. In fact, as they turn to literature for examples, they ground their discourse in modernity and in the discursive materiality of works by Lautréamont, Kafka, Proust, and Joyce.