Edited By Jasmin Herrmann, Moritz Ingwersen, Björn Sonnenberg-Schrank and Olga Ludmila Tarapata
The collected volume brings together leading scholars from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities to interrogate the productivity of style as an element of cultural expression and a parameter of cultural analysis. Despite its ubiquity in examinations of artistic singularity or postulations of epochal patterns, style remains a notoriously elusive concept. Suspicious of monolithic definitions, the contributions assembled in this volume address style from a multiplicity of methodological and conceptual angles, drawing from fields that include literary studies, film and media studies, post-structuralist philosophy, philosophy of science, and American cultural studies.
23 “Give Me the Luxuries and I Can Dispense with the Necessities,” or Style as Grace
23 “Give Me the Luxuries and I Can Dispense with the Necessities,” or Style as Grace1
Translated by Björn Sonnenberg-Schrank and Moritz Ingwersen
Abstract: This essay locates reflections on the notion of “fine style” in the realm of courtly aristocratic grace, decadence, and dandyism. Against the cultural backdrop of “aristocratic idleness” of the nineteenth century, this panoramic overview probes the ways in which authors and fictional figures have embodied and performed certain styles characterized by luxury and splendor (or the lack thereof) as a plane on which negotiations of individual and cultural mores play themselves out.
Keywords: grace, leisure class, luxury, moralistic scepticism, bourgeois idealism, Castiglione, Schiller, Oscar Wilde
“Give me the Luxuries (of Life) and I can dispense with the Necessities,” Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said. At least this is what all the relevant electronic archives of English quotes indicate, albeit without any bibliographical reference. Oscar Wilde’s complete works can be found on Gutenberg Online. I was not able to find the quote with any search engine. Still, I harbor no doubt regarding its verity in the sense of a congruence of signifier and signified, statement and author. After all, no quote could more aptly sum up Oscar Wilde’s habitus, the habitus of the dandy who always carries a witty bon mot readily on his lips and who deems luxury a condition of aesthetic exception, a deliberate nonconformism, a gesture of distance to...
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