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Beyond the Paradox of the Nostalgic Modernist

Temporality in the Works of J.-K. Huysmans


Elisabeth M. Donato

This investigation of J.-K. Huysmans’ representation of temporality sheds light on the complex and paradoxical nature of this late-nineteenth-century novelist and art critic, who was a modernist steeped in nostalgia as well as a nostalgic steeped in modernity. To unveil and understand the mechanisms and logic of this paradox, Elisabeth M. Donato examines Huysmans’ characters’ dealings with measured time and schedules, investigates the failure of des Esseintes’ aesthetic experiment, and relates the novelist’s construct of «spiritualist naturalism» to his increasingly frequent and intense longings for his own medieval utopia. Donato’s new perspective onto the intricate relationship between modernity and nostalgia underscores Huysmans’ firm and very modern stance à rebours of commonality in his never ending search for a solution to his dilemma.