Deconstructing Gautier's literary dandyism

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2005-05-21

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The purpose of this paper is to examine how the text of Théophile Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin disproves the philosophy of the dandiacal artform called, “l’art pour l’art,” presented within the preface to the novel. To elucidate the characteristics inherent to dandyism, I will first introduce the history of the European dandy, and then I will examine how this cultural icon influenced artistic production and criticism during the nineteenth century. Writers such as Théophile Gautier, who perceived the notion of artistic utility as the antithesis of individual expression, chose to adopt the model of aesthetic superiority presented by the dandy as a means to advocate artistic anti-utilitarianism. In my thesis, however, I intend to demonstrate that the story of d’Albert and Madeleine de Maupin, the two dandiesque figures of Gautier’s novel, in fact contradicts and undermines the notion of “l’art pour l’art”

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