This chapter imagines how it might be if, rather than emphasising deferral and difference, each departure from one context to another, from one representation to another, led precisely through that departure and difference to greater intimacy. In so doing, it evokes classic notions of the mid-century modern, for example in Marx, Manet and Baudelaire, only to explore how closely their visions of departure may be associated with this apparently paradoxical intimacy. The chapter itself departs from Marx to optical toys, from canonical Western art and Whitman’s poetry to painting in Spain and Latin America and to the works by Rosa Bonheur. It evokes the emergence of intimacy from opening gaps, attraction from a pushing away, the merger of visions of time and place in a flickering, the forming of a bubble encompassing diverse time and place within a location such as the Prado Museum. The chapter speaks of ventriloquism and of promiscuity. It ends with three key modalities by which departure intimates an erotics of sameness, featuring, alongside Bonheur, works by Courbet and the Argentine painter Pueyrredón. These are departure from one self to its own self, the slight departure from one to another, and the marked departure from self to other.
Instead of modernity revisits the key moment in the mid-nineteenth century when, it is said, ‘all that is solid melts into air’. Spanning the visual arts, literature, and thought, it reconsiders artists and writers linked to the foundations of modern culture: Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Whitman, Whistler and Courbet. In so doing, it offers an alternative to the obsession with notions of ‘modernity’ that underpin many influential theories of culture. It incorporates the Hispanic world (Spain and Spanish America) into the story of this time, disrupting and reconfiguring the narrative of ‘modernity’, challenging the belief the Hispanic had opened the doors to the ‘modern’ but was overtaken by cultures of the north-west Atlantic. While this points beyond the divide between a supposed core and periphery in culture, the book likewise undermines the patriarchal basis of canonical modernity, giving prominence to women from the painter Rosa Bonheur, and the photographers Jane Clifford and Julia Margaret Cameron, to the actress Matilde Díez. Instead of ‘modernity’, the book conjures visions of intimate connection between places and times, between representations and realities, between selves and others. It explores commonality and similarity. In its own prose, it envisages ways of conducting and writing comparative cultural study, beyond contextualisation and historicisation, drawing on the nineteenth-century imagination. In that spirit, the book finds its way across diverse fields and subject matter, tracing connections between them, from sexuality to optical technology, from brain slices to taxidermy. In so doing, it conjures four moods: meeting, departure, sacifice and repose.
From modernity to the aesthetic appreciation of history
Influential cultural theories – for example those of Barthes and Foucault – have their basis in an account of modernity, based on an understanding of the mid-nineteenth century. This account is exclusionary – notably of the Hispanic, which supposedly had a foundational role in the modern world, through the conquest of the Americas and the establishment of large-scale statehood, but putatively was then not a key player in the modernity it had helped initiate. The process of reincorporating a supposed periphery, alongside other marginalised aspects of culture, undermines the cogency of the notion of modernity. Both in its conceptual implications and in the practice of reincorporating what was excluded, this opens up the perspective of intimate connections across time and place, self and other, representation and reality. Nineteenth-century culture itself contains still untapped potential for such ways of imagining comparisons, commonalities and similarities, often beyond direct causal connection. The chapter takes inspiration from writers such as Dimock and Manning. Instead of modernity, all this opens up the perspective of ways of writing comparisons beyond narrow contextualisation and historicisation. In their place comes an aesthetic appreciation of history, of the forms and patterns that may be traced across place and time. These form ‘moods’, explored in a spirit of ‘lavishness’ and drama that evoke a psychological journeying across contingent juxtapositions, without pre-established maps or rules.
In the first of the moods, we imagine the possibility of an intimate encounter, a coming together beyond absence and ironisation. We explore that possibility by bringing together apparently diverse aspects of mid-nineteenth-century culture. In the first section of the chapter – Coming together parts 1 and 2, with interlude – we imagine a kind of triptych with a slim middle panel, exploring intimacy across the depths of time and the stretches of place, and between sign and referent. We move from two gauchos outside Buenos Aires recounting the story of Gounod’s opera Faust, to a visual fantasia on the same opera by the painter Fortuny in Spain, through to Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy and its consideration of Greek gods and the arts. The chapter evokes the possibility of what it calls an intimate culture, and considers what this might involve for good or ill. In the second section – Taking shape – we explore how the adoption of forms can enable intimate communication across place and time. Here we bring together nineteenth-century performance, the role of the occult and hypnotism, the pervasive concern with descriptive geometry, the relatively new art of photography, and the supposed uncanny, passing through images of intensifying infrastructure, actors and historical figures, and culminating in a consideration of a version of Poe’s Valdemar and of the photographic representation of Velázquez’s Las Meninas.
In the mood of repose, we encounter a possibility that seems more familiar in the theory of culture: the notion of a decentring or attenuation in which mastery is relinquished and an affect of weakness predominates, from Derrida’s dissemination to Vattimo’s weak thought or Dimock’s weak networks. In the continual distraction from a centre, connections are formed. These kinds of outlook have often been seen as legacies of mid-century modernity, for example through influential accounts of Flaubert’s prose. But this chapter does not sentimentalise nineteenth-century notions of repose, nor does it limit them to such perspectives. It recognises the often uncomfortable, apparently alien nature of these mid-century meditations, their implication with prejudice and imperialism. It sees them as shadows of the other three moods. The chapter itself is decentred, moving through distractions from the hallucinatory, meditative effects of Fortuny’s and Courbet’s painting by way of speculative scientific treatises, to deliberate deflection from history’s violent dominant heart in Latin American writing, to serene versions of paintings of empire’s origins and legacies, and the deathliness and emptiness of visions of novelty and modernity in France and Spain. It turns to possibility of an all-embracing vision from an apparently tangential viewpoint, whether in Darwin’s garden, Thoreau’s Walden, through the eyes of a Spanish artisan, or an obsessive dwelling on donkeys. The chapter culminates with a return to a now lesser Faust in rural Andalusia.
This chapter explores the implications of the notion that self-destructive and destructive forces may project intimate connections across apparently diverse contexts. It seriously explores the sacrificial obsessions of mid-nineteenth-century culture, often felt to be something of an historical embarrassment to modernity. It acknowledges the danger of ‘traumophilia’ while avoiding a simple dismissal of such impulses. Setting out from Hunt’s Scapegoat, the chapter moves from one death and dying to another, from the intimations of demise in Juliet Margaret Cameron’s photography through notions of an opened body in Spanish literature, from taxidermy, mummification and mortuary photography to Whistler’s nocturnes, Marx’s vampiric capital, visions of historic and contemporary devastation in the Americas, and glass culture in the Crystal Palace and in Mexico. It mixes Melville’s Moby Dick with re-creations of Goya’s Black Paintings, the corpses of Spain’s Lovers of Teruel with Millet’s Angelus (which so obsessed Salvador Dalí), the slicing of brains in France with a Puerto Rican’s reversal of Columbus’s Atlantic journey, Alice in Wonderland with Flaubert’s Simple Heart. It passes from history painting to practices of copying. The chapter speaks of limbo, of traumatic looping, of heterotopias of demise, of dissolution into abstraction, of a vision of Benjamin’s Angel longing for history’s debris. It explores pastiche as a dallying with deathliness. It considers the riskiness of what it calls history’s edge-play, the unsettling association of aesthetic force with extreme violence, and the ultimate threat of insanity that the mood of sacrifice involves.
This essay examines how lay scribal practices of sermon note-taking linked individual spiritual crises to collective experience and became a family project. Examining the sermon notes kept by the Gell household from the 1640s to the 1710s reveals them as devotional prompts that sustained the family’s Presbyterianism across two generations. In evaluating the figure of Katherine Gell, this essay also demonstrates the crucial role played by women within the home in sustaining a nonconformist devotional culture both before and after the Restoration.
This essay examines the domestic worship of Presbyterians both before and after the Act of Toleration (1689). By investigating the dissenting clergyman Oliver Heywood’s diary and his printed treatise A Family Altar (1693), this essay provides a case study on how centralising prayer became within the godly home. In doing so, it reveals how through his writing on prayer, Heywood configured household worship as a substitute for chapel worship in dissenting circles, blurring the lines between corporate and domestic devotion. Ultimately Heywood’s ministry, writings and devotional exercises show us how the performance of household piety could be a unifying force that helped galvanise the faith of families during trying periods and times of great change.
This afterword reviews and draws on the findings and arguments of the essays in the collection to emphasise the role of the familial in shaping early modern devotional practice, interiors and interiorities, not only (and obviously) in homes but in worshiping communities and societies, whatever their specific religious orientation, in the various contexts of personal record, scribal copying, manuscript circulation and printing that nurtured the spiritual life, in the rituals, homilies and literature that marked the stages from birth to death, even in the prisons that too often were the consequence of religious commitment. It adduces the non-partisan regard for George Herbert to conclude that the lived experience of the family of the children of God united believers across the socio-economic, political and religious boundaries that otherwise divided and segregated early modern life.
This article traces how the queer Black writer James Baldwin’s
transnational palate and experiences influenced the ways he wrote about Black
domestic spaces in the late twentieth century. In the 1960s and 1970s, while
Black feminist cooks and writers like Edna Lewis, Jessica B. Harris, and
Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor developed new theories of soul food in relation to the
Black American community and broader American cuisine, Baldwin incorporated
these philosophies and transnational tastes into his lifestyle and works. He
traveled and worked around Europe, settling in places like Paris, Istanbul, and
Saint-Paul de Vence for years at a time. In Saint-Paul de Vence, where he spent
his last years, he set up his own welcome table, at which he hosted
internationally renowned guests and shared his love of cuisine. Inevitably,
Baldwin’s passion for cooking and hosting meals became a large, though
scholarly neglected, component of his novels and essays. In his novels
Another Country, which he finished in Istanbul and
published in 1962, and Just Above My Head, which he finished in
Saint-Paul de Vence and published in 1979, Baldwin’s depictions of food
and Black kitchens take a queer turn. Instead of lingering on traditional Black
family structures, these texts specifically present new formulations of intimate
home life and reimagine relationships between food, kitchens, race, and sex in
the late twentieth century.