Servants, aestheticism, and "the dominance of form"

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4 Scopus citations


The fictional representation of domestic servants reveals the relationship between aesthetic form and social domination in the work of aesthetes from Oscar Wilde to Henry James and beyond. Tracing the sources of Wilde's An Ideal Husband and Dorian Gray and James's The Ambassadors in French decadence and situating them within the history of service, I show that aestheticist depictions of servants recall, through literary form, the aesthete's dependence on servants' labor. I suggest that modernism shared this socially self-conscious concept of aesthetic form with aestheticism, precisely because it too pursued aesthetic autonomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-643
Number of pages29
JournalELH - English Literary History
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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