Alcoves in Cythera: George Moore's appeal to "eighteenth-century antiquity"
Abstract (Summary)Restricted Item. Print thesis available in the University of Auckland Library or available through Inter-Library Loan. "Alcoves in Cythera" is primarily an attempt to come to terms with what I identify as a problematic of embarrassment and preciosity in the work of George Moore. Is starting-point is a sense of perplexity, generated not only by the manifest diversity and heterogeneity of Moore's oeuvre, but also by its often blatant acknowledgement of its own intertextuality and self-referentiality. These problems arise most insistently in Moore's avowedly autobiographical works; and it is in this context that it becomes possible to account for readerly embarrassment and discomfort in terms of ostensibly authorial gestures towards self-parody and self-carnivalisation. The notion of "eighteenth-century antiquity" — introduced at a significant moment into Moore's story of "The Lovers of Orelay" — marks a coincidence of the parodic tendencies inherent in "fictive" autobiography on one hand and in the displacement of cultural history on the other. The first section of the thesis is thus devoted to establishing a framework within which one may read Moore's self-projection in various quasi-parodic personae as symptomatic of a post-Romantic "abjection"; and I attempt to discover, within his remarkably persistent attempts to establish himself as a writer, those expressions of self-consciousness which define the type of the "abject artist." The extensive second section deals more directly with the problem of "eighteenth-century antiquity." Largely in response to certain passages in Memoirs of My Dead Life, I discuss the interpenetration of Moore's conception of the antique and his delight in the perceived refinements of eighteenth-century high culture. I suggest that his preoccupation with this composite aesthetic is grounded in a yearning for engagement with some remote conception of carnival or the carnivalesque which, in remaining remote and unattainable, is enhanced by the allure of its own alterity. This issue has a theatrical frame of reference, adumbrated in a comparison between Madame de Pompadour's participation in court theatricals at Versailles and Hortense Schneider's creation of the role of "la belle Hélène" under the carnivalesque regime of the Second Empire. It also has an explicitly pictorial aspect Hence I devote an extensive chapter to discussing Moore's involvement with the convention of the fête galante as established in the works of Watteau, Fragonard, Lancret and others and evidenced not only in Memoirs but also in the novels Evelyn Innes (1898) and its sequel, Sister Teresa (1901). The section concludes with an examination of the debate between eighteenth-century notions of the antique and Victorian academic classicism as this emerges from the pages of Moore's novel, A Modern Lover (1883) and its 1917 revision, Lewis Seymour and Some Women. This discussion is informed throughout by an awareness that Moore's interest in pre-nineteenth-century instances of the carnivalesque is essentially erotic, and that the aesthetic problems to which this interest gives rise are primarily those of prurience and sexual vicariousness—problems which are inevitably compounded by their importation into explicitly autobiographical contexts. The third section traces this often unsettling preoccupation with eroticism into Moore's revision of Memoirs of My Dead Life, so as to create n l920-21, a distant parody of an eighteenth-century mémoire galant. I then consider the semiotic implications of his "translation" of Longus' Daphnis and Chloe. And, finally, I give brief consideration to the spectacle of Moore "touching bottom" in his own attempt at a Greek romance in Aphrodite in Aulis. I end prospectively rather than conclusively, my purpose having been, after all, to disturb rather than resolve.
School Location:New Zealand
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/1989