A "morbid attrait to beauty" elements of aestheticism in J. D. Salinger's Glass fiction
LE3 .A278 2017
Master of Arts
English & Theatre Studies
This thesis examines the ways that J. D. Salinger’s later short fiction focusing on his Glass family characters draws on elements of Nineteenth-Century aestheticism as a means of claiming that the artist occupies a privileged spiritual position. Over the course of his Glass family stories, Salinger develops a coherent philosophy of art that emphasises individual experiences of the beautiful giving meaning to life and art as the means by which these transitory experiences can be given permanence. Via the American Transcendentalist tradition, Salinger gives religious significance to the aesthetic impulse, producing a religion of art out of a love of beauty that posits the artist as a spiritual “seer” (SI 105) and art as a mystical calling. Although this spirituality has often led to interpretation of Salinger’s later work as religious, Salinger diverges from the democratic and levelling elements of American transcendentalism, asserting the spiritually privileged position of the artist while simultaneously contradicting the generally agnostic character of aestheticism, merging the universalistic and individualistic religious faith of the transcendentalists with aestheticism’s fixation on the beautiful. This transforms the artist who pursues aesthetic experience into a “God-seeker,” an aesthetic saint who locates the divine in the actualization of their artistic vision.
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