Misreading Anita Brookner

BookMisreading Anita Brookner

Misreading Anita Brookner

Aestheticism, Intertextuality and the Queer Nineteenth Century

Liverpool English Texts and Studies, 80


January 31st, 2020



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‘Anita Brookner deserves this detailed, sophisticated, brilliant reading that appreciates Brookner’s peculiar genius and uncovers the ways in which she “does indeed write a different kind of novel.” Given the intertextual, allusive nature of Brookner’s work and her extraordinary expertise on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art and literature, Dr Mayer’s “misreading” of Brookner’s “performative romanticism” is entirely appropriate.'
Ann Holbrook, Professor of English at Saint Anselm College

Anita Brookner was known for writing boring books about lonely, single women. Misreading Anita Brookner unlocks the mysteries of the famously depressed Brookner heroine by creating entirely new ways to read six Brookner novels.

Drawing on Brookner’s legacy as a renowned historian of French Romantic art and on diverse intertextual sources from Charles Baudelaire to Henry James, Renée Vivien and Freud, this book argues that Brookner’s solitary twentieth-century women can also be seen as variations of queer nineteenth-century male artist archetypes. Conjuring a cast of Romantic personae including the flâneur, the dandy, the aesthete, the military man, the queer, the analysand, the degenerate and the storyteller, it illuminates clusters of nineteenth-century behaviours which help decode the lives of Brookner’s twentieth-century women. This exploration of Brookner’s ‘performative Romanticism’ exposes new depths within her outsider introverts, who are revealed as a subversive blend of the historical, the contemporary, the masculine and the feminine.

'By tracing the ways in which Brookner’s intellectual achievements as an art historian informed her fiction, Mayer celebrates the subversive potential of Brookner’s performative Romanticism, and offers an important reevaluation of this author’s too long underrated body of work.'Kathryn Pallant, Contemporary Women's Writing

Author Information

Peta Mayer holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Melbourne.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Illustrations9
List of Abbreviations12
Glossary of Rhetorical Terms13
The Military Man, the Analysand, and the Queer in A Friend from England (1987)47
1. The Aesthete in A Misalliance (1986)88
2. The Dandy in Brief Lives (1990)131
3. The Flâneur in Undue Influence (1998)174
4. The Degenerate in Falling Slowly (1998)206
Epilogue The Storyteller Returns: Hotel du Lac (1984)238