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Chapter 2 - Island Dandies, Transpacific Decadence, and the Politics of Style

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2023

Dustin Friedman
Affiliation:
American University, Washington DC
Kristin Mahoney
Affiliation:
Michigan State University
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Summary

Inspired by recent work on global decadence as well as Susan Sontag’s classic formulation of dandyism, this chapter focuses on the figure of the dandy as he appears in fiction and nonfiction writing from and about the Hawaiian islands. In the hands of Anglo-American travel writers such as Charles Warren Stoddard and Robert Louis Stevenson, the island dandy often embodies an alluring but dangerous decadence associated in particular with late nineteenth-century Polynesia; for Indigenous writers and practitioners, by contrast, the dandy’s subversive, nonnormative masculinity becomes a way of leveraging European style against encroaching colonial power. This chapter argues that the island dandy thus emblematizes the manifold anxieties surrounding cultural and political modernity that would emerge in the 1890s and give the decade its characteristic sense of jubilant expectation and pessimistic dread. Within the broader context of the volume, the chapter also considers what approaches and methods might better serve the field of Victorian studies as it reorients itself along increasingly global lines.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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