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Geo-Aesthetics: Fascism, Globalism, and Frank Norris

Geo-Aesthetics: Fascism, Globalism, and Frank Norris

(p.180) 5 Geo-Aesthetics: Fascism, Globalism, and Frank Norris
Beautiful Democracy
Russ Castronovo
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on Frank Norris's novel Vandover and the Brute and its ability to communicate a failed critical insight that is the subject of the artist's uncompleted masterpiece: a salon picture of a British cavalryman lost in the Sudan, which renders legible the deep connections between aesthetics and global vision. It attempts to complete Vandover's half-finished artwork by rounding out the ideological impulses that led the artist to the Imperial for drink and diversion in the first place. The chapter discusses the convergence of capital and aesthetics by contending that Norris's writing reveals a logic linking literary naturalism with early globalization along the Pacific Rim, focusing on the United States' incursions into “the East.” It looks at how conceptualization of the globe as a single geo-economic unit depends on a historically specific aesthetic formalism exemplified by Norris's fiction. The contradictory nature of this project—that is, a contextual history of aesthetic formalism—captures the logic that ushers an Americanized global sensibility into being.

Keywords:   aesthetics, Frank Norris, capitalism, Vandover, United States, globalization, literary naturalism, East, aesthetic formalism

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