Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction (Idiom Inventing Writing Theory FUP)
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What is flirtation, and how does it differ from seduction?
In historical terms, the particular question of flirtation has tended to be obscured by that of seduction, which has understandably been a major preoccupation for twentieth-century thought and critical theory. Both the discourse and the critique of seduction are unified by their shared obsession with a very determinate end: power. In contrast, flirtation is the game in which no one seems to gain the upper hand and no one seems to surrender. The counter-concept of flirtation has thus stood quietly to the side, never quite achieving the same prominence as that of seduction. It is this elusive (and largely ignored) territory of playing for play's sake that is the subject of this anthology.
The essays in this volume address the under-theorized terrain of flirtation not as a subgenre of seduction but rather as a phenomenon in its own right. Drawing on the interdisciplinary history of scholarship on flirtation even as it re-approaches the question from a distinctly aesthetic and literary-theoretical point of view, the contributors to Flirtations thus give an account of the practice of flirtation and of the figure of the flirt, taking up the act's relationship to issues of mimesis, poetic ambiguity, and aesthetic pleasure. The art of this poetic playfulness-often read or misread as flirtation's "empty gesture"-becomes suddenly legible as the wielding of a particular and subtle form of nonteleological power.
against the Metaphysics of Morals is an open question.4 As if disturbed by his own insight, “THE DOUBLE- SENSE OF THE ‘WITH’ ” 33 Simmel seems at times to transform this double meaning into a new, third sense that is the sublation (Aufhebung) of the other two: from the seemingly mutually exclusive possibilities of “flirting with” as instrumentalization and “flirting with” as collaboration follows the appearance of something like reciprocal instrumentalization, a partnership between human
“sweet nothings,” the unlikely image of Don Juan also appears. Although the title figure imagined by Molière in his 1665 play, Don Juan or the Feast with the Statue, is typically associated with seduction rather than flirtation, the movement of the serial philanderer and his acting skills point to precisely this intertwining of noncommitment and performance. Throughout Molière’s play Don Juan flies like a bee from woman to woman and tells sweet nothings to many a protagonist, male and female
commune cum alio est desinit esse proprium].”9 The proper (proprium) rightfully belongs to an individual; it is an individual’s property; it cannot be taken away. It is therefore opposed to the common, which is indeed 114 JOHN HAMILTON given away or surrendered. Forming a collective—joining a community—appears to entail some kind of sacrifice: a sacrifice of the purely private. During his time in the Collège de Sociologie Caillois developed his theory of community in connection with the work
representations, one is able to vicariously participate in death without dying or killing, identifying without internalizing what it is to die or kill. The reader or theatergoer is like the flirt in this respect. Hamilton writes, “Just as the flirt imitates the serious lover, so the serious implications of one’s own annihilation can be flirted away by means of imitation.” The similarity between reading about or watching a character die in a novel or play and flirting with a stranger at a party
do anything.” 3. Charles Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, translated and edited by Anne M. Cohler, Basia C. Miller, and Harold S. Stone (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 311–12. 4. Ibid., 104. 5. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. D’Alembert on the Theatre, translated by Allan Bloom (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1968), 100. 6. Ibid., 112, emphasis mine. 7. See Barbara Vinken, Fashion—Zeitgeist: Trends and Cycles in the Fashion