The Aesthetics of Curiosity: Horace Walpole and William Beckford
霍瑞斯‧沃波爾 （1717—1797） 與威廉‧貝克弗德 （1760—1844）同為十八中晚期知名的作家、收藏家與建築風格家，兩人都參考中古世紀的城堡與修道院風格來修築其宅邸，並終其一生熱衷于蒐集奇珍異寶。沃波爾當今最為人所知的作品《奧托蘭多城堡》（1764）被公認為英國文學史上哥德小說的先驅，而貝克弗所創作之《瓦泰克》（1786）則被視為其繼承者。本文以「奇」的概念為出發點（好奇、珍奇、怪奇），在十八世紀與十九世紀早期的收藏風潮、超自然騙局、與奇觀的文化歷史脈絡下重讀《奧托蘭多城堡》與《瓦泰克》，重新檢視兩部作品間的被忽略的共鳴、鏈結、與衝突性。本文旨在檢視沃波爾與貝克弗透過其珍寶收藏與文學作品所表述的珍奇/怪奇美學，並進一步探討兩人如何挑戰、形塑、甚至進一步被收編於十八世紀與十九世紀早期的珍奇/好奇文化。
The resemblances between Horace Walpole (1717-1797) and William Beckford (1760-1844) are nothing but apparent to the eyes of their contemporaries as well as to many present critics: biographically, they were socially and economically privileged gentlemen with ambiguous sexual orientation; aesthetically, they were fervent collectors of curiosities; they built Gothic edifices, which inspired them to produce literary curiosities; their literary works and collections had inflamed, or even capitalized on, public curiosity, but at the same time they had often come to be viewed as curiosities themselves. These resemblances are also the reasons why Walpole and Beckford, along with their most noticeable literary works—The Castle of Otranto (1764) and Vathek (1786)—have been conveniently grouped together by many critics. What has been neglected in the critical landscape is a subtler comparison between these two men’s literary and collecting practices, which not only yields new interpretations on The Castle of Otranto and Vathek, but further illuminates the cultural and aesthetic matrix of curiosity. To fill in such lacuna, this thesis sees both Walpole and Beckford as practitioners of curiosity, The Castle of Otranto and Vathek as thematic and formal explorations of curiosity and its cognates (wonder, monstrosity, singularity, and novelty). This thesis contends that the two literary works and the cultural phenomena clustered around them are simultaneously products and shaping factors of the dynamics of curiosity in the long eighteenth century. The Castle of Otranto presents monstrous things that threaten to subvert the conventional human-things ownership and dominate the almost unseen but not invisible architectural frame, behind which lurks the occult and the supernatural. Vathek, balancing precariously on the dynamic tension between curiosity and credulity, as well as between curiosity in its laudable and vulgar senses, reveals the utmost complexity of eighteenth-century curiosity, not only as hubristic inquisitiveness but also avarice. In the time span punctuated by the two literary works and other curious events, including The Cock Lane Ghost, the purporting discovery of Pantagonian Giants, and the two sensational sales of Fonthill Abbey and Strawberry Hill House, three tendencies can be perceived: a spectacularization and commercialization of the supernatural, a shift of monstrosity from curious objects to curious subjects, and most importantly, a growing obsession with and anxiety towards material accumulation.
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