Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

I.5 Hudson

After Cecelia presents Rowland with the sculpture Roderick has gifted her (and Rowland becomes enthralled by the figure of a “pretty boy” lustily drinking from a cup etched with the title: “Thirst"), the cousins exchange in dialogue that conflates Roderick’s identity with his bronze creation. Although Roderick is well past twenty, Cecilia and Rowland both conceive of him in adolescent terms, with the former “regard[ing] him as a child” and the latter imagining him to be a “happy youth." In Charles Baudelaire’s The Painter of Modern Life (1863), he describes the flâneur figure as seeing the world as one does in youth: “The child sees everything as a novelty; the child is always ‘drunk.’ Nothing is more like what we call inspiration than the joy the child feels in drinking in shape and color." Rowland seeks someone to channel his own artistic passion and finds the ideal man in the form of a boy drunk off his own sensuous vision of the world. Baudelaire writes that “The man of genius has sound nerves, while those of the child are weak. With the one, Reason has assumed an important role. In the other, Sensibility occupies almost the whole being." Rowland hopes that the boy behind the sculpture can express what he himself cannot. Before even meeting the sculptor, Rowland is convinced he has met the ideal flâneur, through whose eyes he might see the world with a “sensuous, confident relish of pleasure.”

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