Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

III.1 Hudson

Chapter 2 concludes with Roderick's climactic "yawn," which evinces early signs of Rowland's perturbation at Roderick’s expressions of exhaustion. The next chapter commences with another of Roderick’s disappointing yawns. After extensive introductions to the classical art of Rome, Roderick rejects Rowland’s request to make one more visit. Relunctantly, Rowland leaves Roderick lounging in the park while he pays homage to the fresco of Guercino. Upon his return, Rowland embellishes the view that Roderick missed, telling him that “it looked like the prospect from a castle turret in a fairy tale." Roderick responds by “throwing himself back with a yawn” and telling Rowland that he is suffering from “an indigestion of impressions." 

To Rowland’s disappointment, rather than be energized and inspired by the classical art that surrounds him, Roderick is fatigued by it: Being deprived of hands-on work serves only to enervate Roderick. Rather than passively consume art, he wants to create it. For Rowland, this is problematic to his investment. He expects Roderick to study and imitate the work of the masters. Roderick fails to respect this stipulation of Rowland’s patronage, as he blatantly condemns the passivity of aesthetic consumption that Rowland so highly values. Roderick reflects: “The other day, when I was looking at Michael Angelo’s Moses, I was seized with a kind of defiance—a reaction against all this mere passive enjoyment of grandeur." Such a response to the voyeurism of classical art is underscored by a working-class sentiment—a desire to rebel against the passive privilege of aesthetic culture. Roderick argues that, to truly appreciate art, one must at least attempt its creation.

In contradicting his earlier ruminations about effort versus success, Rowland takes offense at Roderick’s supposition by slyly mocking his young patron: “As you say, you can but try . . . Success is only passionate effort." Rowland pushes Roderick to work harder while, at the same time, feeling frustrating with Roderick’s failure to adhere to the aesthetic ideals of the leisure class. Rowland’s paradoxical frustration underscores the complication that class status poses to his patron-artist relationship: Rowland hopes to shape Roderick into a talented artist, but aspires for his social class to be appropriate for a man of genius.

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