Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

VI.1 Hudson

Like Christina, Rowland sees that Roderick’s genius yields power beyond the artist’s conscious control. However, in contrast to Roderick’s lackadaisical paramour, Rowland deeply fears the repercussions of Roderick’s uncontrollable genius: “[Roderick’s] beautiful faculty of production was a double-edged instrument, susceptible of being dealt at back-handed blows at its possessor.” The “possessor” in Rowland’s reflection is not clearly identified. While it most surely is Roderick, it also could be, in Rowland’s eyes, himself, as well. As Roderick’s patron and admirer, Rowland does hope to possess both his artistic skill and his physical body.
 
Roderick's warning to Roderick that his entanglement with Christina is the reason for his lack of performance only verifies Rowland’s feelings of possessiveness and ownership. Roderick perceives as much, for he retorts: “When you expect a man to produce beautiful and wonderful works of art you ought to allow him a certain freedom of action, you ought to give him a long rope, you ought to let him follow his fancy and look for his material wherever he thinks he may find it! . . . In labour we must be as passionate as the inspired sibyl; in life we must be mere machines.” Roderick’s response articulates the oppressive nature of his relationship with Rowland. His patron refuses him the personal freedom to explore artistic inspiration while, at the same time, expecting him to produce artwork as methodically as an automaton. His words also illuminate the inherently exhaustive nature of such an arrangement, even for as restless and energetic as Roderick. At work, he must be full of passion while, in other areas of life, he must tick along to someone’s else time and resist his own personal desires and needs.

Roderick begins to resent his supposedly inherent “genius,” viewing it instead as a dangerous, external force. His artistry becomes an oppositional force that places his own agency at peril. He contends: “If I’m to fizzle out, . . . let me at least go out and reconnoitre for the enemy, and not sit here waiting for him, cudgeling my brains for ideas that won’t come!”

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