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The Art of ScandalModernism, Libel Law, and the Roman à Clef$
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Sean Latham

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195379990

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379990.001.0001

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The Coterie as Commodity

The Coterie as Commodity

Huxley, Lawrence, Rhys, and the Business of Revenge

(p.124) 6 The Coterie as Commodity
The Art of Scandal

Sean Latham (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The continuing expansion of the mass media in the 20th century, and particularly the emergence of mass-mediated celebrity culture, meant that an ever-growing audience imagined they had access to even the most exclusive circles. Uniquely positioned to exploit this fraught tension between the public and the private, the roman à clef became an increasingly popular genre, catering to a market hungry for scandal and snobbery. This chapter focuses narrowly on two such coteries, one in England and the other in Paris. The first organized itself around the imposing figure of Lady Ottoline Morrell, who, despite her generosity, was frequently satirized in romans à clef by D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, and others. Far from simpleminded acts of revenge, these works deliberately exploit the genre in order to escape the hermetic aestheticism of highbrow modernism and thus reap the considerable rewards of the wider literary marketplace. In expatriate Paris, Jean Rhys deployed the roman à clef in similarly strategic ways, using the masochistic protagonist in Quartet to attack Ford Madox Ford’s misogynistic bohemianism. Poised at the boundary between public and private, the roman à clef thrives at the intersection between gender, genre, modernism, and celebrity.

Keywords:   modernism, roman à clef, Aldous Huxley, D. H. Lawrence, Jean Rhys, Ottoline Morrell, celebrity, revenge, Women in Love, feminism

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