Essays in Romanticism

Bad Taste, Gothic Bodies, and Subversive Aesthetics in Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Essays in Romanticism (2012), 19, (1), 49–64.

Abstract

Contemporary reviews of Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner attack the author's taste and decorum, filtering their language through culinary metaphors that conflate aesthetic discrimination with the embodied act of consumption. The reviewers, however, fail to recognize how the novel issues a challenge to culturally dominant notions of taste, policed in literary periodicals as a symptom of class anxiety. Hogg interrogates the linking of good taste to authenticity, cerebral apprehension, and delicacy, whereas bad taste is linked to inauthenticity, bodily sensations, and excessive affect. Hogg's novel filters this commentary on taste through a pattern of sensuous overdescription, a fractured narrative structure, the conflation of bodies and texts, and a necrophilic Editor with a case of textual indigestion, elements that reviewers fail to read within the discursive context of Hogg's ongoing engagement with the Blackwood's circle on questions of taste and class identity.

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Author details

Battles, Kelly