Engineered Pleasure in Brave New World
This chapter examines the intricate balance of pleasure and unpleasure in Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World. In particular, it considers the dense composite of references around the “feelies” in Brave New World, from a popular women's romance novel to William Shakespeare to race cinema and nature documentaries. It looks at Huxley's vision of futurity, or, as he called it, a “negative utopia,” that is paradoxically organized around pleasure. Just as D. H. Lawrence's work registers the attraction of the material he claims to reject, the engineered pleasures in Brave New World, including the feelies, exert a frivolous, sleazy magnetism that often contradicts the novel's argument against careless hedonism. The totalitarian culture that is meant to be repellent is secured by a wide variety of vernacular pleasures that are, from a readerly perspective, paradoxically engaging. The chapter explains how this irony is extended in Huxley's subsequent adaptation of Brave New World to a musical comedy.
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