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The Problem with PleasureModernism and Its Discontents$
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Laura Frost

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231152723

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231152723.001.0001

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Huxley’s Feelies

Huxley’s Feelies

Engineered Pleasure in Brave New World

(p.130) 4 Huxley’s Feelies
The Problem with Pleasure

Laura Frost

Columbia University Press

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.

Keywords:   novel, Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, pleasure, unpleasure, feelies, negative utopia, engineered pleasure, hedonism, musical comedy

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