Introduction to a Dandy, Part I

The Assembler Reassembled

In: Biblical Interpretation

The first half of this introduction to Qoheleth reads the book as a record of ideas mulled over by a dandy at a series of salons. While scholars have attempted to impose order on the book’s structure and classify it according to genres, I formulate an understanding of the speaker’s lively wisdom from the extraneous voices of John Galsworthy, Beau Brummell and Oscar Wilde. Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (The Tailor Retailored) serves as a model of fictional philosophy that allows us to appreciate Qoheleth’s existential concerns as both ironic and serious. I keep references to biblical commentaries at bay and create a typology within which the biblical sage comes to life as a social creature of comfort. Part II will draw a specific parallel between the book’s first chapter and a collage by the conceptual dandy Marcel Duchamp. For the moment Qoheleth’s charms are given a fresh face via creative interdisciplinary comparison.

  • 2

    Galsworthy, ‘A Sad Affair’, On Forsyte ‘Change,p. 88.

  • 5

    James Crenshaw, Ecclesiastes (London: SCM Press, 1988), pp. 28ff.

  • 6

    Jennifer Koosed, (Per)mutations of Qoheleth: Reading the Body in the Book (New York and London: T&T Clark, 2006).

  • 11

    Galsworthy, ‘A Sad Affair’, On Forsyte ‘Change, p. 88.

  • 14

    Samuel Beeton, Beeton’s Manners of Polite Society: For Ladies, Gentlemen, and Families (London: Ward Lock, 1879), pp. 126-27.

  • 15

    Brent Shannon, The Cut of His Coat: Men, Dress, and Consumer Culture in Britain, 1860-1914 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006), p. 130.

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  • 16

    See 12.9 and Thomas Krüger, Qoheleth: A Commentary (trans. O.C. Dean; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004), p. 207 n. 9e, for the sense of ןקתas ‘put into a good order, arrange a collection of proverbs (thus HALOT)’ – and thus my ‘suit out’.

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  • 17

    Baudelaire, p. 26.

  • 18

    Shannon, p. 130.

  • 19

    Ian Kelly, Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2005), p. 7.

  • 21

    T.A. Perry, Dialogues with Koheleth: The Book of Ecclesiastes, Translation and Commentary (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993), p. 38; Koosed, p. 24.

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  • 23

    Krüger, Qoheleth, p. 42.

  • 25

    Norbert Lohfink, Qoheleth (Continental Commentary series; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 19.

  • 27

    Ibid., p. 16.

  • 29

    Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, p. 233.

  • 31

    Carlyle, p. 204.

  • 32

    Carlyle, p. 214.

  • 33

    Carlyle, p. 217.

  • 34

    Carlyle, pp. 218-19. The colonial name for the native southern African is now considered pejorative – as might be the generalization about the size of his backside. But Carlyle is in fact mocking the fashionable white man’s affected tone and his assumption that there is a single and superior ‘delicate taste’. I leave it to the reader to determine whether or not ‘posterial luxuriance’ is necessarily a negative physical characteristic.

  • 35

    Carlyle, p. 179.

  • 39

    Carlyle, p. 24.

  • 40

    Carlyle, pp. 211-12.

  • 42

    Carlyle, pp. 6, 14-16. Equally, Qoheleth’s wealth of experience situates him well above the fray.

  • 43

    Carlyle, pp. 214, 215.

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