Beyond Platonism: Byron’s Don Juan and the Critique of Political Economy
Byron's Don Juan is a poem obsessed with consumption, with the experience of pleasure and satiation, and with the connections between our most powerful and sublime feelings and the market. In Byron's version of the adventures of the legendary seducer, Don Juan is both a consumer of women and is consumed by them, even literally bought by them on the market. By bringing together the legend of Don Juan with Byron's fascination with markets, commodities, and luxury consumption, the poem offers an extended meditation on the problem of enjoyment experienced in both love and consumption. For Byron, contemporary culture, with its more permissive attitude towards luxury, allows for an experience of jouissance that undermines metaphysical systems. For Byron, however, the modern experience of consumption can actually undermine the system of commodity exchange and the theories of political economy that support it.