This collection of fifteen essays looks at the theme of decadence and its recurring manifestations in European literature and literary criticism from medieval times to the present day. Various definitions of the term are explored, including the notion of decadence as physical decay. Some of the essays draw parallels between modernist and postmodernist notions of decadence. Similarities are detected between fin de siècle decadence at the end of the nineteenth century (which reaches its apotheosis in the character of Eugene Wrayburn in Our Mutual Friend) and depictions of decadence in our own age as we enter the new millennium.
Contents: Introduction; Redeeming the decadent city: changing responses to the urban and wilderness environments in the lives of St Jerome, David Salter; Nature, Venus and Royal decadence: political theory and political practice in Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, Michael StJohn; Reading symptoms of decadence in Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Carla Dente; ’Bawdy in thoughts, precise in words’: decadence, divinity and dissent in the Restoration, Michael Davies; Dickensian decadents, Vincent Newey; Defining decadence in nineteenth-century French and British criticism, Julian North; Somewhere there’s music: John Meade Falkner’s The Lost Stradivarius, Nicholas Daly; ’Squalid arguments’: decadence, reform and the Colonial vision in Kipling’s The Five Nations, Andrew StJohn; The metamorphoses of a fairy-tale: Quillard, D’Annunzio and The Girl With Cut-Off Hands, Julie Dashwood; A passion for dismemberment: Gabriele d’Annunzio’s portrayals of women, Susan Bassnett; The escape from decadence: British travel literature on the Balkans 1900-45, Andrew Hammond; Books and ruins: abject decadence in Gide and Mann, Martin Halliwell; Resisting decadence: literary criticism as a corrective to low culture and high science in the world of I. A. Richards, Daniel Cordle; Blow it up and start all over again: Second World War apocalypse fiction and the decadence of modernity, Tristram Hooley; Decadence and transition in the fiction of Antonio Tabucchi: a reading of Il filo dell’orizzonte, Marina Spunta; Beyond decadence: Huysmans, Wilde, Baudrillard and Postmodern culture, Nicholas Zurbrugg; Translation: decadence or survival of the original?, Amir Ali Nojoumian; The decadent university: narratives of decay and the future of higher education, Mark Rawlinson; The lateness of the world, or how to leave the twentieth century, Martin L. Davies; Bibliography; Index.