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18 - Decadence andfin de siècle

from IV - Later nineteenth-century developments: Realism, Naturalism, Symbolism and Decadence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2013

M. A. R. Habib
Affiliation:
Rutgers University, New Jersey
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Summary

The association of decadence with modern literature is the linking of art with high artifice and amorality, with its practitioners as dandies or degenerates, aesthetes whose sole aim was the cultivation of arcane beauty. In England the cult of Aestheticism, a cult which overlapped with certain aspects of French Decadence, derived largely from Walter Pater. A generation was saturated with Pater's writing, a writing suffused with a love of beauty but also aware of the fascination of corruption. In his autobiographical essay Meine Zeit, Thomas Mann looks back on the turn of the century, on the fin de siècle age of Aestheticism and Decadence, and finds much that is for ever fascinating, despite its rejection of that bourgeois age which had nurtured him and which he had always loved. The literature of the fin de siècle is a raree-show containing many fascinating exhibits, many exotic blooms, some poisonous, others tainted.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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