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Chapter 1 - Nineteenth-Century Decadence and Neoclassical Aesthetics

Androgyny, Ambiguity and Collecting Culture*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2020

Alex Murray
Affiliation:
Queen's University Belfast
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Summary

The complex mix of transgression and conservativism in the sexual politics of Decadence is well explored through the Decadent turn back to the ancient world. Looking back to antiquity at the end of the nineteenth century was an complex aesthetic performance, reflecting both genuflection to traditional cultural authority and transgression of modern political frameworks. The Decadent imagination was interested in the aesthetics of collecting. Decadent writers became fascinated by androgynous and hermaphroditic bodily forms, which they viewed as a symbol of decadent collecting culture – an assemblage of pleasurable, sensuous experiences. But the ambiguously gendered body of ancient art, so venerated by Decadent writers, revealed the ambivalences of their gender politics.

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Chapter
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Decadence
A Literary History
, pp. 18 - 46
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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