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Decadence and Modernity

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Alana F.
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  1. Decadence and anarchism.
  2. The movement of Naturalism.
  3. Romanticism and how it links the spiritual and the natural.
  4. The connection between decadence, subculture, and politics.
  5. Themes of death and decay in Baudelaire.
  6. Mortality and degeneration in Baudelaire.
  7. The model of the decadent novel in A Rebours.
  8. Oscar Wilde - The Soul of Man Under Socialism.
  9. Conclusion.

The Decadent movement, located in France and in England during the late 19th century, can most basically be described as a stylistic transition in literature between the pervasive Romanticism of the 1800s, the Naturalism that followed it, and Modernism. As art moved away from the romantic and naturalistic traditions in both literature and painting, towards the more classically modernist values of the early to mid 20th century, decadence became a key element of that transformation. With decadence we see the beginning of a rather developed form of the revolutionary spirit as model for art production, which became the basis for much of modernism and art since modernism. In its opposition to the widespread cultural situation that artists found themselves in, decadence spawned a more radical tradition that continues to the present. Because of its themes of alienation, non-normative sexuality, discomfort with civilization, and with society and its general culture, decadence necessarily forced artists to create a space for it, and for them in which these things could legitimately exist. In this way, a type of subculture emerged through the decadent model.

[...] In any case, Des Esseintes, who does not have to work, chooses that he would like to rise at sundown and go to sleep at sunrise. He accepts the growing artificiality of life for humans upon the earth, and explores this as a creative option. He is not only against nature, but against the common expectation for what and how people are supposed to be and live. When we move aside the artifice surrounding this person, we are still left with an almost revolutionary artist, committed in his way to resistance. [...]


[...] In this way, decadence and anarchism are reconciled. Without the control of the state, the individual is free to realize what Wilde refers to as the soul, individuality. The amazing thing that dandies, decadents, and artists of this time period realized was that they had the power to construct their own worlds. Initially, there was the need to simulate and affect an aristocratic lifestyle. This opened up the possibility of a freely lived life. This type of simulation was a liberating force for people in poverty (theoretically . [...]


[...] There is a complicated and polarized relationship in decadence between misogyny and the issue of non- normative, or homosexual sexuality. In his poem, "Une Charron Carcass) also from Les Fleurs Du Mal, Baudelaire explores the relationship between sex, love, and death with a critical eye. This criticality, of love as a construct, lends itself to a radical critique. The Victorian version of love, as either needing to be chaste and symbolic or as hidden, diseased and performed in a brothel, is questioned and ridiculed. [...]

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