Decadence and Popular Culture

Condé, Alice. 2019. Decadence and Popular Culture. In: Jane H. Desmarais and David Weir, eds. Decadence and Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 379-399. ISBN 9781108426244 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This chapter examines decadence in terms of the contemporary popular obsession with the practice of self-fashioning through dandyism, drag, or costume as a way of negotiating or overcoming social boundaries, often in a playfully transgressive manner. Glam rock stars of the 1970s represent a modern form of dandyism and camp self-expression, while the aesthetics of opulence and excess take on a more profound significance when considered in terms of social inequality in the drag ball culture of 1980s New York where the aspiration to be ‘real’ is enacted through costumes and cosmetics. Decadence in today’s celebrity culture is exemplified by Lady Gaga’s gender-bending pop performance art, and we can also observe a queer countercultural resistance to the mainstream using the same decadent paradoxes of beauty and decay, artifice and reality. The ‘cult of the self’ may seem superficial, but the process of self-fashioning through clothing and makeup is in fact a process of self-acceptance.

Item Type:

Book Section

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drag, queer, dandyism, camp, glamour, pop stars

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



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Date Deposited:

01 Oct 2020 13:55

Last Modified:

01 Oct 2020 13:55


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