The Oxford Handbook of Decadence

Desmarais, Jane H. and Weir, David, eds. 2020. The Oxford Handbook of Decadence. New York and London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190066956 [Edited Book]

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Abstract or Description

The meaning of decadence varies with context, depending on what (or who) is understood to have declined, decayed, or degenerated. These negative meanings are familiar from history (the decline and fall of Rome), sociology (the decay of communities), morality (the degeneration of values), and more, including such popular conceptions of decadence as excess and corruption. At the same time, all of this negative decadence has found positive cultural expression, principally in literature, through the work of such celebrated nineteenth-century decadents as Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, and many others. This volume explores the kind of literary expression Baudelaire gave to decadence in the mid-nineteenth century and Wilde at the fin de siècle by focusing on additional critical periods, such as classical antiquity, various ages of empire, the interwar era in the twentieth century, and contemporary times, as well as by examining key places—France, Belgium, Britain, Italy, Germany, the Nordic nations, Russia and Ukraine, the Ottoman Empire, and Japan—and such genres as the novel, the short story, drama, the essay, prose poetry, and film. The volume also considers decadence more broadly as a culture not limited to literature by considering its manifestations in such material forms as book design, fashion, interior decoration, and architecture, as well as through the experiential register of the senses: decadent vision, sound, smell, taste, and touch are all reflected, respectively, in painting, music, perfume, cuisine, and feeling. Finally, the volume explores the theoretical resonance of decadence in such fields as theology, science, ecology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and politics.

Item Type:

Edited Book

Identification Number (DOI):


Aestheticism, Charles Baudelaire, decadence, decline, fin de siècle, Joris-Karl Huysmans, modernity, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rome, Oscar Wilde

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature > Decadence Research Centre


6 August 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Jan 2022 17:52

Last Modified:

05 Mar 2024 14:50


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