Taste: Savoring Decadence

Desmarais, Jane H. and Weir, David. 2021. Taste: Savoring Decadence. In: Jane Desmarais and David Weir, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Decadence. New York and London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190066956 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This article examines the confluence of cuisine and the culture of decadence by first describing the difficulty of identifying any type of food as inherently “decadent” in physiological terms. After acknowledging that the meaning of “decadence” depends on moral, social, and aesthetic contexts, the article focuses on the dissemination of aristocratic tastes in food following the French Revolution, when chefs who had formerly cooked for nobility opened their own restaurants; on the development of the idea of the gourmand subsequent to the publication of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s Physiologie du Goût (The Physiology of Taste, 1825); on Charles Baudelaire’s decadent response to Brillat-Savarin in Les Paradis Artificiels (Artificial Paradises, 1860); on the role of Roman history in the development of popular conceptions of decadent cuisine; and on J.-K. Huysmans’s surprisingly limited interest in “decadent dining” in À rebours (Against Nature, 1884), despite his use of elaborate food metaphors to describe the literature of decadence.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):



aesthetics, Charles Baudelaire, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, flavor, J.-K. Huysmans, Immanuel Kant, restaurant, Suetonius, taste, Vitellius

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


November 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

07 Jan 2022 12:10

Last Modified:

07 Jan 2022 12:10



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