Decadence (2471 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • Anthony Mandal (University of Wales, Cardiff)
  • The Literary Encyclopedia. Volume : WORLD HISTORY AND IDEAS: A CROSS-CULTURAL VOLUME.


In the development of modern Western literature, the Decadent movement of the late nineteenth century enjoys an ambiguous status, significant yet subversive. Decadence vocalizes the paradox of modern cosmopolitans who found themselves dependent on a lifestyle which they inherently despised. The term itself is one fraught with difficulties: it is more than a synonym for “decay” or “immorality”, and the immediate popularity achieved by the term indicates that it addressed a wide-spread and until-then unconscious need.

The writers of the early eighteenth century never experienced that characteristic uneasiness with the city and civilization which was to become the Romantic inheritance. Not until Rousseau’s Discours …

Mandal, Anthony. "Decadence". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 09 February 2001
[, accessed 28 April 2017.]

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