Fin-de-Siècle Decadence and Elizabethan Literature

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Abstract

It had become commonplace in the 1890s to think of cultures and literatures entering periods of decline. English Decadence, the conventional narrative goes, was a product of Francophilia. Yet in the 1880s young authors were uncovering alternative models of literary decline and stylistic artifice. In their study of playwrights such as John Ford and Philip Massinger, Arthur Symons and Havelock Ellis began to interrogate the dominant historiographical narratives of the late-Victorian period. The example of the Elizabethans offered a model of literature that strained style to its limits in an attempt to express the extremes of sensation, an example that would be invaluable for Decadent writers as they negotiated the moral orthodoxy of Victorian England, challenging the moral frameworks that sustained the myth of "decadence" in literature, and forging the autonomous aestheticism that would underpin the Decadent Movement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-505
JournalEnglish Literture in Transition 1880-1920
Volume62
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2019

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