“Modernism and Decadence”

Deadline: April 10, 2015

Dates: November 19-22, 2015

Location: Boston, MA

CFP Link

Both major modernists of the time and subsequent criticism about modernism have contested the relationship between modernism and “decadence.” Decadence’s relationship to modernism is often discredited by subordinating it to related movements like impressionism and symbolism. In opposition to such contestations, a number of recent works suggest a closer relationship between modernism and decadence. Vincent Sherry’s 2014 work “Modernism and the Reinvention of Decadence” argues that decadence and modernism are dual names for a joint condition (34). For Sherry, a similar temporality of dispossession defines both (35). In the essay “Decadence, Melancholia, and the Making of Modernism in the Salome Fairy Tales of Strindberg, Wilde, and Ibsen” (from the recent collection “Decadence, Degeneration, and the End”), Kyle Mox describes decadent literature as a “form of proto-modernism,” positing that they both prefer the artificial to the natural (128).

This panel seeks papers that continue and expand this discussion. How would our understanding of modernism change if a greater emphasis were placed on its relationship to decadence? What sorts of themes, anxieties, and historical changes inspirited both of these movements? Can we see in the formal techniques and thematic innovations of decadent literature and art an anticipation of modernist aesthetics? Which modernist writers, artists, and thinkers carried forward the spirit and mood of decadence? How are modernism and decadence related to the aesthetic movements of realism, naturalism, impressionism, symbolism, aestheticism, and post-modernism, among others? In keeping with the conference’s theme of revolution, can we find in these two movements a similar spirit of revolt against tradition, particularly with respect to politics, technology, culture, identity categories, and people’™s experiences of everyday life?

This panel welcomes papers on any topic on the relationship between modernism and decadence in literature, the visual and performing arts, literary theory and philosophy. Please send a 300-word abstract and a CV to Ajitpaul Mangat at ajitpaul@buffalo.edu by April 10, 2015.

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