The 3rd Annual Conference of the British Association of Decadence Studies
September 10-13, 2020
Conference Committee: Ellis Hanson, Elisha Cohn, Jane Desmarais, Kate Hext, Caroline Levine, Kristin Mahoney, Alex Murray
"I wish it were fin du globe," said Dorian with a sigh. "Life is a great disappointment."
"Ah, my dear," cried Lady Narborough, putting on her gloves, "don't tell me that you have exhausted life. When a man says that one knows that life has exhausted him . . ..”
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
When Dorian Gray heaved a French sigh over not merely the fin de siècle, but also the end of the planet, could he truly imagine it or the way his own culture was already causing it? When Baudelaire describes his readers' laying waste to the world with an opiated yawn, how do we take up now his invitation to recognize ourselves in this monstre délicat? What does it mean for us now to enjoy, teach, and even create Decadent literature, Decadent visual arts, criticism about Decadence, in an age when global warming and climate catastrophes have become our most urgent political crisis? What are the Decadent art forms and theories that speak to the current century and its numerous catastrophes? How does Decadence signify differently now, along with other related terms of the fin de siècle such as Aestheticism, Symbolism, Impressionism, and Modernism, as we contemplate our own fin du globe? How has Decadence figured globally in the political crises and aesthetic migrations of the past two centuries? This conference will consider the phenomenon of Decadence from its emergence as a social theory and an aesthetic movement in the 19th century to its current resurgence and refiguration in the art and criticism of our present moment and environment.
Decadent De/Generations: What has this generation inherited from the Decadent Movement? How has Decadence imagined "catastrophe" in the sense of disaster, of degeneration, disintegration, apocalypse, extinction? What, if anything, comes after Decadence and its catastrophes? What overtures do they make?
The Ends of the World: When Baudelaire writes of the ships coming from the ends of the world (du bout du monde) to satisfy our every desire, when Pater writes of the head of the Mona Lisa upon which all the ends of the world are come, we … READ MORE