IN 1884 two novels were published in Paris that embody two different ways of viewing decadence in prose fiction. Both Joris Karl Huysmans A rebours and Joséphin Péladan Le vice suprême would meet most definitions of decadence. Both take up themes of social and physical decay and examine sexual and psychological perversities in detail. In both, women are destructive and art is a debilitating obsession. Beneath what energies the charaters exhibit is an alluring nihilism that confuses idealism and morbidity. But aside from certain common subjects and trappings, the two novels are profoundly different--not only in their social and aesthetic assumptions but also in their styles.
Despite objections that style is an inexact way of defining Decadence, it is only by founding the term on a concept of style that it can be useful in aesthetic discourse. From this point of view, the two novels I have mentioned represent two different concepts of deca
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Publication information: Book title: Decadent Style. Contributors: John R. Reed - Author. Publisher: Ohio University Press. Place of publication: Athens, OH. Publication year: 1985. Page number: 19.
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