Where did the decadent novel go?
-
Thursday, 30th September
I’ve decided to do something a bit different with my Poisonous Books course next year.  Traditionally, I’ve ever taught Decadent fin de siecle literature or followed the trail of evil books set by Max Nordau’s Degeneration, but this time around I will be addressing the notion of scandalous literary content in a more broad view.
The books I’m adopting are Rhoda Broughton’s Cometh Up a Flower (a sensation novel scandalous for its honest depiction of female sexual desire), H.G. Wells’s Island of Doctor Moreau (a nexus point for anxieties about racial degeneration, scientific advancement, and evolutionary theory), William Harris Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard (decried as a celebration of criminality; “I love the romance of crime,” quips Morrissey), Michael Field’s Decadent and Sapphic poetry, and Thomas Love Peacocks’s Nightmare Abbery (a burlesque on the corrosive effects of the Gothic novel and the too-passionate Romantic worldview). 

I’ve decided to do something a bit different with my Poisonous Books course next year.  Traditionally, I’ve ever taught Decadent fin de siecle literature or followed the trail of evil books set by Max Nordau’s Degeneration, but this time around I will be addressing the notion of scandalous literary content in a more broad view.

The books I’m adopting are Rhoda Broughton’s Cometh Up a Flower (a sensation novel scandalous for its honest depiction of female sexual desire), H.G. Wells’s Island of Doctor Moreau (a nexus point for anxieties about racial degeneration, scientific advancement, and evolutionary theory), William Harris Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard (decried as a celebration of criminality; “I love the romance of crime,” quips Morrissey), Michael Field’s Decadent and Sapphic poetry, and Thomas Love Peacocks’s Nightmare Abbery (a burlesque on the corrosive effects of the Gothic novel and the too-passionate Romantic worldview). 

-
Wednesday, 13th October
Image of an unused title piece for Les Fleurs du Mal by Felix Bracquemond.
The Two Good Sisters
Debauchery and Death are two lovable girls, Lavish with their kisses and rich with health, Whose ever-virgin loins, draped with tattered clothes and Burdened with constant work, have never given birth.
To the sinister poet, foe of families, Poorly paid courtier, favorite of hell, Graves and brothels show beneath their bowers A bed in which remorse has never slept.
The bier and the alcove, fertile in blasphemies Like two good sisters, offer to us in turn Terrible pleasures and frightful sweetness.
When will you bury me, Debauch with the filthy arms? Death, her rival in charms, when will you come To graft black cypress on her infected myrtle?
- Charles Baudelaire
I’m teaching selections from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal today.  Sometimes I really do have the best job.

Image of an unused title piece for Les Fleurs du Mal by Felix Bracquemond.

The Two Good Sisters

Debauchery and Death are two lovable girls, 
Lavish with their kisses and rich with health, 
Whose ever-virgin loins, draped with tattered clothes and 
Burdened with constant work, have never given birth.

To the sinister poet, foe of families, 
Poorly paid courtier, favorite of hell, 
Graves and brothels show beneath their bowers 
A bed in which remorse has never slept.

The bier and the alcove, fertile in blasphemies 
Like two good sisters, offer to us in turn 
Terrible pleasures and frightful sweetness.

When will you bury me, Debauch with the filthy arms? 
Death, her rival in charms, when will you come 
To graft black cypress on her infected myrtle?

- Charles Baudelaire

I’m teaching selections from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal today.  Sometimes I really do have the best job.

I once taught Lautreamont’s Led Chants de Maldoror in a class on Decadent literature.  I was told that this was hubris, pure folly, and the Maldoror was simply unteachable, but my students took to it fairly well and had some very provocative commentary on it!
mintghost:

Maldoror

I once taught Lautreamont’s Led Chants de Maldoror in a class on Decadent literature.  I was told that this was hubris, pure folly, and the Maldoror was simply unteachable, but my students took to it fairly well and had some very provocative commentary on it!

mintghost:

Maldoror

thefindesiecle:

Georges Antoine Rochegrosse, A Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt Reclining in a Chinois Interior.

thefindesiecle:

Georges Antoine Rochegrosse, A Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt Reclining in a Chinois Interior.

(Source: thefindesiecle)

Interview with Jojo Lazar.
“The burlesque poetess is entirely me, including the gender performance, so she is capable of laughing at all those things growing up as an awkward queerish lady. I celebrate them and hopefully others feel a little freed too. I’m not a dainty flower when I perform; I feel like a little girl pulling her dress up over her head at church or temple. My priorities lie in hedonism and debauchery.”

Interview with Jojo Lazar.

The burlesque poetess is entirely me, including the gender performance, so she is capable of laughing at all those things growing up as an awkward queerish lady. I celebrate them and hopefully others feel a little freed too. I’m not a dainty flower when I perform; I feel like a little girl pulling her dress up over her head at church or temple. My priorities lie in hedonism and debauchery.”

Spiritual Front, “Darkroom Friendship”

Decadent, Eurotrashy, and perfect for the sticky nights of summer.

This is a darkroom friendship † A friendship made of flesh and lust

-
Monday, 25th July
For most people, mentioning the Decadents conjures up images of bohemian London in the 1890s, of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley; but the trouble with Decadence is that the whole thing sort of rots away around the edges somehow, melting messily into other artistic and literary movements of the time like Symbolism, Aestheticism, and Romanticism. Some days it must have been hard to remember which particular ‘ism’ you belonged to, though Realism certainly wouldn’t have been anywhere on the list. Well, who needs Realism anyway?
Steve Moore, “Decades of Decadence”
…in a world so obsessed with economic production that it’s probably going to end up as a roasting fireball within a matter of decades, what’s the point of not being a Decadent? We may as well all put on our glad-rags and best make-up, bow on and off the stage with an enormous poetical flourish and live with that hard gem-like flame…and just make our lives into are…
Steve Moore, “Decades of Decadence”
The Chevalier Tannhauser, having lighted off his horse, stood dutifully for a moment beneath the ombre gateway of the mysterious Hill, troubled with an exquisite fear lest a day’s travel should have too cruelly undone the laboured niceness of his dress. His hand, slim and gracious as La Marquise du Deffand’s in the drawing by Carmontelle, played nervously about the gold hair that fell upon his shoulders like a finely-curled peruke, and from point to point of a precise toilet the fingers wandered, quelling the little mutinies of cravat and ruffle.
Aubrey Beardsley, Under the Hill