The Idea of Decadence in French Literature, 1830-1900

By A.E. Carter

© 1978

The cult of decadence is usually dismissed as an eccentricity of French literature, a final twitter of Romantic neurosis, convulsing the lunatic fringe of letters during the last third of the nineteenth century. However, the nineteenth century's preoccupation with decadence provides us with a key to the secret places of its thought, to all the obscure passages and backstairs behind the triumphant façade. Between 1814 and 1914, there was no sense of disaster, no tragic sense. Civilization had become a habit, a side product of political constitutions and applied science. History was viewed pragmatically: of what use were such traditional symbols as throne and altar? Both are essentially propitiatory, evidence of man's uneasy knowledge that power is dangerous and destiny implacable. And both seemed anachronisms in a world where (it was thought) human reason had solved or would solve all the old problems. The theory of decadence is very largely a protest against this comfortable belief. Had the decadents not written, we should hardly suspect that the nineteenth century suffered from the same doubts and hesitations as all other ages, before and since. 

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Product Details

  • Series: University of Toronto Romance Series
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 166 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.4in x 9.0in
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SKU# SP004535

  • PUBLISHED DEC 1978

    From: $20.96

    Regular Price: $27.95

    ISBN 9781442638945
  • PUBLISHED DEC 1978

    From: $20.96

    Regular Price: $27.95

Quick Overview

The cult of decadence is usually dismissed as an eccentricity of French literature. However, the nineteenth century's preoccupation with decadence provides us with a key to the secret places of its thought, to all the obscure passages and backstairs behind the triumphant façade. 

The Idea of Decadence in French Literature, 1830-1900

By A.E. Carter

© 1978

The cult of decadence is usually dismissed as an eccentricity of French literature, a final twitter of Romantic neurosis, convulsing the lunatic fringe of letters during the last third of the nineteenth century. However, the nineteenth century's preoccupation with decadence provides us with a key to the secret places of its thought, to all the obscure passages and backstairs behind the triumphant façade. Between 1814 and 1914, there was no sense of disaster, no tragic sense. Civilization had become a habit, a side product of political constitutions and applied science. History was viewed pragmatically: of what use were such traditional symbols as throne and altar? Both are essentially propitiatory, evidence of man's uneasy knowledge that power is dangerous and destiny implacable. And both seemed anachronisms in a world where (it was thought) human reason had solved or would solve all the old problems. The theory of decadence is very largely a protest against this comfortable belief. Had the decadents not written, we should hardly suspect that the nineteenth century suffered from the same doubts and hesitations as all other ages, before and since. 

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: University of Toronto Romance Series
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 166 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.4in x 9.0in
  • Author Information

    A.E. Carter taught in various Canadian universities and from 1964 till his retirement he was a professor of French Literature at the University of Georgia.

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