French Decadence: A Celebration of Perversity, Decay and the Occult: A Live, Online Illustrated Lecture by Asti Hustvedt, from Morbid Anatomy, February 20, 2023, online.
Jean Delville, The Idol of Perversity (L’idole de la perversite)
“French Decadence: A Celebration of Perversity, Decay and the Occult: A Live, Online Illustrated Lecture by Asti Hustvedt, Editor of The Decadent Reader
Date: Monday, February 20
Time: 7pm ET
Ticketholders: A Zoom invite is sent out at 5:30 pm EDT on the day of the event to the email used at checkout. Please check your spam folder and if not received, email [email protected] A temporary streaming link will be emailed after the event concludes.
In fin-de-siècle France, scientific progress coincided with widespread alarm about depravity and disease. Many of the obsessions of our own culture, such as crime, pollution, gender non-conformity and drug addiction, were topics of constant popular discussion. This illustrated talk will focus on writers who embraced the epithet “decadent” by celebrating perversity and aestheticizing decay. Decadents attacked materialism, with its assertion that the world is knowable, by reveling in esotericism and the occult. They poisoned the triumphs of medicine by plundering its new taxonomy of deviants where they found sadists, masochists, transvestites, fetishists, nymphomaniacs, hysterics and other lovely monsters to populate their fiction. Decadence completely upends bourgeois conventions of romance, making this topic a subversively appropriate one for the Valentine’s Day season.”
See also The Decadent Reader: Fiction, Fantasy, and Perversion from Fin-de-Siècle France [Amazon] ed Asti Hustvedt—”In fin-de-siècle France, progress and material prosperity coincided with widespread alarm about disease and decay. The obsessions of our own culture at the end of the millennium resonated in a striking manner with those of the last fin de siècle: crime, pollution, sexually transmitted disease, gender confusion, moral depravity, alcoholism, and tobacco and drug use were topics of constant popular discussion in both epochs. The Decadent Reader is a collection of novels and stories from fin-de-siècle France that celebrate decline, aestheticize decay, and take pleasure in perversity. By embracing the marginal, the unhealthy, and the deviant, these writers attacked bourgeois life, which they perceived as the chief enemy of art. Barbey d’Aurevilly, J.K. Huysmans, Jean Lorrain, Guy de Maupassant, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Catulle Mendès, Rachilde, Jean Moréas, Octave Mirbeau, Joséphin Peladan, and Remy de Gourmont looted the riches of their culture for their own purposes. From an age of medicine they borrowed its occult mysteries rather than its positivism. In its social Darwinism, they found their monsters: sadists, murderers, transvestites, fetishists, prostitutes, nymphomaniacs, and hysterics. And they reveled in them, completely upending the conventions of romance and sentimentality. The Decadent Reader, which includes novels and stories that have never before appeared in English, as well as reappraisals of work that the reader may already be familiar with, offers a compelling portrait of fin-de-siècle France.”