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Lateness and Modern European Literature$
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Ben Hutchinson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198767695

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198767695.001.0001

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Modes of Falling: Romantic Décadence in the 1830s

Modes of Falling: Romantic Décadence in the 1830s

(p.137) 6 Modes of Falling: Romantic Décadence in the 1830s
Lateness and Modern European Literature

Ben Hutchinson

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the ways in which French romanticism of the 1830s anticipates the major preoccupations of the décadence of the 1880s. Concentrating in particular on Désiré Nisard’s Etudes de mœurs et de critiques sur les poètes latins de la décadence (1834), Théophile Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835), and Sainte-Beuve’s early novel Volupté (1834), it explores how changing modes of falling—from the past participle déchu to the present participle ‘décadent’—exemplify the changing modes of lateness that characterize, in their differing ways, the periods of romanticism and decadence. French literature in the 1830s, it will emerge, offers both an anticipation and a critique avant la lettre of the fin de siècle: where romanticism attempts to combat the sense of lateness through recourse to supposedly ‘natural’ passions, decadence revels in its second-order artifice. The lateness of decadence is thus understood, in this chapter, in the context of its earlier manifestations.

Keywords:   romanticism, decadence, Désiré Nisard, Théophile Gautier, Sainte-Beuve

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