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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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‘Ageing Passions’: 1850s–60s

‘Ageing Passions’: 1850s–60s

(p.147) 7 ‘Ageing Passions’: 1850s–60s
Lateness and Modern European Literature

Ben Hutchinson

Oxford University Press

If Baudelaire plays a pivotal role not only in the transition from romanticism to decadence, but also in the subsequent emergence of literary modernism, his conception of modernity as the realm of lateness is an essential element of this narrative. Concentrating principally on essays and critical statements by Baudelaire and Gautier, Chapter 7 explores the role played by what one critic has called la Baudelaireitédécadente in the emergence not only of modern, but also of modernist lateness. The Baudelairean apotheosis is a deeply ambivalent one: modernity glows not because its lateness confers the aura of a crown, but because it emanates—to use an image that will recur throughout the discourse of lateness—‘the phosphorescence of decay’. Gautier, meanwhile, helps inaugurate a post-Baudelairean, ‘positive’ interpretation of decadence, understood in the terms of late style not as a diminution, but as a final summation of everything that has preceded it.

Keywords:   Charles Baudelaire, Théophile Gautier, StéphaneMallarmé, decadence, modernity

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