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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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French Models of Lateness in the 1880s

French Models of Lateness in the 1880s

(p.155) 8 French Models of Lateness in the 1880s
Lateness and Modern European Literature

Ben Hutchinson

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses in detail on the main period of French decadence, namely the 1880s. After a brief terminological consideration of its variant names (‘decadism’ and ‘decadentism’), it develops a theory of decadence as a ‘minor literature’, understood as the exact opposite of the three main characteristics outlined by Deleuze and Guattari: decadence emerges as reterritorializing, apolitical, and atomistic. The chapter then focuses on the year 1884 as the high point of decadent style: Huysmans’ÀRebours is the inevitable centre-piece of the discussion, but reference is also made to a range of other texts including Paul Verlaine’s poetry and Élémir Bourges’ novel Le Crépuscule des dieux. What emerges in particular from the discussion is the importance of the decadent rhetoric of condensation, saturation, and distillation, whereby the search for ‘essence’ becomes emblematic of the quest for a late sublime.

Keywords:   decadence, J-.K. Huysmans, Paul Verlaine, Élémir Bourges, Paul Bourget, minor literature

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