Monday, November 20, 2023

"Decadent Conservatism"

New from Oxford University Press: Decadent Conservatism: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Past by Alex Murray.

About the book, from the publisher:

British Decadent literature was a radical attack on conventional morality and middle-class taste, its insistence on the autonomy of art and its exploration of sexuality, dissipation, and depravity at odds with the literary and social establishment. Yet this counter-cultural narrative has obscured the often reactionary and elitist tendencies of Decadent writers and artists of the fin-de-siècle. Decadent Conservatism offers the first in-depth examination of the intersection of Decadence and conservatism, arguing that underpinning both was the desire to find alternatives to liberal modernity. Both Decadents and conservatives turned to the past to uncover values and models of social organisation that could offer stability in a chaotic world. From well-known figures such as Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats, through to the forgotten editors of short-lived periodicals, important female aesthetes such as Michael Field, and politicians such as Arthur Balfour, Decadent Conservatism challenges conventional understandings of the relationship between aesthetics, politics, and the past in late-Victorian Britain. Through a series of thematic chapters exploring the alternative communities created by little magazines, the politics of Individualism, investments in monarchy and religion, Folk Decadence, and jingoistic and nationalist responses to the Second Anglo-Boer war, this study offers a new, and much messier, picture of fin-de-siècle literary politics. It will be of interest to those working on Victorian literature and modernism, as well as social, political, and cultural history of the period 1880-1920.
--Marshal Zeringue