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The Global Circulation of the Literatures of Decadence



This article for the Global Circulation Project begins to test whether the author’s previous characterization of British and European Decadence – as textual and social strategies used to critique the relation of part to whole, especially the individual in relation to the State, or subordinate States in relation to dominant – might also be relevant outside Britain, Europe and North America. By offering a survey of diverse literatures from the late-nineteenth to the late-twentieth centuries, I hypothesize that the factors contributing to the rise of the Decadent Movement in France and England – the decline of economic, social, religious, political, ethnic, and gendered traditions under the forces of modernization that disrupted numerous relations of part to whole – have had similar effects elsewhere, giving rise to similar literary strategies. Literary decadence did not simply spread from Europe to other countries as a cultural movement, but it arose repeatedly and distinctly in response to changes or crises within various nations and cultures.