Decadent Culture in the United States: Art and Literature by David Weir

By David Weir

The paradoxes of the yankee decadent move within the Nineties and 1920s.

Decadent tradition within the usa lines the improvement of the decadent flow in the United States from its beginnings within the Nineties to its short revival within the Twenties. in the course of the fin de siècle, many american citizens felt the country had entered a interval of decline because the frontier had ended and the country’s “manifest destiny” looked to be fulfilled. Decadence—the cultural reaction to nationwide decline and person degeneracy so established in nineteenth-century Europe—was hence taken up through teams of artists and writers in significant American towns comparable to manhattan, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. Noting that the capitalist, advertisement context of the United States supplied probabilities for the doorway of decadence into pop culture to some extent that easily didn't happen in Europe, David Weir argues that American-style decadence was once pushed via a twin impulse: clear of pop culture for ideological purposes, but towards pop culture for fiscal purposes. by way of going opposed to the grain of dominant social and cultural developments, American writers produced a local version of Continental Decadence that at last dissipated “upward” into the emerging rest category and “downward” into well known, advertisement culture.

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Extra info for Decadent Culture in the United States: Art and Literature Against the American Grain, 1890-1926 (Suny Series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century)

Sample text

Groaned aloud, when the new sophisticates of 1916 solemnly disclosed the works of Rimbaud, Laforgue, Vielé-Griffin,”37 and others whom Beer does not name: Mallarmé, Maeterlinck, Verlaine, and Huysmans. Translations and appreciations of such authors appeared in a variety of shortlived literary magazines in key cities throughout the country. Any study of American decadence would have to highlight such journals as M’lle New York in New York City, The Mahogany Tree in Boston, The Chap-Book in Chicago, and The Lark in San Francisco.

His sensibility and tastes were more in line with European interests, and he seems to have made a habit of introducing Americans to matters far removed from American life. This wish to educate his countrymen in a foreign culture is something unique to the American variety of decadence. In New York, Saltus, Huneker, and Thompson made a point of introducing French authors to American audiences. In Boston, Ralph Adams Cram, F. Holland Day, and Louise Imogen Guiney concentrated on their British contemporaries.

8 Levin compares Saltus to Wilde on the basis of the separation of art and morality (Saltus is said to have recognized only two types of fiction: “stories which are well written and stories which are not”) and on a shared attraction to the exotic/erotic “oriental” world, as represented by two works inspired by the New Testament: Saltus’s Mary Magdalen and Wilde’s Salome. Saltus escaped the kind of moral opprobrium visited on Wilde for two reasons: he was not homosexual, and he reserved his most outrageous material for history rather than fiction.

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