Decadent Gothic

Posted by on October 23, 2008 in Blog tagged with

I attended Michele Mendelshonn’s Decadence Reading Group recently where we discussed George MacDonald’s late Victorian fantasy novel Lilith. It seems to me that the novel is predominantly Gothic, though as a group we decided that it has decadent tropes (this was one of things we set out to establish – is the novel indeed decadent at all? As you probably know, Scotland does not have a strong tradition of decadent literature). As I am working on the novel (outside of my PhD research as it happens) I would be interested to hear what you think of Lilith in terms of Gothic / decadence or indeed what can be understood by a relationship between Gothic and decadence in literature? To contextualise further and to provide another example worth consideration, Arthur Machen’s The Hill of Dreams (1907) creates a sense of Otherness, of unworldliness that is truly unnerving, Other, uncanny; we may say ‘Gothic’. However, it has also been described by the French critic Madeleine Cazamian in L’Anti-Intellectualisme et L’Esthetisme as ‘the most decadent book in all of English literature’.  What is the relationship, then, (and is there one) between Gothic and decadence?

By the way, I highly recommend Michele’s reading group. It is a very dynamic, vibrant and academically challenging environment which unites scholars from various fields and disciplines (a truly interdisciplinary atmosphere!). I’m sure she would welcome anyone interested in joining the group.

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