Aestheticism and Decadence in the Age of Modernism: 1895 to 1945

Friday 17 - Saturday 18 April 2015, Senate House

This interdisciplinary conference intends to open discussions about the meaning and significance of Aestheticism and Decadence as these movements evolved between 1895 and the mid-twentieth century. Aestheticism and Decadence were not vanquished with Wilde’s imprisonment but, rather, continued as vital and diverse forms in twentieth century aesthetics and culture. Their influence was in some cases openly acknowledged by the authors in question, but often it was oblique and obscured as many later writers, most famously the High Modernists, eschewed any admissions of such a debt.


  • Nick Freeman (Loughborough University)
  • Michèle Mendelssohn (Mansfield College, University of Oxford)


  • £85 Standard fee
  • £65 Concessionary fee (IES staff/students/members)


Friday, 17 April 2015

08.30- 09.30:


09.30 -09.40:


09.40 -10.40: Keynote 1
Nick Freeman (Loughborough University), “Style and Morality after Wilde”
Chair: TBC
10.40 -11.00:


11.00 -12.30:

Parallel Panels A

Panel 1

Decadence in Twentieth-Century New York
Chair: Alex Murray (Queen’s University Belfast)
Douglas Mao (Johns Hopkins University), “Mauve Vows and Tender Buttons: Donald Evans’s Claire Marie”
Sarah Parker (University of Stirling), “Burning the Candle at Both Ends: Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Decadence”
Kirsten MacLeod (Newcastle University), “Decadent Excavations: Carl Van Vechten and the 1890s in the Modernist Literary Marketplace”

Panel 2 Decadence and Genre Fictions
Chair: Nick Freeman (Loughborough University)

Neil Hultgren (California State University, Long Beach), “The Decadent Earth of M. P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud”
James Machin (Birkbeck College, University of London), “John Buchan’s Aesthetic Consciousness”
Michael Shallcross (Durham University), “Detecting Decadence: G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown and the Men of 1914”

Panel 3 Visual Revisions
Chair: TBC

Charlotte Whalen (Queen Mary College, University of London), “Victorian Style Through Avant-Garde Eyes: Decorating the Victorian Drawing Room in Mina Loy’s ‘Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose’”
Elizabeth Muller (University of Nantes), “Yeats and Pater: the Quest for Beauty”
Anne-Florence Gillard-Estrada (University of Rouen), “Bloomsbury Painting and the Persistence of Classical Forms Mediated by Aestheticism”

12.30-13.15: Lunch
13.15-14.45: Parallel Panels B
Panel 4 Evanescent Excavations
Chair: Kate Hext (University of Exeter)
Ellis Hanson (Cornell University), "Firbank Adrift"

Catherine Maxwell (Queen Mary College, University of London), “Virginia Woolf, Compton Mackenzie, and the Perfume of the Fin de Siècle”
Angie Blumberg (Saint Louis University), “Beauty of a Mortified Kind: The Archaeological Encounter through Fin de Siècle Decadence and Literary Modernism”

Panel 5 Essay Forms After Aestheticism
Chair: TBC

Kit Kumiko Toda (University College, University of London), “Amateur Aristocrats and Professional Scientists: Eliot's Critical Iconoclasm”
Andrea Selleri (University of Warwick), “I.A. Richards’s Uses of Swinburne”
Rachel Baldacchino (University of Leuven), “Thinking in terms of otherness”: Vernon Lee and the Modern Essay"

Panel 6 Self-Fashioning
Chair: TBC

Deborah Longworth (University of Birmingham), “Orchidaceous Aesthetics”
Ana Parejo Vadillo (Birkbeck College, University of London), “New Clothes for the Fin de siècle: Charles Ricketts, Costume Designer”
Anna Cottrell (University of Cambridge), “The Scent of Decadence: Women of the Left Bank and the Language of Perfume”

14.45-15.15: Refreshments
15.15-16.45: Parallel Panels C
Panel 7 Decadent Ecologies
Chair: TBC

Dennis Denisoff (Ryerson University), “Suburban Decadence and the Bothersome Self-Sufficiency of the Sylvan Spirit”
Jane Ford (Independent Scholar), “Decadent Ecology in Lucas Malet’s The Survivors (1923)”
Maureen O’Connor (University College Cork), “‘Golden Spores of Decadent Pollen”: Dreams of Revised Nature in Wallace Thurman’s Infants of the Spring”

Panel 8 Communities and Politics
Chair: TBC

Mike Frangos (Södertörn University College), “Wilde-fever: Transnationalism and the Failure of Queer Liberal Citizenship”
Matthew Brinton Tildesley (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul), “Literary Tippling: Anglo-American Decadence, Drinking and Democracy in Britain during the inter-war era”
Anthony J. Dunn (University of Portsmouth), “Violet Hunt, Ezra Pound and The English Review”

Panel 9 Wagner After Decadence
Chair: TBC

Aakanksha Virkar-Yates (Institute of English Studies/University of Sussex), “A Decadent Music? Schopenhauer, Wagner and Eliot's Four Quartets”
Fraser Riddell (Durham University), “Such modulations and harmonies are no longer new by this time”: Wagnerism and Post Impressionism in Vernon Lee and E.M. Forster
Susan Reid (University of Northampton), “Musician-poets and their male muses: Swinburne and D. H. Lawrence”

Panel 10

Revisiting Aesthetics
Chair: TBC
Lucy Hartley (University of Michigan), “Art and Experience: Ruskinian Aesthetics after Ruskin”
Andrew Eastham (Independent), “Post-Aestheticism as Suspended Dialectic”
Yasna Bozhkova (University of Paris 3, Sorbonne Nouvelle), “Decapitating Futurism: The Motif of Salome in Mina Loy’s Songs to Joannes”

16.45-17.15: Walking to the British Library
18.30-20.00: (Hosted by the Eccles Centre: Auditorium, British Library Conference Centre)
Michèle Mendelssohn (Mansfield College, University of Oxford), “Black Dandyism”
Chair: TBC
Saturday, 18 April 2015


Parallel Panels D

Panel 11

Degeneration and Apocalypse
Chair: Michèle Mendelssohn (University of Oxford)
Patricia Pulham (University of Portsmouth), “‘A shrine to love and sorrow’: Jacques Adelsward Fersen’s Decadent Nostalgia”
Emily Coit (Worcester College, Oxford), “‘American Nervousness’: Edith Wharton's Degenerate Bodies”
Matthew Bradley (University of Liverpool), “Jesus, Apocalypse: History and Eschatology in Christological Fiction After 1900”

Panel 12 Dandyism and the Politics of Camp
Chair: TBC

Elisa Glick
(University of Missouri), “Camping the Decadent Dandy”
Helen Saunders (King’s College London), “The Dublin Dandy”
Paul Vlitos (University of Surrey), “Wildean Inclinations: The ‘Strange, Odd, Clever, Queer’ Novels of Ronald Firbank and the Legacies of the Fin de Siècle”

Panel 13

Paterian Afterlives
Chair: Kate Hext (University of Exeter)
Laurel Brake (Birkbeck, University of London), “The Lives of Men: ‘Walter Pater’ and Eminent Victorians”
Francis O'Gorman (University of Leeds), “Edward Thomas’s Walter Pater”
John Morton (University of Greenwich), “Out of the ‘Soapy Sea’: T. S. Eliot and Walter Pater”

11.00 -11.30:


11.30 -13.00:

Parallel Panels E

Panel 14 Formal Continuities
Chair: Vincent Sherry (Washington University in St. Louis)

Marion Thain (New York University), “Ezra Pound and Ernest Dowson: Lyric and Society”
Wim Van Mierlo (Institute of English Studies, University of London), “‘Make it Old’: The Modern Aesthetics of T. Sturge Moore (1870-1944)”
Orla Polten (St John’s College, Cambridge), “Symons, Dowson, Johnson: Classical Metres for the Twentieth Century”

Panel 15 Musical Echoes
Chair: TBC

Fiona Richards (Open University), “The musical impact of Arthur Symons and Arthur Machen”
Dionysis A. Tzevelekos (Open University), “Decadence and Depravity on Stage; Eros and Thanatos in Salome by Richard Strauss”
Tsung-Han Tsai (University of St Andrews), “Risley in Maurice: Forster, Wilde, Tchaikovsky”

Panel 16 Transgressions
Chair: Sarah Parker (Stirling University)

Sarah Green (University of Oxford), “'Men Have Died of Love': Sex and the Aesthetic Artist in the Work of George Moore”
David Miller (Birkbeck, University of London), “Decadent Regeneration, Modernist Temporality and Queer Reproduction in Djuna Barnes’s The Book of Repulsive Women (1915)”
Claudia Rosenhan (Edinburgh University), “‘Men like satyrs …. dance the Antic Hay’: Post-war Decadence in Aldous Huxley’s Antic Hay and Wyndham Lewis’s Apes like God (1930).”

13.00-13.45: Lunch
13.45-15.15: Parallel Panels F
Panel 17 Transfiguring Desire
Chair: TBC

Richard A. Kaye (Hunter College/The Graduate Center, City University of New York), “Hellenic Freud: James Strachey and the Codes of Decadent Translation”
Howard J. Booth (University of Manchester), “From Aestheticism and Decadence to Radical English Modernism: Nympholepsy and Pan, Swinburne and D.H. Lawrence”
Richard Porteous (University of Oxford), “Schwärmerei: Pater, groupthink, and the disappearing swarm of 1893”

Panel 18 Symons and Transnationalism
Chair: TBC

Matthew Creasy, (University of Glasgow), “The Sinister Guest: Arthur Symons, Villiers de l’Isle Adam and Translation”
Leire Barrera-Medrano, (Birkbeck College, University of London), “Hermes: Symons, Ellis, Pound and Basque Modernism”

Katharina Herold (University of Oxford), “‘Against civilisation’: Symons, the Gypsy Lore and Politicised Aestheticism”

Panel 19 Imagism and Aestheticism
Chair: TBC

James Cetkovski (New College, University of Oxford), “Ezra Pound and Separation: Art and Life, Word and Referent”
Kostas Boyiopoulos (Durham University), “Installations in Words: Imagism and the Revision of Art for Art’s Sake”
Dr Tom Walker (Trinity College Dublin), “Yeats and the Aestheticism of Blast”

15.15-15.30: Break
15.30-17.00: Parallel Panels G
Panel 20 Queer Visualities

Dominic Janes (University of the Arts, London/ Birkbeck, University of London), “Caricature and Queer Fashioning after Oscar Wilde”
Horace Donnell Ballard, Jr (Rhode Island School of Design/ Brown University), “What Remains of the Day: Homosexual Decadence and Art Photography, 1880-1903”
Martin Lockerd (University of Texas at Austin), “Beardsley and Brideshead Revisited”

Panel 21 Decadent Disavowals

T.J. Lustig (Keele University), “The Sacred Fount: Modernism, Decadence and the ‘New Woman’”
Benjamin Poore (Queen Mary, University of London), “Why Leonard Bast had to Be Killed”
Henk Vynckier (Tunghai University), “Orwell à rebours: Bohemianism, Purple Passages, and the Fin de Siècle Legacy in George Orwell”

Panel 22 Empire, Race, Politics

Kevin Frank (Baruch College, City University of New York), “‘Sexing the Upper Lip’: Decadence and the Decline of British Empire
in Evelyn Waugh’s Ninety-two Days, A Handful of Dust, and Pauline Melville’s The Ventriloquist’s Tale”
Josephine McQuail (Tennessee Technological University), “Decadent Dubliners”
Marina Magloire (Duke University), “Primitive Decadence: Sartorial Maronnage in O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones and Larsen’s Quicksand”


Closing Plenary
"A Politics of Decadence in the Twentieth Century."
Chair: TBC
Vincent Sherry (Washington University in St. Louis)
Kristin Mahoney (Western Washington University)

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