1. Assumptions underlying much of the poetry, fiction, and art

An (anti-Romantic) belief in original sin and in fallen man and nature; omnipresence of evil and the grotesque; lack of health, balance, and innocence.

2. Mood and tone

3. Imagery

4. Goal or theme

Incomplete and unsuccessful attempts to escape the human condition by means of posing, artifice, and evil, all of which are conceived of as unnatural and therefore better than nature.

5. Techniques (a)

An emphasis on brief lyric forms (cp. Romanticism) and a corollary concentration upon intense moments, climaxes of insight, or spots of time and memory.

6. Techniques (b)

These epiphanies and perfect moments often connected with landscapes or scenes, thus preserving an instant of time in an "artificial" form (compare Tennyson's "Mariana").

7. Techniques (c)

Central technique of implicit contrast that often involves both extreme or hyperbolic juxtapositions and a reference to standards or beliefs for intense effect in which the speaker supposedly does not believe. As Richard Le Gallienne writes in "The Décadent to His Soul" (English Poems,1892), "Sin is no sin when virtue is forgot. / It is so good in sin to keep in sight. . . Ah, that's the thrill!

8. Techniques (d)

A corollary use of allusion almost entirely for emphasis or effect -- as opposed to more traditional allusions both for effect and also to locate a work or statement ideologically. Thus, whereas Wordsworth or Tennyson use complex allusions to Christianity as a means of communicating their own more or less orthodox belief, Decadents like Dowson do so more for the impact produced by taking something religious, say, a sacrement, for an aesthetic effect. This technique, which the Decadents often use to make themselves appear self-consciously naughty, become a staple of Modernism.


Decadents Decadents

Last modified 17 September 2002