Aestheticism and Decadence

Autumn 2015-2016


Benjamin Morgan

This course surveys the aesthetic and decadent movements in art and literature in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. We will examine the work of writers and artists who argued that the creation or experience of beauty should be considered the highest human value, as well as some of the important philosophical arguments that support or challenge this notion. We will take aestheticism to be not only a historical formation specific to the turn of the nineteenth century, but also an affective disposition toward the world whose political potential and difficulties persist today. Authors, artists, and philosophers may include: Charles Baudelaire, J.-K. Huysmans, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, Vernon Lee, Sarojini Naidu, Richard Wagner, James Whistler, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Theodor W. Adorno. (18th/19th)