Wednesday, March 04, 2009


I've seen this term used very strangely around the Internet as of late. Here is Archambeau using it to mean the use of empty manners. So does CK Williams in the little article that made me so irate the other day.

This seems like a strange use of the term.

I'm totally for Decadence.

(But I think Archambeau is largely right about "poeticky" features.)


Blogger Archambeau said...

Yeah, I've got a pretty idiosyncratic way of using that term. It's sort of my personal shorthand for any style, institution, catchphrase, tradition, or what have ya, that goes on after it's original purpose is gone (and if no other compelling purpose has come along). I suppose I don't count "showing everyone that I, too, am conforming to period style" as a compelling purpose.

As for Decadence, capital D, late 19th C. freaky art scene: yeah. I'm down with Huysmans and Mirbeau and Rops.

Or did you mean the other capital D Decadence -- the Swedish metal band? I guess I'm down with them, too.


5:52 PM  
Blogger Max said...

I recently started a music movement called "New Decadence" with a friend of mine.

6:19 PM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

I think there's confusion sometimes about the difference between decadent and degenerate. I think the word A really should be using is degenerate--something that has deteriorated or lost its former healthfulness. But it's worth noting that decadent and degenerate are sometimes considered synonyms.

Either way, the terms characterize a relationship between the normative healthful and the non-normative unhealthy.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Galexander said...

I'm interested in the decadent, too. But, I think, less as an adjective that implies self-indulgence or as a platitude. I believe I bristle at its invocation in the same way I do when "avant-garde" is dehistoricized and implemented as a place-holder for any number of aesthetic possibilities. I'm all for the transformation of meaning and the mutation of words, so I'm not generally frustrated with But I do think that to use *decadent* as an indictment actually mirrors much of the Victorian backlash against the French Decadents and their off-spring (and predecessors). It's much more fruitful for me to think of the decadent as deeply involved, as décéder implies, in death, disintegration, and the dissolution of boundaries. More provocative to think of the decadent as a coda with a Hydra head.


6:57 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I'm with you on decadent poetry. For some, poetry is some measured, highly finessed practice. Poetry ought to be not those things.

I've been having a hard time cutting loose- becoming more decadent.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post, I have to admit, mystifies me, Johannes. My handy dandy dictionary defines "decadence" as "moral or cultural decline, esp. after a peak or culmination of achievement"; "behavior reflecting such a decline"; and "luxurious self-indulgence." Which of these are you "totally for" (in poetry, I mean) and why?

You're right about Archambeau's usage, though. Decadence is a condition, not a tradition.

Over at ursprache ( James has this one: "The New Yorker always publishes crappy poems until it publishes yours." The attitude he's describing is an aspect of American poetry's decadence.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


Why is that Decadence? I think a lot of journals are publishing crappy poetry, but I don't think it's part of some kind of cultural decline. Thankfully, there is not a chance in hell the New Yorker would publish my poetry. We mean two totally different things with "Poetry".


7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm interpreting James, of course, but it seems to me "decadent" to dismiss this or that journal, all the while submitting to those journals in the hope that ... what? They'll realize the error of their ways? No, it's all Pobiz, and Pobiz (from my point of view) is a decadent phenomenon. Not the desire to publish, but the desire to publish in all the places one dismisses until they make a place for one's work. I'm NOT saying that you think this way, but such thinking is pretty widespread in my experience.

All this aside, though, I still don't understand why you'd celebrate dictionary-defined decadence....

10:00 AM  

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