call for papers

The Call for Papers is now closed.

As Arthur Symons famously stated in the essay ‘Decadent Movement in Literature’ (1893), Decadence was conceived at the turn of the century as ‘a new and beautiful and interesting disease’. This formula related to the technique of fragmentation and decomposition in literature and design, as well as, in Symons’s words, to the fascination with decay ‘of a civilization grown over-luxurious, over-inquiring’. Through academic panels and film screenings, the one-day symposium La Maladie Fin de Siècle: Decadence and Disease will map cross-cultural approaches to illness in the age of Decadence (c. 1880–1920).

To advance our understanding of the languages of disease, their conceptualisation during the long fin de siècle, and the effect they have had on the present perception of physical and mental health, the symposium will explore the fin-de-siècle medical poetics and representations of illnesses, including such mythologised maladies as consumption, venereal diseases, and neurasthenia.

Embracing interdisciplinary approach to Decadent cultures, the symposium will host a screening of emblematic silent films by Evgenii Bauer and Viacheslav Viskovskii (an archival film by Viskovskii will be digitised and translated specially for the event). The screenings will be preceded by Olga Kyrylova’s talk about Decadent corporality on screen.

We welcome contributions to two academic panels which will examine visual and literary perspectives on ‘decadence and disease’. Panelists are invited to explore, but are not limited to, the following questions: How were mental and physical conditions experienced and expressed by Decadent authors and artists? How did the style of visual and literary works emulate, transmit, and shape the notions of Decadence as disease? Why and in what way did the metaphors of malady proliferate in Decadent works? How were the Decadent narratives of illness received by contemporary audiences and how were they treated in the century since?

The symposium is supported by the Birkbeck/Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund and the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies.

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