A Baedeker of Decadence


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Charting a Literary Fashion, 1884–1927

George C. Schoolfield

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During the final decades of the nineteenth century, a common mind-set emerged among many intellectuals—“la décadence.” Many novels and novellas of the period were populated with protagonists who were fragile, refined, self-absorbed, and preoccupied with a trivially exquisite aesthetic. A Baedeker of Decadence presents thirty-two international works of literary decadence written between 1884 and 1927. George C. Schoolfield, a world authority on the decadent novel, offers an entertaining and wide-ranging commentary on this highly significant literary and cultural phenomenon.
Schoolfield tracks down the symptoms of decadence in narrative works written in more than a dozen languages, providing synopses and passages in English translation to give a sense of each author’s style and tone. Schoolfield throws new light on the close intellectual kinship of authors from August Strindberg to Bram Stoker to Thomas Mann, and on the ingredients, themes, motifs, and preconceptions that characterized decadent literature.

George C. Schoolfield is professor emeritus of German and Scandinavian literature, Yale University. He is the author, editor, or translator of numerous books, among them A History of Finland’s Literature, for which the Swedish Literary Society in Finland awarded him its prestigious Tollander Prize.

“No one knows more about this subject matter than Schoolfield or is better equipped linguistically and intellectually to deal with it. What is more, he writes not only with obvious erudition but with élan and wit.”—James Hardin, University of South Carolina

“This is a most valuable and illuminating study because many of the works cogently and wittily discussed, and elegantly summarised, will be unfamiliar to many readers, indeed some have never been translated into English. Enough information is given about all the authors to put the novels into their social and literary context.”—Intentions

"[This book] distinguishes itself. . . . [Its concentration on fiction] masterfully fills a conspicuous critical gap with commentary where it is most needed and will accordingly be most appreciated. . . . This study emerges from many years of painstaking bibliographic and analytic research, careful but often ironic attention to nuance, and unflagging, and highly intelligent reflection redolent with wit on a vast body of material.  A Baedecker of Decadence should serve readers who are interested in a comprehensive tour as well as those who may want to pursue the decadent aspects of specific writers who are otherwise familiar equally well.  It is a significant accomplishment to have presented the material in such a way that it is readily accessible and full of engaging insights for such a broad spectrum of readers.  The authority, elegance, and wry humor of the text will not easily be exhausted even by repeated recourse to the volume."—Steven P. Sondrup, Scandinavian Studies

“Schoolfield has provided a good book for people who are not linguists, but who want to learn about decadence abroad.”—Douglas Murray, Spectator

"Schoolfield writes in an easy, welcoming manner. . . . His chapters will provide many surprises for the reluctant Anglophone tourists, who may wish to dedicate a day or even a week to each chapter-length port of call."—Lawrence Danson, English Literature in Translation

Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2005
ISBN: 9780300047141
Publication Date: December 11, 2003
432 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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