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A Leap from the Temple of Culture into the Abyss: Decadence in Central and Eastern Europe, 1880-1920

Conference at The Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York, March 15-17, 2007

Call for Papers

The last phase of Romanticism and the first phase of Modernism, in the
West Decadence is linked with the names of Charles Baudelaire, Stephane
Mallarme, Paul Verlaine, Joris-Karl Huysmans, and Oscar Wilde.  It spread
throughout Europe in the 1890s, intermingling with native elements in its
new contexts.  Serge Diaghilev described Decadence as a leap from the
temple of culture into the abyss-that is, a dramatic fall from the heights
of civilization into nothingness.  Decadence thus creates a myth of
culture at its peak in the final days before its sudden perdition.  It is
an aesthetic that worships art as the highest ideal-an aesthetic of
erudition, allusion, artificiality, and literariness. Paradoxically,
however, at the same time it also highlights the themes of culture in
decline and the degeneration of humanity.

This conference seeks to foster a nuanced understanding of the
manifestations of Decadence in central and eastern European literature,
arts, and culture within a comparative context. Speakers at the conference
will address questions such as how Decadence is to be understood in the
region, how it differs from the Western movement, and how it is manifested
in various arts, including literature, art, ballet, and music.  
Individual panels will put specialists in Western Decadence into dialogue
with scholars focusing on areas such as Russia, Bohemia, Poland, and
Austria, among others.  The suggested time frame is 1880-1920.

Please submit abstracts of up to 400 words by December 10 to Kirsten Lodge
at and Jon Stone

We especially welcome interdisciplinary and comparative approaches,
particularly those that contextualize their subject within the
pan-European decadent movement.  We also encourage papers on cultural
figures who have received little scholarly attention, as well as papers
that discuss figures not usually considered "Decadent" within the context
of the discourse of Decadence.  Papers on Western, non-Slavic and
underrepresented Slavic cultures are also especially welcome.
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