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Landscapes of Decadence
Literature and Place at the Fin de Siècle


  • Date Published: December 2016
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107169661

£ 82.99

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About the Authors
  • The challenges posed by Decadence to Victorian moral conventions - particularly sexual - have been well documented, but this book makes the case for understanding Decadence as a response to the ways in which place was accorded moral value in the period. The book uses landscape as a key trope for exploring Decadent writing's approach to location and identity. Drawing on a wide range of fin-de-siècle literature organised around a series of locations from Naples to New York, Murray argues that Decadent writers developed a form of landscape and place-based writing using a series of stylistic features to challenge the increasing homogenisation of both place and literary culture. Decadence and the literature of the fin de siècle are re-framed as a politically-engaged form of landscape writing. This is an ambitious and richly researched study.

    • Traditional texts on the fin de siècle centre on Europe in the 1880s and 1890s, but this book extends the geographical and historical reach of Decadence to America and into the 1920s
    • Can be read in relation to broader debates in Victorian culture
    • Landscape and place is developed as a key Decadent stylistic category and conceptual framework for the first time, thus extending the current Decadent canon
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'In Landscapes of Decadence, Murray argues that writing of landscapes - rural or urban - provided Decadent authors with a way of exploring not only location, but identity … Murray's work … convincingly examines the adaptability and evolution of Decadence during the period.' Sally Blackburn, The British Society for Literature and Science Reviews (

    'Alex Murray generously places Landscapes of Decadence: Literature and Place at the Fin de Siècle within the context of current studies on Decadent British writers, but he offers a fresh perspective on Decadent writing. His work beautifully demonstrates the richness and continuing appeal of a movement that epitomizes stylistic experimentation.' Martha Vicinus, Victorian Studies Journal

    'Murray's book has many merits. It is engagingly written, has a wide and eclectic range of reference, and is organized through a variety of tropes and metaphors that are informative and often witty. Principal examples of these are the conceit that allows the construction of the book's argument to be described in terms of a physical journey, and consequently the range of Murray's argument to be seen in terms of map-making - the narrative development of his book is described by him as a species of cartography.' Ian Small, English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920

    'Murray understands 'Decadence' as a set of stylistic strategies aimed at challenging conventions by pushing them to the point of 'dissolution', and so distinguishes it from 'decadence' as the more general watchword for conservative reactions to cultural decline. Though the protests of decadence are many, Murray is primarily interested in the resistance it offers to traditional notions of place in an era of intensely nationalist thinking. … With this close attention to place, Murray highlights an important comparative dimension to decadence.' Robert Volpicelli, Modernism/modernity

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107169661
    • length: 235 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 158 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Landscapes of Decadence: reading sermons in stone
    2. The disappearing ghosts of Naples
    3. Paris and London, world-flowers twain
    4. Stirring the Cumnor cowslips in Decadent Oxford
    5. The glowing furnace of Decadent Wales
    6. Venice, sans hope: reading Decadent New York.

  • Author

    Alex Murray, Queen's University Belfast
    Alex Murray teaches in the School of English at Queen's University Belfast. His research focuses mainly on Decadence and the writing of the fin de siècle, literature and place (particularly London, New York and Paris), travel writing, modernism, and literary and critical theory. Most recently he has co-edited Decadent Poetics: Literature and Form at the British Fin de Siècle (2013), and has written a number of articles on the relationship between Decadence and the literature of the early-twentieth century in MFS Modern Fiction Studies and Modernism/modernity. His monograph, Giorgio Agamben (2010), is printed in four languages.

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