Depicting Decadence: Bohemians, Anarchists, and “New Women” in European Art and Culture, 1863-1914


In this seminar, we will examine fin-de-siècle reactions to the depiction of decadence in the painting, printmaking, music, and decorative arts of the era. Analyzing the debates of critics and artists in Paris, Vienna, and London, we will write about the newly emergent figures of the anarchist, the aesthete, la femme nouvelle, and the dandy and craft researched arguments about cultural anxieties underlying the psychological phenomena of synesthesia, ennui, and hysteria. We will ask: Is the dandy a subversive hero, as Charles Baudelaire suggests? Is ornament a crime? What made figures like the “new woman” and the androgynous aesthete so threatening? Readings include: Deborah Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de-siècle France; Max Nordau, Degeneration; Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime; Paul Gauguin, Noa Noa; Richard Wagner, The Artwork of the Future; Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams; Carl Schorske, Fin-De-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture