Decadence and Catholicism

(Author) (Illustrator)

Product Details

Harvard University Press
Publish Date
6.16 X 9.22 X 0.97 inches | 1.18 pounds

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About the Author

Ellis Hanson is Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University.
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (21 August 1872 -- 16 March 1898) was an English illustrator and author. His drawings, executed in black ink and influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A. McNeill Whistler. Beardsley's contribution to the development of the Art Nouveau style and the poster movement was also significant.


Whoever comes to this book would do well to leave facile preconceptions behind...What is most refreshing about Hanson's approach is that he takes the spirituality [of the writers he examines] every bit as seriously as he does their aesthetic. Indeed he sees the two as inextricably bound...At a time when many people would rather be thought of as invalids than sinners, it is stimulating to read a work that takes seriously the notion that the urgings of the flesh can serve as a foundation for spiritual growth...That one makes the acquaintance, along the way, of Firbank's 'absurdly named Pope Tertius II' is only one among many added bonuses in a book as entertaining as it is learned.--Frank Wilson "Philadelphia Inquirer "
Hanson examines 19th-century aesthetes who found in the Roman Catholic Church an outlet for artistic and sexual expression. Many writers, such as Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, and Walter Pater, have been attracted to the improbable mixture of chaste devotion and homoeroticism that exists in the materialistic Church...Hanson studies these writings of sexual pleasure as an important element of religious experience as well as a source of inspiration for the writers.--Leo Vincent Kriz "Library Journal "
Decadence and Catholicism examines the intersections of Catholic, aesthetic and erotic discourses, particularly in the works of J.K. Huysmans, Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde. There is a long chapter devoted to each of these three 'decadents, ' as they have been familiarly described, a representation with which Hanson has no quarrel. He then considers several lesser-known authors: John Francis Bloxam, John Gray, André Raffolovich, Frederick William Rolfe, Montague Summers and Ronald Firbank. Hanson's precise, vivacious and often witty style enhances the quality of his overall scholarship. In his treatment of each writer, he mingles biography and summary with full, varied and deeply textured interpretation.--Paul C. Doherty "America "