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‘Perpetual recurrence’: The arrest of time in Decadent poetry

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Publication date7/05/2020
Host publicationLiterature and Modern Time: Technological Modernity; Glimpses of Eternity; Experiments with Time
EditorsTrish Ferguson
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783030292775
ISBN (Print)9783030292782
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This chapter proposes an exploration of Decadent 1890s poetry through the lens of the complex Nietzschean postulate of ‘eternal recurrence’, a concept that served to destabilise conventional narratives of evolutionary or technological progress. The poetics of Decadence hinges upon patterns of repetition which were indebted to the Paterian ‘aesthetic of delay’. The image of the female dancer is a defining one in decadent art, as exemplified here by Michael Field, Wilde and Symons. The representation of the garden illuminates a similar cessation of the temporal, whilst the action of the waves of the sea evokes significantly potent images of recurrence. It is suggested in conclusion that this stress on the ‘moment of vision’ would become a defining motif in cultural modernism.

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