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Varieties of Decadent Religion

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Abstract

Recognizing the complexity, strangeness and variety of the Decadent interest in religion, this chapter asks what about religion proved so attractive. Noting some of the scholarly developments in this area since the turn of the twenty-first century, the chapter considers the limits of a secular purview and invites readers to join with the Decadents in seeking a more capacious understanding of what religious belief might entail. The work of reimagining belief has long been part of the life of faith, and the chapter explores this point by developing a theological account of desire in the work of Oscar Wilde and Michael Field. Just because the Christian faith is fluid and complex in the work of the Decadents, it does not follow that Decadence is inevitably heterodox. However, the Decadents’ interest in religion did sometimes take them beyond the Christian faith to other faith traditions and to mysticism and the occult.