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Decadence and Modernism in European and Russian Literature and Culture

Aesthetics and Anxiety in the 1890s


About this book


Decadence and Modernism in European and Russian Literature and Culture: Aesthetics and Anxiety in the 1890s rewrites the story of early modernist literature and culture by drawing out the tensions underlying its simultaneous engagement with Decadence and Symbolism, the unsustainable combination of this world and the other. With a broadly framed literary and cultural approach, Jonathan Stone examines a shift in perspective that explodes the notion of reality and showcases the uneasy relationship between the tangible and intangible aspects of the surrounding world. Modernism quenches a growing fascination with the ephemeral and that which cannot be seen while also doubling down on the significance of the material world and finding profound meaning in the physical and the corporeal. Decadence and Symbolism complement the broader historical trajectory of the fin de siècle by affirming the novelty of a modernist mindset and offering an alternative to the empirical and positivistic atmosphere of the nineteenth century. Stone seeks to recreate a significant historical and cultural moment in the development of modernity, a moment that embraces the concept of Decadence while repurposing its aesthetic and social import to help navigate the fundamental changes that accompanied the dawn of the twentieth century. 


Realism Symbolism Modernist Literature nineteenth century literature decadence modernity late nineteenth-century early modernism

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Franklin & Marshall CollegeLancasterUSA

About the authors

Jonathan Stone is Associate Professor of Russian and has served as Chair of Comparative Literary Studies at Franklin & Marshall College, USA. He studies early Russian modernism, European Decadence, and the print and material culture of the fin de siècle. He is the author of The Historical Dictionary of Russian Literature (2013) and The Institutions of Russian Modernism: Conceptualizing, Publishing, and Reading Symbolism (2017).

Bibliographic information


Decadence and Modernism deftly limns the contours of the aesthetic and philosophical tenets associated with modernism’s constitutive movements of Decadence and Symbolism. Within an international and comparative framework, Stone focuses his study on a period riven by uncertainties and convincingly argues for a productive tension between the movements. Stone’s book offers both a broad perspective and rigorous, nuanced analysis, making it indispensable reading for scholars of modernism.”

Colleen McQuillen, Associate Professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Southern California, USA, and author of The Modernist Masquerade: Stylizing Life, Literature, and Costumes in Russia (2013)


“Based on fresh readings and surprising juxtapositions of canonical and non-canonical texts from Russia, Britain, and Belgium, Stone’s study offers compelling new ways to understand the relationship between Decadence and Symbolism and their position vis-à-vis modernism. His insightful treatment of the aesthetic, philosophical, ethical, and metaphysical contexts of the literature of the period makes for an important and thought-provoking contribution to new decadent studies in a transnational context.”

Kirsten MacLeod, Reader in Modernist Print Culture, Newcastle University, UK and author of Fictions of British Decadence (2006) and American Little Magazines of the fin de siècle: Art, Protest, and Cultural Transformation (2018)