Cover: Decadence and Catholicism in PAPERBACK

Decadence and Catholicism

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$42.50 • £34.95 • €38.50

ISBN 9780674194465

Publication Date: 02/01/1998


448 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

10 halftones


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, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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

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

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