Cover: Beginning at the End: Decadence, Modernism, and Postcolonial Poetry, from Harvard University PressCover: Beginning at the End in HARDCOVER

Beginning at the End

Decadence, Modernism, and Postcolonial Poetry

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Print on Demand

$45.00 • £39.95 • €40.95

ISBN 9780674984431

Publication Date: 06/11/2018


392 pages

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

24 halftones


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In a series of brilliant readings, Robert Stilling offers a new understanding of anticolonial anglophone cultural production, one in which liberatory aims are best served, counterintuitively, not by the nationalist arts of social realism but rather by a cosmopolitan modernist poetics of decadence: arts and literatures that celebrate the aesthetic for its own sake.—Citation for Honorable Mention, First Book Prize, Modern Language Association

Gives new and global life to decadence… This is a deeply learned and original work that shows the necessity of bringing modernist and postcolonial studies together.—Citation for First Book Prize, Modernist Studies Association

A dazzling confluence of fin-de-siècle aesthetics and postcolonial thought.—Robert Volpicelli, Modernism/modernity

One of the joys of Beginning at the End is its provision of fresh and surprising perspectives on canonical figures of literary decadence by embedding their writing in the material contexts of colonialism and postcolonial criticism.—Conor Linnie, Irish Studies Review

Stilling argues that late-nineteenth-century ‘decadent’ writing—its styles, governing tropes, and ways of imagining the past—have proven crucial to poets, playwrights, and visual artists whom we now call postcolonial. These are artists whose subjects include new nations, immigrants, people of color, the new global economy, and new international relations, and decadence has helped them to address these topics without illusions and after the failure of simplist or ill-fated realist or revolutionary programs. This is a book that scholars across the discipline are going to have to read.—Stephanie Burt, Harvard University

Robert Stilling is at the forefront of a group of scholars exploring the powerful legacy of fin-de-siècle culture in twentieth-century art and literature. Beginning at the End convincingly demonstrates that decadent texts and imagery were central to the project of postcolonial writing, and carried a political charge that few others have noticed. It will figure in discussions of both decadence and global modernism for many years to come.—Matthew Potolsky, University of Utah

This book presents a highly timely contribution to our understanding of modernism, decadence, and postcolonial literary history. Ranging impressively over a global frame of reference, and joining the wrongly divorced sensibilities of modernism and decadence, Stilling shows how a modernist poetics of decadence may serve equally to record a process of decline in history and a register of critique of those developments. This is a major work of literary history.—Vincent Sherry, Washington University in St. Louis

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