For most people, the term ‘decadence’ recalls the decline of the Roman Empire. Actually, it began to be used widely after the publication of two important studies on this subject: Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence (1734) by Montesquieu, and The History of the Decline and the Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788) by Edward Gibbon. In the 18th century, European thinkers started to see analogies between tendencies in Europe and ancient Rome.
After having been a highly discussed topic from around 1870 to 1914, ‘decadence’ has been for a long time considered an idea which belongs to the aesthetic and philosophical context of the fin-de-siècle: since the idea of decline – as an inevitable part of natural cycles or due to corruption and deviation – has no place in the paradigm based on the assumption of continual progress that has been dominating intellectual debate in the western world since 1968, few thinkers (e.g. Chaunu 1981 and Freund 1984) have taken up the idea of ‘decadence’ as a serious explanatory model for current developments and problems. However, a semantic turn can be observed in recent years in Europe as the work of Michel Houellebecq and Botho Strauß shows, for example.
Obviously, the idea of ‘decadence’ is always discussed when there is a general perception that ‘things are going wrong.’ Thus, it is not surprising that similar discussions and explanations can be found in ‘failed states’ and ‘third-world-countries.’ The work of the Peruvian Nobel Prize winner (2010) Mario Vargas Llosa is a representative example: in several of his novels, such as Conversación en la Catedral (1969) and Lituma en los Andes (1993), he discusses Peruvian decadence.
While studies about ‘decadence’ in literature and art in the 19th century and especially the fin-de-siècle period are numerous, the above mentioned recent tendencies and the extra-European discourses on ‘decadence’ have not been explored by academic research. Our aim is to publish a book on this theme with case studies/contributions from different areas (e.g. different national literatures, philosophy, media studies, etc.). The book will undoubtedly extend the boundaries of current academic debate, and it would be the first, or one of the first, to deal with this topic of current relevance.
Time frame: Please send a summary of your proposed contribution (ca. one page) to firstname.lastname@example.org and to email@example.com by December, 1, 2012. Completed articles should be submitted by June, 1, 2013; our aim is to publish the book in fall 2013.