Thursday, 4 July 2013

CfP: 'Decadence and the Senses', Goldsmiths, 10-11 April 2014

Decadence and the Senses, An Interdisciplinary Conference
Goldsmiths, University of London, 10 – 11 April 2014

Keynote Speaker: Catherine Maxwell (Queen Mary, University of London)

From the perfumed verse of Baudelaire to the ‘fleshly’ poetry of Swinburne, from the extravagant and perverse sensory experiences of Des Esseintes in A Rebours to the refined visual aesthetics of Dorian Gray, we encounter corresponding senses (synaesthesia) and extreme sensations, intensified by nervous or pathological psychological states.  Reading Decadence, from ancient times to the present day, is to indulge in voluptuous pleasures (and pain), to sample exotic tastes and sounds, and to envisage states of mind in highly visual terms.  ‘For each emotion’, as Oscar Wilde imagined for his drama, Salomé (1894), ‘a new perfume’.

This interdisciplinary conference explores the relationship of Decadence and the senses, and the ways in which Decadent writers attempt to capture fleeting sensations.  It is an opportunity to trace common visual, aural and ‘perfumed’ motifs in Decadent works, and to reflect on the extent to which the senses are important to our understanding of the tradition.

We welcome proposals on any aspect of Decadence and the senses.  Papers (about 20 mins in length) might include discussion of:

sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch
decadent objects: fur, perfume, jewels
hypersensitivity and hypersensuality
nerves and nervousness
pleasure and pain
hypersexuality and erotomania
appetite and femininity
fecal, feral, floral
bodily fluids
dream states and memory
invention and ornamentation
nature and the organic
altered states
decay and degeneration

Abstracts of 500 words plus brief biography should be sent to: by 31st December 2013

For further details and updates please see the website:

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