Decadent Culture in the United States: Art and Literature Against the American Grain, 1890-1926  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Decadent Culture in the United States: Art and Literature Against the American Grain, 1890-1926 (Suny Series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century) is a book by David Weir

From the Back Cover

Decadent Culture in the United States traces the development of the decadent movement in America from its beginnings in the 1890s to its brief revival in the 1920s. During the fin de siècle, many Americans felt the nation had entered a period of decline since the frontier had ended and the country's "manifest destiny" seemed to be fulfilled. Decadence--the cultural response to national decline and individual degeneracy so familiar in nineteenth-century Europe--was thus taken up by groups of artists and writers in major American cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. Noting that the capitalist, commercial context of America provided possibilities for the entrance of decadence into popular culture to a degree that simply did not occur in Europe, David Weir argues that American-style decadence was driven by a dual impulse: away from popular culture for ideological reasons, yet toward popular culture for economic reasons. By going against the grain of dominant social and cultural trends, American writers produced a native variant of Continental Decadence that eventually dissipated "upward" into the rising leisure class and "downward" into popular, commercial culture.

"Weir admirably recovers the contexts for American versions of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century decadence. He skillfully and resourcefully explores its dominant tendencies and locates its various urban settings. Weir gives enough space both to individual works and to their various cultural backgrounds so that the book is remarkably well balanced." -- Gordon Hutner, University of Illinois



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