CFP: ‘Decadence and the Senses’, Goldsmiths, 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)

Call for Papers

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
  • correspondences
  • synaesthesia
  • kinaesthesia
  • hypersensitivity and hypersensuality
  • nerves and nervousness
  • perception
  • pleasure and pain
  • hypersexuality and erotomania
  • appetite and femininity
  • feasts
  • fecal, feral, floral
  • bodily fluids
  • perversity
  • dream states and memory
  • invention and ornamentation
  • symbolism
  • nature and the organic
  • artifice
  • altered states
  • decay and degeneration
  • deliquescence

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

For further details and updates please see the website:

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