Spain and British decadence, 1880-1920 : aesthetics of extremes

Barrera-Medrano, Leire (2018) Spain and British decadence, 1880-1920 : aesthetics of extremes. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

This thesis uncovers the role played by Spain in the articulation of British Decadence from the 1880s to the 1910s. It examines chronologically the reception of Spanish aesthetics by four authors linked to Decadence: Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, 1856– 1935), Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Arthur Symons (1865–1945) and Michael Field (Katharine Bradley, 1846–1914, and Edith Cooper, 1862–1913). It contends that British Decadent writers found in Spain — its culture, history and landscape — an ‘aesthetics of extremes’ that enabled them to test out artistic boundaries beyond and against their own dominant culture. Drawing on extensive archival and primary material, and working through theories of excess, I suggest that Spanish aesthetics seemed to embody spaces of extremity where artistic dissidence and experimentation were possible. For British Decadent writers, Spanish aesthetics were appealing because they exceeded the limits of moderation. Away from the perceived mundane and oppressive environment of Victorian middle-class, industrial Britain, Spain represented the heightened sensations of Catholic rituals, Baroque paintings of the grotesque, and the erotics of Gypsy dancing and mysticism. I ultimately argue that, as opposed to other encounters with Spanish culture, British Decadent writers’ engagement with Spain does not only involve projection onto another culture, but also a dynamic reshaping of the discourses of Decadence. The ‘extreme’ tendencies of Spain and its culture became a central aesthetic value for many Decadent writers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: This thesis is not currently available for public use.
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Arts > English & Humanities
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2018 15:40
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2018 15:40
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/357

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