Decadence and Aestheticism in 19th Am. Lit

Mary Warner Blanchard *Oscar Wilde’s America: Counterculture in the Gilded Age*. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1998
Jonathan Freedman *Professions of Taste: Henry James, British Aestheticism, and Commodity Culture.* Stanford: Stanford UP, 1990.
Stolen thoughts:
In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in interest in
Aestheticism, the international nineteenth-century literary and artistic movement that advanced art for art’s sake in opposition to the utilitarian doctrine of moral or practical usefulness. In a 1904 essay, Henry James described Aestheticism to Americans as “a queer high-flavoured fruit from overseas [i.e. Britain], grown under another sun than ours, passed round and solemnly partaken of at banquets organised to try it, but not found on the whole really to agree with us.” As the editor of the “Atlantic Monthly” magazine, William Dean Howells wrote of Aestheticism as a threat, a “sickly colony, transplanted from the mother asphalt of Paris.”
How were foreign esthetes and decadents received by Americans?
Conversely, what did Americans contribute to the Movement, widely
construed? Why did Aestheticism so often register as a national or a
sexual threat?
*Oscar Wilde’s reception during his 1881-2 American tour,
*American contributions to the “Yellow Book”,
*”Life” magazine’s persistent parodies of the Movement,
*American adaptations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience”,
*the influence of aestheticism on American authors who are not generally considered to be aesthetes (e.g. Twain) as well as those who are (e.g. James)

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