DECADENCE: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference

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Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English

Decadence: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference
Dalhousie University (Halifax, N.S., Canada)
August 15-17, 2014

If it is a cliché to speak of one's own age as decadent, so be it. These are decadent times. Justin Bieber's car collection and Viktor Yanukovych's presidential palace fit comfortably in a world where the 85 richest people have accumulated as much wealth as the poorest half of the planet's population, according to a recent Oxfam study. Such narrowly defined good times cannot roll. This disparity between extreme wealth and poverty expresses the paradox inherent in the term "decadence." Indeed, decay is at the etymological heart of decadence, which the OED defines as a "process of falling away or declining (from a prior state of excellence, vitality, prosperity, etc.)." However, given this definition, to what or to whom should such a term be applied, or to what end? At what point does self-indulgence constitute over-indulgence, or—to shift the conversation slightly—at what point might institutional or political aches, pains, and anxieties be symptomatic of inevitable collapses on a larger scale?

Although literary critics most commonly associate decadence with nineteenth-century and fin-de-siècle authors such as Baudelaire, the French Symbolists, and Oscar Wilde, this interdisciplinary conference aims to encourage exploration of the ways in which this term can be effectively applied to a variety of historical and contemporary subjects, periods, or politics. For example, artworks such as Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted platinum skull have re-kindled debates about artistic decadence. It seems clear that the various manifestations of decadence could never—and cannot now—be articulated, illustrated, or even imagined independently of a particular complex of cultural, moral, or socio-political conditions. But how does decadence figure into other disciplines? What does decadence look like in the twenty-first century? Are exquisite excesses inevitable, or even necessary?

The Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English (DAGSE) invites submissions for paper presentations for "Decadence: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference." We welcome proposals from students at all levels and in all areas of graduate study. This three-day conference will be held August 15-17, 2014 at Dalhousie University, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will investigate the symptoms and effects of decadence as a literary, artistic, historical, and socio-cultural phenomenon.

We invite proposals for papers (15-20 minutes) on themes and subjects including, but not limited to:

  • Decay and decline; the erosion of discipline, morals, ethics, and empires
  • Neoliberalism: patterns of production and consumption
  • Decadence and the Ivory Tower
  • Sexuality and gender; hypersexuality and erotomania
  • Aestheticism, Symbolism, and fin-de-siècle literature
  • Decadence abroad: the French Decadents, the "Lost Generation," et al.
  • The Dandy, the flâneur, the bon viveur: decadence and self-fashioning
  • Decadence and modernity
  • Aristocratic and political excesses
  • Decadence in/and art; "degenerate" art
  • Decadence and religion
  • Physical, aesthetic, or intellectual pleasures
  • Foodies, food blogs, and the rise of the gourmet
  • Affluenza: decadence as illness
  • Reality TV, Internet Celebrities, "slacktivism"
  • Health and Fitness, HGH, plastic surgery, and biohacking

Submission: Please submit a 250-word abstract plus a 50-word biographical statement that includes your name, current level of graduate study, affiliated university, and email address to

Include the words "conference abstract" in subject line, and include name on the cover letter only.

Deadline: April 25, 2014. Accepted presenters will receive notification by the end of May.

Contact the organizers at if you have questions about the conference. Visit the conference website (which may still be under construction) at