The novel of decay: A generic study of decadent themes, forms, metaphors, and subject-matter in selected English and American novels of the twentieth century
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
There are three major points which this study attempts to discuss and illustrate. Firstly, it is suggested that much recent American fiction generally described as belonging to the “comic-apocalyptic genre” can better be understood as belonging to a much longer tradition of socia-literary decadence whose origins can be found in nineteenth century thought, and that the apocalypticism of these novels is only one aspect of the decadent process. It is also argued that a group of less recent English novels fits into this decadentist genre. Second, it is suggested that these novels have in common such a large group of similar themes, images, and metaphors that a general similarity of form results. Finally, it will be suggested that, whatever indigenous literary and socia-cultural conditions may lie behind contemporary American fiction, much of that fiction betrays a quite consciously European sensibility, and a special conviction that the America which is depicted is heir to all the decadence and degeneration of Europe in the last hundred years.