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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the development of cosmopolitan and transnational sensibilities later emphasized by twentieth-century writers such as Joseph Conrad and E. M. Forster. Ranging from Anglo-American aesthetes including Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Walter Pater, and Michael Field to French Decadents like Charles Baudelaire and Joris-Karl Huysmans, the chapter demonstrates the Zeitgeist’s dependence on what Conrad called ‘the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation’. Style, synaesthesia, and ekphrasis were among the tools writers employed to emphasize the multivalent nature of their politics and aesthetics. In doing so, however, they hearkened back to the politicized aesthetics underscored earlier in the nineteenth century in the works of John Ruskin, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels. Current critical practice shares many of the concerns of these writers: it is therefore necessary to preserve modes of reading that attend to stifled, marginalized voices because of the salutary socio-political lessons they can teach our discipline.

Keywords: aestheticism, cosmopolitanism, Henry James, Baudelaire, Decadence, travel, distant reading, sensory modernism, Oscar Wilde, E. M. Forster

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