Aesthetic Time, Decadent Archives

Aesthetic Time, Decadent Archives

Goldsmiths, University of London

18-19 July 2019

Keynote speaker: Joseph Bristow (UCLA), ‘Decadent Historicism’


Aestheticism and Decadence are fundamentally preoccupied with time and archives, with medievalism, apocalypticism, fallen Classical civilizations, as well as with collections and connoisseurship. Aesthetes turn to the past as a locus of utopian renewal, and Decadents experience their historical moment in terms of exhaustion and decline. The Decadent literary tradition has come to be associated with a queer vision of temporality, an anti-progressive sensibility that rejects teleology and futurity, and scholarship on Aestheticism and Decadence has cast into question Modernist notions of literary history that stress novelty and rupture. Yet, even as Aesthetes and Decadents see themselves as living in a fin-du-monde/fin-du-globe moment, they are deeply preoccupied with history and with collecting and documenting. Indeed, Decadent literature often resembles archives or takes on a catalogue-like form. J.-K. Huymans’s novel À rebours, for example, functions as an extensive catalogue of outré tastes and serves as both inspiration and reference resource for subsequent Decadent authors. The ‘bibliophilic dandyism’ of Des Esseintes, as Octave Uzanne described it, was a metaphor for a relentless egoism that finds satisfaction only in the archive. In addition, scholars of Aestheticism and Decadence studies have for many years been deeply engaged with archival work, with the disinterring of hidden histories and figures, and the construction of digital archives that allow for a new vision of literary history.

This two-day conference, co-organized by the British Association of Decadence Studies (BADS) and the Aestheticism and Decadence Network, will explore the ‘archival turn’ in Aestheticism and Decadence studies and investigate Aestheticist notions of history, temporality, and periodization. Our aim is to extend discussion of the Aestheticist and Decadent archive beyond the bounds of the fin de siècle, to foreground a long history of Aestheticism and Decadence that looks back to their roots in the ancient world and ahead to their continuing presence in Modernism, neo-Victorianism, Steampunk and other twentieth and twenty-first century literature and art.


Registration is now open! Please click HERE to purchase tickets via Eventbrite.


Goldsmiths is located in New Cross, South East London.

It is a short walk from both New Cross Gate and New Cross stations (Zone 2) on the main rail network and London overground; about a 7 minute journey from London Bridge and 30 minutes from London Victoria. It is on bus routes 21, 36, 53, 136, 171, 172, 177, 225, 321, 343, 436, 453.

The conference will be held in the Professor Stuart Hall Building. Registration will be in the Weston Atrium, the Keynote in LG02, and panels will be in LG02, 314 and 326.

For exact directions to Goldsmiths please see the How to Find Us page on the Goldsmiths website.

Where to Stay

Accommodation is available in Goldsmiths Halls of Residence (Dean House) for a special rate of £38.70 per person per night. Please use the promotional code ATDA19 when booking to apply the discount.

There are also a number of hotels, B&Bs, and hostels convenient to Goldsmiths and New Cross at a range of prices:

Travelodge, Greenwich - 0871 984 6508
Telegraph Hill B&B - 0207 653 1890
Premier Inn, Greenwich - 0871 527 9208
Premier Inn, Lewisham - 0871 527 9480
Ibis, Greenwich - 020 8305 1177
Hotel Novotel, Greenwich - 020 7660 0682
Clarendon Hotel, Blackheath - 020 8318 4321
StayCity Aparthotels, Deptford Bridge - 020 8694 0793
New Cross Inn Hostel - 208 691 7222

We strongly advise consulting the reviews of anywhere you consider before booking. If you need further assistance, please email and we will do our best to help.

We are offering discounted tickets for BADS members. To purchase membership (via PayPal)please click here to be taken to the shop.

Contact Us

Please email with any queries about Aesthetic Time, Decadent Archives.

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Conference Organizers

Alice Condé (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Jane Desmarais (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Jessica Gossling (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Kirsten MacLeod (Newcastle University)

Kristin Mahoney (Michigan State University)