Decadence, Magic(k), and the Occult

Decadence, Magic(k), and the Occult

Goldsmiths, University of London

19-20 July 2018

Keynote speaker: Professor Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey)
Plenary speaker: Gary Lachman

Professor Stuart Hall Building, rooms 314 and 326

We would like to sincerely thank all who attended Decadence, Magic(k), and the Occult.  It was fantastic to meet such a wide range of conceptual and practical occultists and to hear such a broad range of papers and perspectives. Special thanks go to our keynote, Patricia Pulham, and plenary speaker, Gary Lackman. 

We are especially grateful to a number of people who helped to make it such an excellent couple of days: all those who gave papers, our student helpers George Hayward and Daniel O’Sullivan, Anna De Maria-Nelson for administrative assistance, Shivi Hotwani from Conference Services for helping us with set up, organisation, and catering, and for the beautiful images, posters, bags, and merchandise. 

Volupté,  Issue 2 (2018), will continue the theme of Decadence and its relationship to the Occult and will include some selected papers from the conference. Please visit for more information.

Jane, Alice, Jessica, and Robert

Call for Papers

Nineteenth-century Decadence coincided with a resurgence of esotericism, alternative religions, and a belief in magic as a rejection of secularism and science. Until now, this intersection has been most richly considered in relation to Catholicism. Most well-known is Huysmans’s tetralogy, which traces Durtal’s movement from the Black Mass to the monastery. However, Decadent literature has a much more complicated relationship with mystical, supernatural, and magical realms, one which extends beyond a simple rejection of Christian faith and has a legacy reaching beyond the long nineteenth century.

DMO Ritual.jpg

This two-day interdisciplinary conference is hosted by the Decadence Research Unit at Goldsmiths. Our aim is to investigate the role of occultism and magic(k) in the Decadent literary and artistic tradition through a consideration of the relationship between Decadence and the esoteric revival of the fin de siècle, providing an opportunity to re-examine the Occult roots of Decadence and explore the wide range of artistic responses to the blurred boundaries between Decadence, mysticism, ritual, and the Dark Arts. Is the meeting of practical magic and literary esotericism indicative of a symbiotic relationship between Decadence and the Occult, or does it represent merely another aspect of the Decadent rejection of mainstream ideologies? 



Thursday 19 July

9.15 Registration

9.45 Welcome from the Decadence Research Unit

10.00 Keynote Lecture       Chair: Jane Desmarais (Goldsmiths)

Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey), ‘Occultism and the homme fatale in Robert Smythe Hichens’s Flames: A London Phantasy’       

11.10 Refreshments

11.30 Panel A: Satanism, Salons, and Sects      Chair: Joseph Thorne (Liverpool John Moores University)

Alexandre Burin (Durham University), ‘Intoxications. Literature, the Press, and ‘Black Masses’ in Paris, 1903’

Madeleine LeDespencer (Independent Scholar), ‘Flower of Evil: The Satanic Woman of Bohemian Paris, Berthe de Courrière’

Fay Brauer (University of East London Centre for Cultural Studies Research), ‘Mesmeric Trances and Phantasmatic Doubles: Occultist Magnetism and Rosicrucian Bodies’

Georgia van Raalte (University of Surrey), ‘Aleister Crowley’s Mysteries of Filth’

1.00 Lunch

2.00 Panel B: Occult Symbolism          Chair: Jessica Gossling (Goldsmiths)

Rita Dirks (Ambrose University), ‘Madame B’s Eternal Return: Blavatsky as Muse for Magus-Writers’

Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott (University of Portsmouth), ‘Aesthetic Phantasmagoria and the Decadent Urban Underworld: Thomson, Rimbaud and Symons’

Laura Fanti (Université Libre de Bruxelles), ‘Magnetism and mesmerism in Henry de Groux: Reflections from some inedited notes and correspondence in his work’

3.30 Tea

4.00 Panel C:  Queer Occultism        Chair: Alice Condé (Goldsmiths)

Mathew Rickard (Queen’s University, Belfast), ‘‘‘Vers le sabbat’’: Occult initiation and non-normative masculinity in Jean Lorrain’s Monsieur de Phocas’

Per Faxneld (Södertörn University, Stockholm), ‘Misandric Masses and Sapphic Satanism: Occult Zeitkritik in Catulle Mendès’ Méphistophéla

Ethan Doyle White (University College London), ‘“Immersed in Crowley’s Uniform of Imagery”: Occultism and Occulture in the Work of David Bowie’

Adam Alston (University of Surrey), ‘“Burn the witch”: Decadent aesthetics in Lauren Barri Holstein’s Notorious

5.30 Drinks Reception

Friday 20 July

9.30 Registration

10.00 Panel D: Textual Sorcery        Chair: Chris Baldick (Goldsmiths)

Joseph Thorne (Liverpool John Moores University), ‘Reading the Occult: Reframing Textuality and Materiality in Crowley’s The Book of the Law

Sophie Mantrant (Université de Strasbourg), ‘Arthur Machen and “the True Literature of Occultism”’

Jessica Gossling (Goldsmiths), ‘White Stains: Aleister Crowley’s Decadent Minimalism’

Kostas Boyiopoulos (Durham University), ‘“Hell Is Forever”: Alfred Bester’s Necromantic Decadence’

11.30 Refreshments

12.00 Panel E: She-Devils        Chair: Rita Dirks (Ambrose University)

Mackenzie Brewer Gregg (UC Riverside), ‘Otherworldly Beauty: Vernon Lee’s Occult Aestheticism’

Robert Pruett (St Cross, Oxford), ‘Lilith and her Children: Remy de Gourmont’s Demons of Erotic Idealism’

Leire Barrera-Medrano (Birkbeck), ‘“I Am the Worshipper of Death”: Catholic Satanism and the Occult in Emilia Pardo Bazán’s Decadent Writing’

1.30 Lunch

2.30 Panel F: Erotic and Exotic Esotericism        Chair: Kostas Boyiopoulos (Durham University)

Graham John Wheeler (Independent Scholar), ‘The Case of Apuleius – A Roman Decadent in the Nineteenth Century’

John Bliss (University of St Andrews), ‘The Occult, Decadence, and Race’

Yeeyon Im (Yeungnam University), ‘“Desecration and the Lover’s Night”: Tantric Iconography in W. B. Yeats’s Salome Plays’

Michael Shallcross (Independent Scholar), ‘Demonising Decadence: Parodic Diabolism in Max Beerbohm, G. K. Chesterton, and Joseph Conrad’

4.00 Tea


4.30 Plenary Lecture        Chair: Robert Pruett (St Cross, Oxford)

Gary Lachman, ‘Occultism in the World Today!’     


Full Delegate Rate: £150.00 (2 days, inclusive of lunch and refreshments on both days)

Student/Unaffiliated Scholar Rate: £80.00 (2 days, inclusive of lunch and refreshments on both days)

Day Rate:

Full Delegate Rate: £75.00 (1 day, inclusive of lunch and refreshments)

Student/Unaffiliated Scholar Rate: £40.00 (1 day, inclusive of lunch and refreshments)

Tickets on sale until 12/07/2018


Special Offer: 50% off BADS Membership

With the purchase of a ticket to the DMO conference, we will also send you a discount code for 50% off BADS membership (September 2018 - September 2019).

Regular Membership: £20.00 

Student/Unaffiliated Scholar: £10.00

To purchase membership (via PayPal), please click here to be taken to the shop.


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 rooms 314 and 326 of the Professor Stuart Hall building.

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

Where to Stay

There are 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.

Contact Us

Please email with any queries about Decadence, Magic(k), and the Occult.

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Conference Organizers

Jane Desmarais (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Alice Condé (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Jessica Gossling (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Robert Pruett (St Cross College, University of Oxford)