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Hearing: Bodies Resounding in Decadent Literature

Riddell, Fraser



Jane Desmarais

David Weir


This article explores the significance of the body in decadent writing about music. It focuses on the fictional and nonfictional writings of the American journalist and critic James Gibbons Huneker (1857–1921). Huneker’s texts demonstrate the striking ways in which literary decadence aligns musical experience with nervous illness and madness, how it dwells on the materiality of sound as it is sensed through the body, and how it frames musical talent as fundamentally shaped by the gender, sexuality, and race of performers and listeners. The article concludes by examining those decadent musical cultures that Huneker’s writings overlook, such as the Harlem Renaissance, to demonstrate how literary texts present new modes of decadent community emerging from embodied and affective responses to music.


Riddell, F. (2021). Hearing: Bodies Resounding in Decadent Literature. In J. Desmarais, & D. Weir (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Decadence (507-524). Oxford University Press.

Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2021
Publication Date 2021-07
Deposit Date Oct 29, 2019
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages 507-524
Book Title Oxford Handbook of Decadence.