Saturday, January 23, 2016

Two Accounts of Literary Decadence

"What is the mark of every literary decadence? That the life no longer resides in the whole. The word becomes sovereign and leaps out of the sentence, the sentence reaches out and obscures the meaning of the page, and the pages comes to life at the expense of the whole -- the whole is no longer a whole. This, however, is the style of every style of decadence: every time there is an anarchy of atoms."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner, Section 7

"I would define that baroque as the style that deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its own possibilities, and that borders on self-caricature. In vain did Andrew Lang attempt in the 1880's to imitate Pope's Odyssey, it was already a parody and so defeated the parodist's attempt to exaggerate its tautness. "Baroco" was a term used for one of the syllogistic reasoning: the 18th century applied it to certain abuses in 17th century architecture and painting. I would venture to say that the baroque is the final stage in all art, when art flaunts and squanders all its resources. The baroque is intellectual, and Bernard Shaw has said that all intellectual labor is inherently humorous."

Jorge Luis Borges, Preface to the 1954 edition of A Universal History of Inquity