A Posthuman Neo-Decadence?

“Neo-Decadent writers will honour the fragmented, the contorted, the unfinished, the unpublished. Realising there is no glory, no reward, no lavish suppers or dancing on tables. Living in obscure lanes and remote canyons, things will be written in unread languages or translated from the language of lizards and snakes, plagiarised from deep wells and signed with hands wet with the dew of rotting fruit.”

—Brendan Connell, First Manifesto of Neo-Decadence

In Decadent Poetics: Literature and Form at the British Fin de Siècle there’s an essay by Dennis Denisoff ‘A Disembodied Voice’: The Posthuman Formlessness of Decadence. He argues that in the decadent prose of the era one finds attempts to force a shift in perspective that would no longer rely on the human subject as the foundation of ethical value, resulting in an ever-changing plurality of being. The challenge the decadents took on is no less than a nonhumanist reconceptualization of reality.

He goes on to say, and I paraphrase, the posthuman neo-decadent “shift allows what we understand as the human to be recognized instead as ‘fundamentally a prosthetic creature that has coevolved with various forms of technicity and materiality, forms that are radically “not-human” and yet have nevertheless made the human what it is’. As the decadents themselves had suggested and as Wolfe reiterates, this ever-changing, multi-perspectival world is not an ideal toward which to strive, but a reality that already exists but still needs to be recognized.”

It’s this notion in much of the early decadent literature which broke with mainstream culture and brought forth new forms and formlessness of the noumenal potential of an alterity already blossoming but unrecognized. A posthuman world already cracking through the chinks of bourgeois (middle-class) culture, tearing at its fake overlays revealing new sexualities and occult underworlds escaping the strict codes of Victorian society. Goes with the notion of Neo-Decadence as a black code virus undermining and destroying the fake worlds of neo-passeism culture of our day by allowing the new poisonous blossoms to emerge from the decaying ruins of our dead Civilization.

  1.  Jason David Hall (Author, Editor), Alex Murray (Editor). Decadent Poetics: Literature and Form at the British Fin de Siècle (Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture) 2013