In the Tense of Decadence

Vincent Sherry

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199228133
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

In the Tense of Decadence

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



This article reviews modernism in the terms of its anxieties about decline in general. Modernism lies through its own engagement with the culture of decadence of the 1890s. Concentrating primarily on Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, the article states that modernist poetry was haunted by its precarious time in history, its fragmented sense of a grasp after the new even as the present is swiftly fading from the poets' conceptual grasp. Eliot's investment in the idea of empire shows most of its imaginative value and literary interest in the poetic uses. The presentiment draws upon the major resources of decadence to turn the loss Eliot has felt into an elegy for British civilisation. If Pound holds the war to account for his generation's outliving the appeal of the Nineties myth, it is also because, in that ordeal, he and they have lived it out.

Keywords: decadence; modernist elegy; Great War; Ezra Pound; T. S. Eliot; modernist poetry; modernism

Article.  8069 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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