Decadence and Catholicism

KeskusteluThe Chapel of the Abyss

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Decadence and Catholicism

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marraskuu 18, 2015, 3:03 pm

Hello Everyone,

I'm currently reading a fascinating study I want to recommend to the group. Decadence and Catholicism
by Ellis Hanson. Its been a very informative read so far and actually introduced me to three new sapphic poets from
the decadent era - something I will never get enough of!

Speaking of this topic, has anyone spent much time reading Chateaubriand? I came across him in the context of an article
on the strange mannered Catholicisim of Huysmans. I am enjoying his "Spirit of Christianity" and can see quite clearly how he
might be called a father of Romanticism .

The article Huysmans and Satanism is here

from the synopsis of Decadence and Catholicism
Romantic writers had found in Christianity a poetic cult of the imagination, an assertion of the spiritual quality of beauty in an age of vulgar materialism. The decadents, a diverse movement of writers, were the climax and exhaustion of this romantic tradition. In their art, they enacted the romance of faith as a protest against the dreariness of modern life. Ellis Hanson teases out two strands--eroticism and aestheticism--that rendered the decadent interest in Catholicism extraordinary. More than any other literary movement, the decadents explored the powerful historical relationship between homoeroticism and Roman Catholicism. Why, throughout history, have so many homosexuals been attracted to Catholic institutions that vociferously condemn homosexuality? This perplexing question is pursued in this elegant and innovative book.

Late-nineteenth-century aesthetes found in the Church a peculiar language that gave them a means of artistic and sexual expression. The brilliant cast of characters that parades through this book includes Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, J.-K. Huysmans, Walter Pater, and Paul Verlaine. Art for these writers was a mystical and erotic experience. In decadent Catholicism we can glimpse the beginnings of a postmodern valorization of perversity and performativity. Catholicism offered both the hysterical symptom and the last hope for paganism amid the dullness of Victorian puritanism and bourgeois materialism.


marraskuu 18, 2015, 5:45 pm

I have meant to pick that off the shelf for the past three years - and thanks for the Huysmans article!

I attended a Confirmation at a Catholic church last week - and there heard a bishop orate rather lengthily on marriage being sacrament between a man and a woman, and the of evils of pornography (pater peccavi...) . If not for my own natural perversity, I'd have been incensed or asleep.

marraskuu 18, 2015, 7:08 pm

Pater peccavi, the Latin renders it so mischievous!

I like the idea of saving Catholicism from Catholics. And as someone raised Catholic, perhaps thereby saving it for myself.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 18, 2015, 9:42 pm

1. Atala / Rene is a must read. It's been one of my favorites ever since I first read it in high school. More importantly, it is the widely considered the most important work of French Romanticism. Irving Putter's translation is superb.

marraskuu 25, 2015, 9:54 am

Submission by Michel Houellebecq is on my Wishlist of books to read. (The other 2 being The Dying Grass by William T. Vollmann and Perfidia by James Ellroy) Having read Against Nature and La Bas, I'm curious to see how MH uses Huysmans in the narrative, since Huysmans eventual conversion to Catholicism mirrors the main character in "Submission" eventually converting to Islam. (Granted, the recent atrocities that took place in Paris are now making the chattering classes chatter even more about MH. I'm interested in reading "Submission" because of its alt-history/Eurabia-esque button-pushing and MH's satire of the hypocrisies of the Left.)

"Submission" might make a fascinating double-bill with The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail:

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 9, 2015, 8:18 pm

This is a long shot but I cannot find this bit of info. Does anyone know the patron saint Huysmans chose at confirmation? It isnt in my biographies and hope it might be in one of his letters collections (hell, his letters include details of his love of for Bertthe de Courrie's anus, so why not)

Many Thanks


kswolf: Submission is on my short list as well. All I have read from MH is his short essay on Lovecraft so Im intrigued.

joulukuu 10, 2015, 8:52 am

Looks like the letters of Huysmans have made it to my shortlist.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 11, 2015, 6:42 am

Haha! :D

I refer you with glee to
lettres Inedites a Arij Prins (geneva: Droz 1977) where on page 231 he waxes poetic about
Berthie's "delicious and terrifying anus" as well as
Bemoaning the fact he cannot find himself
Sexually attracted to men. Oh, Huysmans.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 11, 2015, 2:46 pm

Blood of the lamb washes all, just choose the extra-heavy soil cycle...

Huysmans regretting (with fine perception and excellent reason) his non-gayness reminds me that I meant to link this here before, and kept forgetting--a Tumblr blog about "Gay Anglo-Catholic Aesthetics and Style":

Not recommended if the sight of either cocks or chalices makes you sick. ;)

joulukuu 11, 2015, 3:27 pm

Ok, I'm not paranoid - but that's too close. I'm either making a full confession and going around to the Trappists or having my demesne swept for "bugs" immediately.

joulukuu 11, 2015, 5:09 pm

Reminds of a snarky line from Papal Bull in which the author asserts that the Catholic Church is either "the gayest straight organization or the straightest gay organization on Earth." The recent revelations of decades-long abuse and cover-up, the Holy See's shady finances, and the Bishop of Rome's too-chummy relations with Italian fascists and German Nazis have sure taken the shine off things. It's hard to see the Catholic Church as a moral force for good, what with their entrenched homophobia, traditional anti-Semitic cheerleading, and weapons grade moral hypocrisy. And I haven't even brought up their idiotic view on birth control and women in position of church power (something the current Pope likes to avoid talking about). The fish rots from the head. Taping on a new head isn't going to solve the debauched College of Cardinals and the more medieval crevices still active within the Vatican's numerous institutional labyrinths. At this point, getting scolded by the Catholic Church is like having Jeffrey Dahmer criticize my eating habits.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 11, 2015, 5:55 pm

As a queer woman, I am double abomination in the church... which is probably why I enjoy watching their fever dream frenzy of sexual repression play out.

I have such an abiding afection for the perversity of the church and the strange strange characters it attracts. Montague SUmmers is a favorite, even if his orders were probably fake... I rather think I like him *more* because he faked his holy orders.

I also have a passion for those who would antagonize the church, like the brilliant Leo Taxil. A hoaxter of the highest order who made a mockery of the Vatacan belief that Freemasons were satanists. Hilarious story, really.

I recently picked up a small volume which has been very enjoyable; The Sorcerers Apprentice by François Augiéras a disturbing tale of sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of a priest.'s_Apprentice_%28Augi%C3%A9ras_novel%29

Thank you for the link lola, I can certianly appreciate some man on man with a liturgical flavor. ;)


joulukuu 12, 2015, 12:23 am

As far as those antagonizing the church, The Marquis de Sade is an MVP. Octave Mirbeau also aimed his acid pen at the Holy See on occasion.

It is amusing seeing notorious bog goblins like Robert Novak and Newt Gingrich converting to Catholicism. Not like either would make it into the upper echelons of Catholic converts like TS Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, and Huysmans Novak and Gingrich come across as smarmy opportunists and morally bankrupt hacks.

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