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By David Weir

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In another sense, the center and the circumference are the same: decadence as an independent movement is a sphere closed and contracted upon itself. The meaning of decadence depends, in part, on whether the term is used to describe some aspect of another movement, or to describe an independent development. Thus, it means one thing to speak of the decadent elements in aestheticism or in naturalism, and something else again to speak of those elements in the aggregate as forming a literary sensibility separate from such movements as aestheticism and naturalism.

Society comes apart under the corrosive action of a deliquescent civilization.... We commit this leaf to murdersome innovations, to stupefying audacities, to incoherences of thirty-six atmospheres at the furthest limit of their compatibility with those archaic conventions labeled by the term public morality. We will be the stars of an ideal literature.... In a word, we will be the Mahdis screaming and preaching eternally the dogma of elixir, the quintessential word of triumphant décadisme. "13 Richard owes something to Remy de Gourmont for this paradoxical definition.

The materialization of the unconsciousidentifying the self with the worldsaves the self from sentimentality, which makes a great deal of difference as one moves from the expressiveness of the romantics to the interiority of the moderns. Gioanola is able to reach these types of conclusions because he is considering decadence as a concept, freed of such historical phenomena as the behavior of certain individuals deemed "decadent" by their contemporaries. As such, Gioanola's study is similar to Pierrot's, though it differs in degree, whereas a comparison of Gioanola and Richard reveals the more typical differences between Italian and French approaches to decadence: the Italian broad and theoretical, the French limited and documentary.

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