Mapping Decadence

Welcome to Mapping Decadence

Q: What is Decadence?

A: Decadence has typically been understood and studied as a movement of late nineteenth-century French literary and visual artists who found their artistic inspiration in notions of social and political decay.

Q: Cool, but what is Mapping Decadence?

A: Well, Mapping Decadence is a project I started (who am I? Check out the “About” tab for more info about me) to show that writers’ geographical location in Parisian social space played an important and often overlooked role in determining their relationships with publishers at the end of the nineteenth century in Paris. To support this claim, I focus on four writers – Joris-Karl Huysmans, Jean Lorrain, Marcel Schwob, and Rachilde – who were leading figures in Decadence.

Using digital maps, showing their places of residence (and, in some cases, work), as well as the location of their publishers, I argue that one of the most important reasons for a writer and publisher to start collaborating resided in a remarkably simple factor: shared physical and social space.

What I mean by a shared physical space is simply that writers and publishers were living and working extremely close to one another, sometimes no more than a few meters away, which made the collaboration between them very easy: one only had a few minutes to walk to meet with his or her publisher.

Social space, meanwhile, refers to one’s neighborhood network of social and cultural institutions. These were often closely associated with – but not the same as – one’s arrondissement. Indeed, the Parisian “arrondissements” carried, and still carry, economic and cultural weight. Though not rich, the well-educated Decadent writers of this study congregated in neighborhoods like the 6th and 7th arrondissements – vibrant centers of intellectual and artistic activity, not far from many of the city’s publishers (located on both sides of the Seine, in the center of Paris). These authors were using spatial location strategically to advance their careers and collaborations.

In addition to a master map (below) – which shows the locations of all four writers and their publishers – I created Story Maps for each author, so as to better visualize the relationships of each particular writer with his or her publisher. These maps can be found under the “Authors” tab.

For more information about the creation of this project and the maps, please check the “About” tab.

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The website was last updated in October 2020.