Mapping Decadence is a project by Hélène Huet. Originally from Lille, France, Hélène first came to the US in 2005-2006, when she served as a teaching assistant at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The following year she returned to France, where she completed her undergraduate studies in English (with a specialization in American Civilization) at Université Lille 3. After graduation, she taught English for a year at a high school and an elementary school in France, before coming to the Pennsylvania State University in 2008.
Hélène holds a Ph.D. in French and Francophone studies from Penn State and her dissertation is entitled “Le livre décadent : éditer, illustrer, lire” (“The Decadent Book: Publishing, Illustrating, and Reading”).
Her work breaks new ground in the study of Decadence. 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. Her dissertation, on the other hand, argues that several agents, such as the critics, played a major role in creating what is now thought of as Decadence. This is a major departure from earlier studies of the movement, anchored in literary scholarship, which have focused almost exclusively on writers and their texts, often in isolation from the networks of publishers, critics, and readers who produced, interpreted, and consumed the writers’ work. As a result, these studies have understated the role of cultural and economic factors – the need to effectively market books, for example, or the demands of a critical readership in shaping the movement. Hélène‘s work approaches the subject from a novel interdisciplinary perspective. She uses a methodology pioneered by scholars working in the fields of book history/print culture studies: a humanities and social sciences-wide project that imagines the book as a physical object, and considers how and why it was produced and circulated.
Hélène‘s research interests include Decadent literature as well as nineteenth-century French literature and history more broadly, the history of the book and publishing, bibliophiles, “livres de collection”, history of cosmetics, and digital humanities.
She is currently the European Studies librarian at the University of Florida.
For more information, check out her website.