In view of the attack made by Max Nordau on vanguard art in the name of positive science, the conjunction of the Wilde trials with the publication of the English translation of Nordau's Degeneration (1892) in the spring of 1895 had important, negative implications for cultural modernity in England. These were immediately grasped by progressive magazine editors and by intellectuals such as George Bernard Shaw and the English feminist aesthetician, Vernon Lee. This essay tracks the responses to Nordau's book in Lee's review and Shaw's essay, "The Sanity of Art." Both develop a norm of critical reason based on human affectivity as a basis for challenging the doxa of contemporary psychiatry.

Lee links a critical notion of rationality with cultural dissidence, which she refers to as "the queer comradeship of outlawed thought" (938), a comradeship that includes a norm of loving friendship, viz., "the marriage of true minds" (936). In making this connection, Lee argues on behalf of the cultural productivity of fin-de siècle decadence.


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pp. 529-546
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