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ELT 40:2 1997 at the end of her book. The only solace, "the only balm for James's pain" ultimately, she claims, was not the satisfactions of art but "the acclaim of the public and the ability to communicate that acclaim to the family whose deep-seated emotional history created the autobiographer's need for a patent and resounding success." Mary Cross _______________Fairleigh Dickinson University Decadence & Modernism Laurel Brake, ed. The Ending of Epochs. Essays and Studies 1995. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1995. χ + 149 pp. $53.00 David Weir. Decadence and the Making of Modernism. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995. xxii + 232 pp. $50.00 THE ENDING of Epochs and The Making of Modernism represent important new contributions to the scholarship of decadence and the Victorian fin de siècle. The first book, the latest volume in the English Association's Essays and Studies series, is admittedly unsuccessful when viewed as a whole: comprised of seven essays—two on seventeenth -century figures (Shakespeare and Milton), three on the 1890s, and two on late twentieth-century fiction—the collection seems lopsided and unfocused. Why, one wonders, given the editor's apparent interest in placing the late nineteenth century within a broad comparative context, weren't a larger number of periods addressed? Or, if the intention was primarily to juxtapose the 1890s with the final decades of the twentieth century, why aren't the essays simply divided between the two? The brief preface answers neither of these questions. Nor does it make clear exactly why these seven essays appear together, beyond their shared concern with epochs and endings. Nevertheless, readers of ELT will hardly regret that more than a third of this well-written collection focuses on the late Victorian years. Nor will they be disappointed by the quality of the three essays devoted to this period—Laurel Brake's "Endgames: The Politics oÃ- The Yellow Book or, Decadence, Gender and the New Journalism," Margaret Beetham's "Feminism and the End of Eras: Apocalypse and Utopia," and Joseph Bristow's "'Sterile Ecstasies': The Perversity of the Decadent Movement ." Brake's essay, which examines reactionary sentiment in The Yellow Book, focuses, rather surprisingly, not on the later issues of the journal, which assumed a more conventional posture as a result of the Wilde trials (and Aubrey Beardsley's expulsion), but on the first four 210 BOOK REVIEWS numbers, those that, ironically enough, established its alignment with decadence. Surveying the reactions oiYellow Book contributors—including Henry James, Hubert Crankanthorpe, and Arthur Waugh—to such issues as the New Journalism and the New Woman, Brake persuasively argues that "the textual politics of The Yellow Book were eclectic from the outset" and that "the orientation of the journal," far from being consistently decadent, "was contested in its pages." Extremely well researched (numerous articles from additional 1890s periodicals such as The Savoy and The New Review are brought into the discussion), this essay effectively strips The Yellow Book of its decadent mystique, uncovering a conservatism and a misogyny at odds, especially in the early issues, with the journal's flamboyant image. Less successful, but still interesting and engagingly written, Margaret Beetham's piece is divided into three main sections: an overview of 1890s formulations—both apocalyptic and Utopian—of the New Woman and their relation to other cultural phenomena, such as decadence and the New Sexuality; a discussion of Olive Schreiner's Dreams (1890), a Utopian text that offered "parables of regeneration and reconciliation " in the midst of polemical debate over gender roles; and, finally, a consideration of the Utopian impulse in the works of several contemporary women novelists. Part criticism, part exhortation, Beetham's essay "argue[s] for the continuing importance and pleasure of the Utopian tradition in feminist theory and politics," and, though diffuse, offers, at the very least, an articulate introduction to the New Woman controversy. The finest essay—not only of those considering the 1890s, but of the entire volume—is Joseph Bristow's '"Sterile Ecstasies,'" a probing analysis of Arthur Symons's attempt to "legitimize," in the pages of London Nights and "The Decadent Movement in Literature," "a form of perversity that was sexual as well as stylistic." What was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 210-214
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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