Responding to the assertion of this special issue, that our “new media moment” has a long history, this article looks at one particular moment in 1890s when theories of decadence within British Aestheticism led to experiments in the periodical press. These experiments were conscious attempts to investigate how print media influenced perceptions of both literary content and the cultural practices of modernity. Specifically, I argue that Leonard Smithers’s publication of the short-lived Savoy in 1896 offers an interesting model of self-aware critical reflection for our own contemporary experiments with the digital archive. I compare Smithers’s periodical with the example of The Yellow Nineties Online (www.1890s.ca), a digital archive with its own self-conscious approach that allows for a decadent space of self-reflexive conversation about media circulation in its printed past and digital future. Rather than reading our current new media moment as the end of a previous tradition, I propose that we in the humanities have an opportunity, similar to Smithers’s in the 1890s, to archive our own media moment with digital texts that tell their stories from a self-reflexive, ironic, and mutable decadent perspective.


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pp. 643-663
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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