In his acknowledgments, the distinguished critic Vincent Sherry mentions having worked on Modernism and the Reinvention of Decadence for a “decade and more” (ix). It is surprising that it did not take longer to produce this ambitious, wide-ranging, detailed argument for the importance of decadence (as a kind of writing and as a temporal attitude) to the history of literary modernism. The study is the most recent attempt by scholars (including prominently Harold Bloom) to place modernism in relation to Romanticism. Some have argued for continuities between Romanticism and modernism, while others see a sharp break. Sherry argues distinctively and revealingly that histories of literary modernism have been mistaken from early on because of the deleterious influence of Edmund Wilson, who traced modernism’s relation to late nineteenth-century Symbolist writing but ignored the connection to decadence from Baudelaire through the 1890s. Sherry draws our attention...

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