Curiosity and Desire in Fin-De-Siècle Art and Literature

Friday, May 11, 2018–Saturday, May 12, 2018
9:00 am PDT – 5:30 pm PDT

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a special conference organized by Joseph Bristow (UCLA), Dennis Denisoff (University of Tulsa), Stefano Evangelista (Trinity College), and Charlotte Ribeyrol (Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Co-hosted by the International Walter Pater Society

Curiosity, and the desire of beauty, have each their place in art, as in all true criticism. When one’s curiosity is deficient, when one is not eager enough for new impressions and new pleasures, one is liable to value mere academical properties too highly, to be satisfied with worn-out or conventional types.” Walter Pater

What is termed Sin is an essential element of progress. Without it the world would stagnate, or grow old, or become colourless. By its curiosity Sin increases the experience of the race. Through its intensified assertion of individualism it saves us from monotony of type. In its rejection of the current notions about morality, it is one with the higher ethics.” Oscar Wilde

Victorian theorists of aesthetics such as Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde saw curiosity and desire working in tandem in the creation of beauty. And while these two quotations reflect the dissidence across interpretations of aestheticism at the time, they are united in their emphasis on passionate engagement and creativity as necessary elements of academic scholarship itself. We wish to capture this spirited energy by bringing together scholars from around the world to explore the ways in which the fusion of curiosity and desire permeated the art and literature of the British fin-de-siècle.

This special two-day conference is jointly organized by the International Walter Pater Society and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, world-renowned for its holdings of rare and manuscript materials from the period, notably Oscar Wilde, George Egerton, Alfred Douglas, Charles Ricketts, Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, and the fine presses of the fin de siècle. The conference will include workshops in which groups of scholars will carry on exploratory discussions that relate to the Clark’s extensive fin-de-siècle collections.

Further details and the call for proposals available at the conference’s website.