Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation explores the ways in which literary decadence works against the tendency of literary history, scholarship, and literary institutions to make permanent—to monumentalize—certain styles, names, or movements. It does this through an examination of the role of criticism in decadent texts, and that criticism’s resistance to the “technologies of maintenance” working to guarantee permanence. After examining Oscar Wilde’s notion of criticism as conversational and that which comes before the work of art, thus breaking the permanency of the work of art, I shift to an analysis of two novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner. Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise is explored in terms of the ways that literary tastes contribute to the concrete formulation of literary arguments. Then, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! is considered in terms of the ways that it deviates from the “programmatic style” of the institutional MFA program, which began the same year as Absalom’s publication with the founding of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I show how the novel critiques the notion of the “self-made author” through its more decadent and critical “grave style.” Ultimately, this dissertation is meant to show how literary decadence’s critique of permanency offers ways of interrogating the larger move toward permanency manifesting today, such as the ubiquitous presence of surveillance technologies.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Vincent Sherry

Committee Members

Robert Milder