Registration Open:

Decadence, Magic(k), and the Occult

Goldsmiths, University of London

19-20 July 2018

Keynote speaker: Professor Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey)
Plenary speaker: Gary Lachman

This two-day interdisciplinary conference is hosted by the Decadence Research Unit at Goldsmiths. Our aim is to investigate the role of occultism and magic(k) in the Decadent literary and artistic tradition through a consideration of the relationship between Decadence and the esoteric revival of the fin de siècle, providing an opportunity to re-examine the Occult roots of Decadence and explore the wide range of artistic responses to the blurred boundaries between Decadence, mysticism, ritual, and the Dark Arts. Is the meeting of practical magic and literary esotericism indicative of a symbiotic relationship between Decadence and the Occult, or does it represent merely another aspect of the Decadent rejection of mainstream ideologies?

Programme, abstracts, and registration details can be found at

Follow @VolupteJournal on Twitter for news and updates!



Thursday 19 July 2018



9.00 Registration


9.30 Welcome from the Decadence Research Unit


10.00 Keynote Lecture       Chair: Jane Desmarais (Goldsmiths)


Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey), ‘Occultism and the homme fatale in Robert Smythe Hichens’s Flames: A London Phantasy        


11.10 Refreshments


11.30 Panel A: Satanism, Salons, and Sects      Chair: Christina Oakley Harrington (Treadwell’s)


Alexandre Burin (Durham University), ‘Intoxications. Literature, the Press, and ‘Black Masses’ in Paris, 1903’


Madeleine LeDespencer (Independent Scholar), Flower of Evil: The Satanic Woman of Bohemian Paris, Berthe de Courrière’


Fay Brauer (University of East London Centre for Cultural Studies Research), Mesmeric Trances and Phantasmatic Doubles: Occultist Magnetism and Rosicrucian Bodies’


Georgia van Raalte (University of Surrey),Aleister Crowley’s Mysteries of Filth’


1.00 Lunch


2.00 Panel B: Occult Symbolism          Chair: Jessica Gossling (Goldsmiths)


Rita Dirks (Ambrose University), ‘Madame B’s Eternal Return: Blavatsky as Muse for Magus-Writers’


Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott (University of Portsmouth), ‘Aesthetic Phantasmagoria and the Decadent Urban Underworld: Thomson, Rimbaud and Symons’


Laura Fanti (Université Libre de Bruxelles), ‘Magnetism and mesmerism in Henry de Groux: Reflections from some inedited notes and correspondence in his work’


Martina Morabito (University of Genoa), ‘Geography of the Occult: crossing magical boundaries in Russian Symbolism’


3.30 Tea


4.00 Panel C:  Queer Occultism        Chair: Alice Condé (Goldsmiths)


Mathew Rickard (Queen’s University, Belfast), ‘‘‘Vers le sabbat’’: Occult initiation and non-normative masculinity in Jean Lorrain’s Monsieur de Phocas’


Per Faxneld (Södertörn University, Stockholm), ‘Misandric Masses and Sapphic Satanism: Occult Zeitkritik in Catulle Mendès’ Méphistophéla


Ethan Doyle White (University College London), ‘“Immersed in Crowley’s Uniform of Imagery”: Occultism and Occulture in the Work of David Bowie’


Adam Alston (University of Surrey), ‘“Burn the witch”: Decadent aesthetics in Lauren Barri Holstein’s Notorious

5.30 Drinks Reception




Friday 20 July 2018


9.30 Registration


10.00 Panel D: Textual Sorcery        Chair: Chris Baldick (Goldsmiths)


Joseph Thorne (Liverpool John Moores University), ‘Reading the Occult: Reframing Textuality and Materiality in Crowley’s The Book of the Law


Sophie Mantrant (Université de Strasbourg), ‘Arthur Machen and “the True Literature of Occultism”’


Jessica Gossling (Goldsmiths), ‘White Stains: Aleister Crowley’s Decadent Minimalism’


Kostas Boyiopoulos (Durham University), ‘“Hell Is Forever”: Alfred Bester’s Necromantic Decadence’


11.30 Refreshments


12.00 Panel E: She-Devils        Chair: Rita Dirks (Ambrose University)


Mackenzie Brewer Gregg (UC Riverside), ‘Otherworldly Beauty: Vernon Lee’s Occult Aestheticism’


Will Visconti (School of Advanced Study, University of London), ‘Was the Marchesa Casati a Witch?’


Robert Pruett (St Cross, Oxford), ‘Lilith and her Children: Remy de Gourmont’s Demons of Erotic Idealism’


Leire Barrera-Medrano (Birkbeck), ‘“I Am the Worshipper of Death”: Catholic Satanism and the Occult in Emilia Pardo Bazán’s Decadent Writing’


1.30 Lunch


2.30 Panel F: Erotic and Exotic Esotericism        Chair: Kostas Boyiopoulos (Durham University)


Graham John Wheeler (Independent Scholar), ‘The Case of Apuleius – A Roman Decadent in the Nineteenth Century’


John Bliss (University of St Andrews), ‘The Occult, Decadence, and Race’


Yeeyon Im (Yeungnam University), ‘“Desecration and the Lover’s Night”: Tantric Iconography in W. B. Yeats’s Salome Plays’


Michael Shallcross (Independent Scholar), ‘Demonising Decadence: Parodic Diabolism in Max Beerbohm, G. K. Chesterton, and Joseph Conrad’


4.00 Tea


4.30 Plenary Lecture        Chair: Robert Pruett (Oxford)


Gary Lachman, ‘Occultism in the World Today!’       

5.30 Close of Conference


To unsubscribe from the COMPARATIVE-LITERATURE list, click the following link: