The Love Which Dare Not Speak its Name: An Examination of Pagan Symbolism and Morality in <i>Fin de siecle</i> Decadent Fiction


  • Kelly Anne Reid



Paganism, Christianity, Beardsley, Huysmans, Mann, Decadence, A Rebours, Death in Venice, Flaneur


This essay considers the Pagan symbolism which was so crucial to the decadents of the fin-de-siecle. It focuses on the novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde, the novella 'Death in Venice' by Thomas Mann and some of the iconic sketches by Aubrey Beardsley and seeks to understand the Pagan and homoerotic motifs of the genre. It draws the conclusion that the decadents saw Paganism and homosexuality as inextricable and used elements of society.

Author Biography

Kelly Anne Reid

BA (Hons) English Literature, University of the West of England PGCE, University of Bath


Bell, Daniel O. A Pious Bacchanal: Affinities between the Lives and Works of John Flaxman and Aubrey Beardsley. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Booker, M. Keith. The Modern British Novel of the Left: A Research Guide. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Butler, Edward P. “The Theological Interpretation of Myth.” The Pomegranate 7 (2001): 27-41. doi:10.1558/pome.

Carey, John. The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880–1939. London: Faber and Faber, 1992.

Clark, Stuart. “Inversion, Misrule and the Meaning of Witchcraft.” Past and Present 87 (1980), 98-127 doi:10.1093/past/87.1.98.

Dery, Mark. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Severed Head”. Cited in Cabinet Magazine Online, 10 (Spring 2003). severed_head.php

Desmarais, Jane Haville. The Beardsley Industry: The Critical Reception in England and France 1893–1914. Aldershot: Ashgate , 1998.

Hanson, Ellis. Decadence and Catholicism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Mann, Thomas. Death in Venice and Other Stories. London: Vintage, 1998.

Sturgis, Matthew. Aubrey Beardsley: A Biography. London: HarperCollins, 1998.

Wilde. Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. London: Penguin, 1994.

Zola, Emile. Thérèse Raquin. Translated by Leonard Tancock. London: Penguin, 1962.



How to Cite

Reid, K. A. (2009). The Love Which Dare Not Speak its Name: An Examination of Pagan Symbolism and Morality in <i>Fin de siecle</i> Decadent Fiction. Pomegranate, 10(2), 130–141.