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Women in Decadent Literature

            Women were always considered inferior beings compared to men, given the role of sexual objects rather than real individuals. They only made a stronger impact on society towards the end of the 19th century, also known as the decadent age of literature, and became a new source of entertainment in many decadent minds. With the rising number of women who wanted to make their voices heard, they became even more captivating to men's imagination. While this period was often associated with ennui, women were presented as objects of pleasure that could heal the mind from this state of boredom, as Stephen Romer quotes it, "Woman [is] not only the foil to the Decadent writer, but his match." To add on, Dr. Andrzej Diniejko stated in his article The New Woman Fiction that "The New Woman novels represented female heroines who fought against the traditional Victorian male perception of woman as 'angel in the house' and challenged the old codes of conduct and morality." Women started showing themselves under a new light, they were no longer just housemaids or sexual toys, but individuals – new women – with ideas who wanted to change their societal position, to a point where they could be seen as trying to take over men using their influence; this fact was reflected in the decadent literature of the time. .
             Firstly, as women attempted to stand out during the fin de siècle, they addressed "a number of contentious issues, including the marriage question, maternity, and education" for them, as explained in the introduction of the article, The New Woman by Mendes. However, some also thought that this new behavior was also a way for them to not only rise in society but also take over by making themselves independent from the opposite sex. In his book, Decadent subjects : the idea of decadence in art, literature, philosophy, and culture of the fin de siècle in Europe, authors Bernheimer, explained, "My point is that it is a vision inherited from the decadent imagination of the fin de siècle: woman is castrated and castrating, the male is her prey, she wants to make his phallus her own.

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