Degeneration and decadence
in Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle
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Medical science believed that neurasthenia was just one of the early indications of a much larger problem negatively impacting civilized society. This new science was concerned with degeneration theory, which argued that if a species could evolve, then it could also devolve. Simply stated neurasthenia was one of the signs of an individual’s physical, moral and psychological devolution. Following a discussion of the science of degeneration, attention is given to literary decadence. Degeneration emerged as scientific theory, but was soon incorporated into legal, political and literary discourse. The idea of a nation in a state of decline coincided with other cultural trends which viewed the end of the nineteenth century in apocalyptic terms. This chapter explores the development of the scientific discourse in order to better understand the context for Andreev’s diagnosis and concentrates on the broad outlines of literary decadence in order to support the assertion that Andreev and his works share similarities with European decadence.

Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle

Neurasthenia in the life and work of Leonid Andreev


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