Fin de siècle

Fin de siècle

"Fin de siècle" (IPAEng|fɑ̃ dɛ si'ɛːkl; French for ‛end of the century‘) was a cultural movement between 1880 and the beginning of World War I. [ ["Collection Tate. Glossary Fin de siècle"] ] The term commonly encompasses both the closing and onset of an era, as it was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning. [Talia Schaffer (2007). Literature and Culture at the Fin de Siècle. New York: Longman, p.3.] Traditionally, “fin de siècle” is most commonly associated with French artists, especially the French symbolists, and was affected by the cultural awareness characteristic of France at that time. However, the expression is also used to refer to a European-wide cultural movement. [Patrick McGuinness (Ed.)(2000) Symbolism, Decadence and the Fin de Siècle: French and European Perspectives. Exeter: University Press, p. 9.] The ideas and concerns of the fin de siècle influenced the decades to follow and played an important role in the birth of modernism. [J.Trygve Has-Ellison. Nobles, Modernism, and the Culture of fin-de-siècle Munich*. In: German History 2008 26(1):1-23, p. 2.]

Basic connotations

The expression "fin de siècle" generally refers to the years 1880 to 1914 in Europe. It has connotations of decadence, which are seen as typical for the last years of a culturally vibrant period (La Belle Époque at the turn of the 20th century), and of anticipative excitement about, or despair facing, impending change, or both, that is generally expected when a century or time period draws to a close. In Russia, the term "Silver Age" is somewhat more popular.

That the expression is in French probably comes from the fact that the "fin de siècle" is particularly associated with certain late 19th-century French-speaking circles in Paris and Brussels, exemplified by artists like Stéphane Mallarmé, movements like Symbolism, and works of art like Oscar Wilde's "Salomé" (originally written in French and premiered in Paris)—which connects the idea of the "fin de siècle" also to the Aesthetic movement. Also, Edvard Munch spent some of his time in Paris around the turn-of-the-century, which was his most melancholy period.

Broader sense

In a broader sense the expression "fin de siècle" is used to characterise anything that has an ominous mixture of opulence and/or decadence, combined with a shared prospect of unavoidable radical change or some approaching "end."

It is not change itself that is implied in the expression "fin de siècle", but its anticipation. For example, for the 19th-century "fin de siècle", the most radical changes to the cultural and social order occurred more than a decade after the new century had started (most notably as a result of World War I). The Belle Époque was not even at its height in 1900, nor had the Edwardian era (almost seamlessly following the Victorian era) even started.

A more recent example of "fin de siècle" can be found in the Y2K problem: the general turmoil caused by this in itself relatively insignificant technical issue becomes much more understandable when an underlying "fin de siècle" mechanism is acknowledged. Many other 20th-century phenomena, e.g. New Age, could be interpreted as building on at least some "fin de siècle" ideas.


Further reading

*A reference text regarding the 19th century "fin de siècle" is Barbara Tuchman's "The Proud Tower".
*Another reference text regarding the 19th century "fin de siècle" in Vienna is Carl Schorske's "Fin-de-Siècle Vienna".
*The British progressive rock group Yes have a song called "Turn of the Century" on their 1977 album Going for the One.
*The French rock group Noir Désir has a song called "Fin de Siècle" on their 666667 Club album.
*Built between 1886 and 1914, the Belle Époque quarter in Bagnoles de l'Orne, France, is filled with villas that are typical of the "Fin de siècle" architecture.
*The Divine Comedy (band) released an album in 1998 called "Fin de Siècle".
*Steely Dan's song "West of Hollywood" on their album Two Against Nature contains a character by the name of "Anne de Siècle."
*Vibraphonist Gary Burton released an album titled "Turn of the Century."
*Sally Ledger's exploration of women at the fin de siecle. "The New Woman: Fiction and feminism at the fin de siecle" (1997)
*The American indie-rock band Haywood released a cassette EP called "Fin de Siècle"

ee also

*Old Timeyness

External links

* [ Occulture in the Fin de Siecle] Ashe Journal Special on the Fin de Siecle.

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  • Fin de Siècle — Fin de Siè|cle [fɛ̃d sjɛkl] das; <aus fr. fin de siècle »Ende des Jahrhunderts«; <nach dem gleichnamigen Titel eines Lustspiels von Jouvenot u. Micard, 1888> Bez. für die Zeit des ausgehenden 19. Jh.s, die in Gesellschaft, bildender… …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

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