Review: Decadence and the Fairy Tale Symposium, Goldsmiths, University of London, 24 March 2023


  • Eleanor Keane


On 24 March 2023, international scholars, academics, early career researchers, and members of the public attended the symposium ‘Decadence and the Fairy Tale’, hosted by the Decadence Research Centre at Goldsmiths in association with Goldsmiths’ Centre for Comparative Literature.  The symposium was the first of its kind to examine the importance of the fairy tale in the context of the wider decadent tradition and the fairy tale’s own decadent tendencies. The fairy tale has long been perceived as a text intended for children, yet this symposium sought to highlight how decadent writers and artists drew upon this same tradition as a source of inspiration for some of their most subversive and sexually dissident adult texts. Oscar Wilde, Olive Custance, Joris-Karl Huysmans, and Jessie Marion King, to name just a few writers of interest during the symposium, all viewed the fairy tale’s engagement with fantasy and escapism as an opportunity to explore occult esotericism, transgressive forms of sexuality, fluid gender identities, and queer desire. Culminating in an afternoon roundtable that brought the speakers together in order to discuss the significance of the decadent fairy tale and its continuing relevance for the twenty-first century, the symposium highlighted ground-breaking research in the fields of both decadent studies and the fairy tale tradition.