J. Randvere „Ruthist” – eesti kirjandusliku dekadentsi ühest esimesest näitest. On J. Randvere’s Ruth: One of the First Examples of Estonian Literary Decadence


  • Mirjam Hinrikus




Ruth is one of the first examples of literary decadence in Estonian literature, a manifestation of the discourse of decadence that dominated the fin-de-siècle period. The function of this discourse was on the one hand the expression of the experience of modernity, and on the other, its critique. Just as in the majority of examples of literary decadence, Ruth is a ”studied composition”, relying more on cultural intertexts than on direct observation of the world of experience. Many of the explicit or implicit allusions latent in Ruth can be traced back to the texts of writers who generated syntheses of decadent sensibility: T. Gautier, C. Baudelaire, P. Bourget, F. Nietzsche, and O. Weininger. This article focuses on traces of the idea of affirmative aesthetic decadence in the Gautier-Baudelaire tradition, and Bourget’s ambivalent treatment of decadence as these are made visible in Ruth. Ruth exhibits the idea of affirmative aesthetic decadence of the German variety, though the negative connotations of decadence come to overwhelm the positive at the end of the 19th century. Negative nuances are mediated through Bourget’s ambivalent renderings of decadence, and specifically through his model of the decadentdilettante. While Bourget admired the decadent-dilettante as a symbol of European culture’s high level of refinement, it also signals overripeness and cultural decline. The veiled opposition to the decadent-dilettante attitude to life is carried in Ruth both by the narrator and the protagonist Ruth herself. The function of the opposition is to critique both the negative concept of decadence and more broadly, an overmodernized, therefore declining Europe


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