This course surveys the emergence and global proliferation of the idea of decadence, the sense of living in times of political, social, moral, and aesthetic decay. We will explore this paradoxically vital concept by tracing it from its origins in Enlightenment-era historical discourses about Roman antiquity to its evolution into a counter-cultural aesthetic in the 1880s. We end by considering the concept’s enduring potency in anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, decolonial, and queer discourses throughout the 1900s, with a focus on the intersections of literature and social thought.