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Subjects of Time: Australian lives at the fin de siècle
While daylight lingers, by Charles Conder (1890)
The fin de siècle c1890-1914 reflected a tension between movement and stasis, degeneration and progress. Historical actors caught between acting in the world as it was or finding ways of changing circumstance and perspective. Charles Conder’s painting While Daylight Lingers (1890) provided an emblematic meditation on this poised moment, the stillness and passage of time. Many of the subjects of The Fin de Siècle Imagination in Australia seemed gripped by a sense of urgency in pursuit of their aims, as the possibilities of profound change seemed imminently within reach. The ideas available at the fin de siècle provided the imaginative resources for intensifying this search: first wave feminism and the New Woman, the emergence of radical politics and anarchism; the exploration of Symbolism and alternative spirituality. I explored the patterns of self-creation that emerged from my subject’s experience, their need to place themselves in the world and assert an identity.
Mark Hearn is a senior lecturer in the Department of History and Archaeology, Macquarie University. His research focuses on the history, historiography, and historical theory of the fin de siècle, and the history of ideas and governance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is the author of The Fin de Siècle Imagination in Australia, 1890-1914 (London: Bloomsbury 2022).