Épater la bourgeoisie

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Épater la bourgeoisie or épater le bourgeois is a French phrase that became a rallying cry for the French Decadent poets of the late 19th century including Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud.[1] It means to shock the middle classes or the bourgeoisie.[2]

The Decadents, fascinated as they were with hashish, opium and absinthe, found, in Joris-Karl Huysmans' novel À rebours (1884), a sexually perverse hero who secludes himself in his house, basking in life-weariness or ennui, far from the bourgeois society that he despises.

The Aesthetes in England, such as Oscar Wilde, shared these same fascinations. This celebration of "unhealthy" and "unnatural" devotion to life, art and excess has been a continuing cultural theme.

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