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 Baudelaire and Rimbaud. It means to shock the middle-classes or to shock the middle-class respectively.

The Decadents, through their fascination with such drugs as hashish and opium and a taste for 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 Decadent artists as well as the Aesthetes in England, such as Oscar Wilde, sought to shock and dazzle the dull middle class. This celebration of "unhealthy" and "unnatural" devotion to life, art and excess has been a continuing cultural theme. Writers, musicians and celebrities as diverse as Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Diane Arbus, and Annie Sprinkle have tried to challenge cultural mores and pretensions.


From é- +‎ patte (“paw”) +‎ -er. Épater is French for to amaze, to stagger.

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