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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.[1] It means to shock the middle-classes.[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 Decadent artists as well as the Aesthetes in England, such as Oscar Wilde, sought to shock the middle class. This celebration of "unhealthy" and "unnatural" devotion to life, art, and excess has been a continuing cultural theme.

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