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  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Ana Parejo Vadillo
  • Assessment: a 1000-word essay (10%) and two 2500-word essays (45% each)

Module description

The fin de siècle (c.1880-1900) was a vibrant period of British literature, a moment of transition between the Victorian and Modern eras that resulted in an extraordinary cultural efflorescence. Be prepared for all manner of strange things: Gothic monsters and dastardly foreigners on the streets of London; acts of derring-do in the African wilderness; terrifying women in trousers, possibly smoking opium cigarettes; and that towering figure of late Victorian perversity, Oscar Wilde.

The course aims to provide lots of contextual materials from biology, psychology, anthropology, sexology, imperial history, genre theory and literary debate in order to understand texts in their appropriate cultural context.

It will:

  • broaden and deepen your understanding of the late-Victorian period and the diverse cultural movements and trends associated with it
  • introduce a diverse range of literary and non-literary texts, and to understand their differences and connections
  • provide you with a contextualised understanding of the fin-de-siècle period in relation to both the Victorian period in general and the subsequent period of Modernist experimentation
  • investigate the validity of identifying fin-de-siècle culture as ‘separate’ from mainstream Victorianism and Modernism, and critically to assess claims for its distinctive aesthetic, political, social and ethical concerns.

We will be reading:

  • H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines (1885)
  • Sally Ledger and Roger Luckhurst, The Fin de Siècle: A Reader in Cultural History
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)
  • H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)
  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
  • Poetry selections from Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Ernest Dowson, Oscar Wilde, Michael Field and Algernon Swinburne

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

    • discuss in a critically informed manner a diverse body of literary and cultural texts from the fin de siècle in the context of wider Victorian debates about art, science, progress, sexuality etc
    • relate aesthetic and generic issues with social/political/ethical ones and vice versa
    • critically assess the ways in which the concept of the fin de siècle has been constructed both in late-nineteenth-century discourses (such as degeneration theory) and in current critical debates
    • identify key elements of fin-de-siècle culture and place this into the context of the period’s relationship with the Victorian age in general and the cultural climate of the early years of the twentieth century.