ENGL479V - Selected Topics in English and American Literature after 1800: Aesthetes, Decadents, and the New Women

According to Max Nordau, the 1890s led to “the unchaining of the beast in man.” This “degeneration” of the human race was apparent in everything from women’s fashion to literary style. In this class, we will explore these various forms of “degeneration” (homosexuality, the assertion of women’s rights, an interest in foreign spaces and cultures) through the literature of the British fin de siècle, including the novels of Olive Schreiner (The Story of an African Farm), Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes); the poetry of Michael Field, Alice Meynell, and Toru Dutt; and short stories by Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Sarah Grand, Victoria Cross, Aubrey Beardsley, and others. We will also read essays and other cultural documents to help make sense of this extraordinary historical and literary moment. Course requirements include regular and enthusiastic participation, two essays (one an 8-10 page research paper), and a final exam. Students are encouraged to read the Schreiner novel before the start of the semester (we will use the Broadview edition: ISBN# 1551112868).

Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.