ENGL479V - Victorian Fin de Siecle

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 H. Rider Haggard (King Solomon’s Mines); the poetry of Rudyard Kipling, Mathilde Blind, Michael Field, Alice Meynell, and Toru Dutt; and short stories by Henry James, 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 English courses in literature or permission of department.