Module code: ELI3053

Module Overview

This module aims to explore a variety of British and European texts to examine how decadence, aestheticism and the occult inform fin-de-siècle literature. Students will be asked to consider the significance of fin-de-siècle writing in the context of a period caught between the past and the future, death and rebirth, and will analyse works that reflect this transitional or liminal quality in sexual, textual, moral, and philosophical terms. The module will begin by looking at influential French authors and will travel forward, tracing their impact on British and other European writers. The module also intends to highlight the close relationship between Decadence and Aestheticism, offering students an insight into developments in European art and culture and allowing them to discover the interaction between the arts and literature in late-Romantic and early-modernist works. In addition, the module will consider the tensions between the ancient (Hebraism, Hellenism, Occultism) and the modern (sexology, psychology, technology) in this period and assess the importance of European Decadence in the foundation of modernity.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

PULHAM Patricia (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

JACs code: Q320

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 98

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Tutorial Hours: 8

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

Week 1: Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1839)
Charles Baudelaire, ‘Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Works’ (1852); ‘New Notes on Edgar Poe’ (1857)

Week 2: Selection of poems from Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal (1857)
Algernon Charles Swinburne, ‘Charles Baudelaire’ (1862)
Selection of poems from Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads (1866)

Week 3: Walter Pater, ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ and ‘Winckelmann’ in Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873); selections from Imaginary Portraits (1887)

Week 4: Vernon Lee, Miss Brown (1884)

Week 5: Rachilde (Marguerite Eymery), Monsieur Vénus (1884)

Week 6: Selections from The Yellow Book (1894-97)

Week 7: Oscar Wilde, Salomé (1891 [French version]; 1894)

Week 8: Selected New Woman short stories from Elaine Showalter (ed.), Daughters of Decadence

Week 9: Robert Hichens, Flames: A London Phantasy (1897)

Week 10: Joris Karl Huysmans, Là-bas (1891)

Week 11: Tutorials

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Close Reading (1000 words) 30
Coursework Essay (2500 words) 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the module learning outcomes.

Seminar discussion with ongoing tutor feedback is designed to assess professional/practical skills in communicating ideas orally and transferable skills in working individually and collaboratively. It also assesses subject knowledge relating to formal, contextual, critical, and theoretical approaches to the study of Victorian literature. Seminars also assess cognitive/analytical skills in critical thinking and in the analysis of literary form and language.

The 1000-word close reading exercise assesses subject knowledge relating to the close analysis of form, meaning and language. It also assesses cognitive/analytical skills in critical thinking, and professional/practical skills in communicating ideas in writing. The 2500-word essay also assesses these skills, as well as subject knowledge relating to formal, contextual, critical, and theoretical approaches to the study of fin-de-siècle poetry and prose. The 2500-word essay further assesses transferable skills, namely the ability to conduct research for written work in an organised and critical fashion and to develop and communicate imaginative and rigorous arguments.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:
• 1000-word close reading exercise
• 2500-word essay

Formative assessment and feedback
Formative ‘feed forward’ is provided through seminar discussions, tutor feedback in seminars, and feedback on the first assessment (the close reading essay).

Module aims

  • • Introduce students to the cultural and literary developments that contributed to notions of 'decadence’, ‘aestheticism’ and the ‘occult’ in the late nineteenth, and early twentieth century writings;
  • • Assess the influences and intertextual relationships between British and European writings of the period;
  • • Enable students to identify recurring themes and concerns such as hedonism, solipsism, degeneration, and nihilistic thought;
  • • Provide students with the skills with which to analyse a wide range of textual and non-textual material by significant British and European writers and artists using contemporary theoretical approaches.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 • Distinguish between the various cultural and literary developments which contributed to notions of 'decadence', ‘aestheticism’ and ‘the occult’ (K); T
002 • Recognise the intertextual resonances between British and European writings of the fin de siècle (K); T
003 • Demonstrate advanced critical thinking and application of theoretical frameworks to fin-de-siècle literature (C); C
004 • Work independently in conducting research, demonstrating competency in using digital tools (P); P
005 • Be able to effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in oral and written formats (T). T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to deliver subject knowledge, to develop cognitive/ analytical skills, and to develop in-depth transferable, practical, and professional skills. The delivery of the module through two-hour lecture-seminars places an emphasis on student-led learning, and enables students to develop their skills in analysing, communicating, and debating ideas. The module content is research-led and asks students to develop a sophisticated understanding of formal, contextual, critical, and theoretical approaches to the study of fin-de-siècle literature. This relates to the programme learning and teaching strategy, which, at FHEQ Level 6, is designed to develop subject knowledge through two-hour seminars and to develop transferable and professional skills, with an emphasis on sophisticated student-led involvement, critical analysis and discussion.

The learning and teaching methods include:
• 2-hour seminar per week x 11 weeks

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ELI3053

Other information

Essential Reading Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1839) Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads (1866) Leopold von Sacher Masoch, Venus in Furs (1870) Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873); Imaginary Portraits (1887) Joris Karl Huysmans, Là-bas (1891) Robert Hichens, Flames: A London Phantasy (1897) Jane Desmarais and Chris Baldick (eds.), Decadence: An Annotated Anthology (2012) Oscar Wilde, Salomé (1891 [French version]; 1894) Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House (1879) Elaine Showalter (ed.), Daughters of Decadence Recommended Reading Dellamora, R. (Ed.). (1999). Victorian Sexual Dissidence. London; Chicago: University of Chicago Press Hanson, E. (1997). Decadence and Catholicism. London ; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Hill, T. (1997). Decadence and Danger: Writing, History and the Fin de Siècle. Bath: Sulis Press. Ledger, S. and Luckhurst, R. (Eds.). (2000). The Fin de Siècle : A Reader in Cultural History, c.1880-1900. Oxford: Oxford University Press. MacLeod, K. (2006). Fictions of British Decadence: High Art, Popular Writing and the Fin De Siècle. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Paglia, C. (1991). Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. London: Vintage. Parejo Vadillo, A. (2005). Women Poets and Urban Aestheticism: Passengers of Modernity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Prettejohn, E. (Ed.). (1999). After the Pre-Raphaelites: Art and Aestheticism in Victorian England. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Pykett, L. (Ed.). (1996). Reading Fin de Siècle Fictions. London: Longman. Schaffer, T. and Psomiades, K. (Eds.). (1999). Women and British Aestheticism. London ; Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia. Schoolfield, G. (2003). A Baedeker of Decadence: Charting a Literary Fashion, 1884-1927. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. Showalter, E. (1991). Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the ‘Fin de Siecle’. London : Bloomsbury St John, M. (1999). Romancing Decay: Ideas of Decadence in European Culture. Aldershot: Ashgate. Sturgiss, M. (1995). Passionate Attitudes: The English Decadence of the 1890s. London; Macmillan Weber, Eugen. (1986). France: Fin de Siècle. London ; Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Weir, D. (1995). Decadence and the Making of Modernism. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press West, S. (1993). Fin de Siècle : Art and Society in an Age of Uncertainty. London: Bloomsbury. For a full reading list please see Talis Aspire.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Politics with Creative Writing BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature BA (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature with Creative Writing BA (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2022/3 academic year.