19-20 EN5830: Aestheticism and Decadence in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

This course aims to provide an advanced understanding of the complex field of aestheticism in nineteenth-century literature and culture, with particular attention to concepts of ‘decadence’ and the relationship between the written word and the visual arts. Classes cover key theoretical and critical interventions into nineteenth-century aesthetic debates, from Ruskin and Pater through to Oscar Wilde and selected women writers of the 1880s and 1890s.
It enables students to develop a conceptual model of aestheticism which they should be able to apply to other elements of the programme and refine through independent research. The course examines a variety of genres of aestheticism and requires students to engage in advanced critical reflection on the significance of such generic differences and the modulation of the meaning of ‘aestheticism’ over the course of the later nineteenth-century.
The course also aims to provide students with a critical awareness of the complex relationship between aestheticism and nineteenth-century discourses of sexuality, performance and selfhood.