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Decadent Literature (ENGL30016)

Undergraduate level 3Points: 12.5Not available in 2019

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Year of offerNot available in 2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 3
Subject codeENGL30016
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject examines decadence as a textual, historical, sexual and cultural formation, across a range of literary texts of the 19th and early 20th centuries. A predominantly masculine mode of radical aestheticism, manifesting symptoms of cultural crisis and informed by anxieties about class, gender and sexuality, decadence elaborated such key figures of modernity as the dandy, femme fatale, fetishist and aesthete. Students will be introduced to European and British varieties of literary decadence and aestheticism; art for art's sake theories of aesthetic production; relations between lifestyle, aestheticism and commodity culture; and emergent discourses of degeneration and sexology. The subject asks students to consider how decadent aestheticism was shaped by regulatory categories of taste and vulgarity, and by cultural practices of tastemaking, lifestyling and the aestheticisation of sexuality. Students will also consider the relationship between sexual dissidence and social and cultural distinction as produced in the representative examples of decadent literature studied.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this subject, students should have:

  • a first-hand acquaintance with some representative examples of decadent literature;
  • an understanding of the controversies provoked by the original publication of decadent literature and later reconsiderations of it; and
  • a familiarity with a range of theoretical, critical and literary-historical approaches to the cultural phenomenon of decadence.

Generic skills

At the completion of this subject, students should gain the following generic skills:

  • be able to apply new research skills and critical methods to a field of inquiry;
  • develop critical self-awareness and shape and strengthen persuasive arguments; and
  • be able to communicate arguments and ideas effectively and articulately both in writing and to others.

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects

670-332 Decadent Literature

Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home



  • An essay of 1,500 words (40%), due mid-semester
  • An essay of 2,500 words (60%), due in the examination period
  • Hurdle: This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 80% attendance and regular participation in tutorials. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Dates & times

Not available in 2019

Time commitment details

170 hours

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    A subject reader including poetry by Charles Baudelaire and A.C. Swinburne, Oscar Wilde's Salomé and short novels by Renée Vivien and Ronald Firbank will be available.

    • A rebours (Against Nature) J-K Huysmans, OUP
    • The Spoils of Poynton H James, Penguin
    • Wormwood: A Drama of Paris M Corelli, Broadview
    • Death in Venice T Mann, Harper, Collins
    • The Picture of Dorian Gray O Wilde, Penguin
    • Hauntings and Other Tales V Lee, Broadview
  • Subject notes

    Students who have completed 106-060 Decadence or 106-060 Decadent Literature are not eligible to enrol in this subject.

  • Breadth options
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 22 May 2019