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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.
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.
Last updated: 26 March 2020