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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Common Courses (School of Lit, Lang and Cult)

Postgraduate Course: Decadence in European Art and Literature, 1857-1914 (CLLC11026)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryDecadence is one of the most fascinating and controversial literary and artistic movements that emerged in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century. Particularly prominent during the fin-de-siècle, it acts as a transition between Romanticism and the nascent experiments of Modernism. This course will study key texts of European Decadence including works by Baudelaire, Sacher-Masoch, Rachilde, Proust, Oscar Wilde and Thomas Mann in their cultural, historical and intellectual contexts and explore the themes and obsessions that characterise the Decadent imagination: degeneracy and decline, the primacy of art over nature, the cult of beauty, transgressive sexualities. Particular emphasis will be given to the reversal of sex and gender norms in Decadent art, the immersion into artificial paradises and exotic fantasies, and to the dialogue between literature, painting and music during the fin-de-siècle, especially around artists such as Richard Wagner, Gustave Moreau and Aubrey Beardsley.
Course description The course will provide a framework for exploring Decadence in a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective. It encourages comparison of literary texts of different linguistic and cultural origins as well as study of the relationship between literature and other art forms. Students will be required to prepare for the weekly seminar, to actively engage in seminar discussion and group work, and to give short presentations to the group. Texts will be studied in English translation. No prior knowledge of art history or music is necessary.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students on LLC MSc programmes get first priority to this course. If you are not on an LLC course, please let your administrator or the course administrator know you are interested in the course. Unauthorised enrolments will be removed. No auditors are permitted.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate an advanced knowledge of European Decadence in its socio-historical and cultural contexts as well as a good understanding of the theoretical and conceptual frameworks needed to analyse texts and art works pertaining to the movement
  2. select and apply relevant theoretical and methodological approaches in the critical evaluation of texts and art works and to demonstrate mastery of relevant technical terminology and research methods
  3. assess and synthesise primary and secondary sources and to engage critically with these sources, showing awareness of nuance and accommodating ambiguities
  4. construct coherent arguments which engage effectively with the sources and the relevant contexts and to present them with a high level of clarity in both oral and written form
  5. demonstrate autonomy and initiative in their activities, carry out independent research under the guidance of the tutor, and to show awareness of their own and others¿ roles and responsibilities as part of a team
Reading List
Primary Texts:

Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil (Oxford World Classics)
Huysmans, Against Nature (Oxford World Classics)
Mann, Death in Venice; Tristan; Tonio Kröeger (Vintage Classics)
Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner (Random House)
Proust, Pleasures and Days (Hesperus)
Rachilde, Monsieur Venus (Dedalus)
Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs (Penguin)
Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford World Classics)
---, Salome (Penguin)

Secondary Sources:

Birkett, J., The Sins of the Fathers: Decadence in France, 1870-1914 (London: Quartet, 1986)
Calinescu, Matei, Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism (Durham: Duke UP, 1987)
Constable Liz, Dennis Denisoff and Matthew Potolsky, eds. Perennial Decay: On the Aesthetics and Politics of Decadence (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999)
Deleuze, Gilles, Masochism/ Coldness and Cruelty (New York: Zone, 1989)
Dijkstra, Bram, Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988)
Felski, Rita, The Gender of Modernity (London: Harvard UP, 1995)
Gill, Miranda, ¿The Myth of the Female Dandy¿, French Studies, 61 (2007), pp. 167-81.
Holmes, Diana, Rachilde: Decadence, Gender and the Woman Writer (Oxford: Berg, 2001)
Lambourne, Lionel, The Aesthetic Movement (Phaidon, 1996)
Ledger, Sally, The New Woman: Fiction and Feminism at the Fin-de-Siècle (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1997)
Ledger, Sally and Scott McCracken, eds., Cultural Politics at the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge: CUP, 1995)
Lewsadder, Matthew, ¿Removing the Veils: Censorship, Female Sexuality, and Oscar Wilde¿s Salomé¿, Modern Drama, 45-4 (2002), 519-44
Marshall, Gail, The Cambridge Companion to the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge: CUP, 2007)
McGuiness, Patrick, Symbolism, Decadence and the Fin de Siècle. French and European Perspectives (University of Exeter Press, 2000)
Nordau, Max, Degeneration (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1993)
Pierrot, Jean, The Decadent Imagination, 1880-1900 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981)
Palacio, Jean de, Figures et Formes de la Décadence (Paris: Séguier, 1994)
Paglia, Camille, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990)
Porter, Laurence M., ¿Decadence and the Fin-de-siècle Novel, in The Cambridge Companion to the French Novel, ed. Timothy Unwin (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998)
Praz, Mario, The Romantic Agony (London: Oxford University Press, 1970)
Schmid, Marion, ¿Decadence and the Fin de siècle¿, in Adam Watt, ed., Marcel Proust in Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 51-58.
Showalter, Elaine, Daughters of Decadence: Women Writers of the Fin-de-Siècle (London: Virago, 1993)
---, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin-de-Siècle (London: Virago, 1992)
Silverman. Kaja, Male Sexuality and the Margins (Routledge, 1992)
Spackman, Barbara, Decadent Genealogies: The Rhetoric of Sickness from Baudelaire to D'Annunzio (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989)
Thompson, Hannah ¿Decadence¿, in William Burgwinkle, Nicholas Hammond and Emma Wilson, eds., The Cambridge History of French Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 541¿8
Thompson, Hannah, ¿Rewriting the Perverse: Rachilde and the Erotic¿, Nottingham French Studies, 42-2 (2003), 26-34
Weir, David, Decadence and the Making of Modernism (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995)

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students will have further developed their skills in the areas of research and enquiry, personal and intellectual autonomy, communication, and personal effectiveness.
Course organiserProf Marion Schmid
Tel: (0131 6)50 8409
Course secretaryMrs Anne Budo
Tel: (0131 6)50 4161
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