English 165

Special Topics: The 1890s

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Spring 2019 Puckett, Kent
Thurs. 5-8 note new location: 301 Wheeler

Book List

Chopin, K.: The Awakening; Conrad, J.: Lord Jim; Hardy, T.: Jude the Obscure; Ibsen, H.: Ghosts; James, H. : The Spoils of Poynton; Morris, W.: News from Nowhere; Schreiner, O.: The Story of an African Farm; Stoker, B.: Dracula; Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine; Wilde, O.: Salome; Wilde, O.: The Picture of Dorian Gray; Yeats, W.B.: The Wind Among the Reeds


What difference does a date make? What is it about the numerical end of a century that encourages feelings of apocalypse, degeneration, or renewal? This course will consider texts written in and around the 1890s, a decade characterized by its intense self-consciousness about what it meant to live through the last days of the nineteenth century. We’ll read novels, poems, philosophy, works of psychology, sociology, history, and aesthetics in order to think about some of the period’s key political, social, and cultural questions. We’ll also examine ways in which particular literary strategies and aesthetic movements—Naturalism, Decadence, Aestheticism, etc.—emerged to respond to these questions. While reading works by Michael Field, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Hardy, Walter Pater, Olive Schreiner, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, and others, we will explore the relations between literary culture and—among other things—sex and sexology, feminism, photography and visual culture, race theory and imperialism, spiritualism, degeneration, and the look of history from what seemed to some like the end of all things.

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