EN3DD-Decadence and Degeneration: Literature of the 1880s and 1890s

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: Part 1 English
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Lucy Bending

Email: l.v.bending@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
This module engages with some of the most iconic texts in English literature, including Stoker’s Dracula, Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, and Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. In it we explore what is meant by these terms ‘decadence’ and ‘degeneration’, calling, amongst many other things, on portrayals of 1890s’ foppishness, Darwinian models of evolution, the emergent New Woman phenomenon, the Wilde trial, and the portrayal of prostitution. This module is very interested in contextual material as a way of understanding literary texts, and we will be looking at a wealth of magazine articles and medical and scientific texts as a way of recognizing their depth and complexity.

This module aims to provide students with an informed critical understanding of some of the key literary texts – and some of the cultural debates they both emerged from and generated – in the late nineteenth century.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module students will be expected to:
-Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the cultural debates of the 1880s and 1890s
-Show an ability to use these debates to inform close critical analysis of the selected texts
-Understand the implications of different literary forms for reading
-Engage critically with ideas presented in seminars and secondary materials
-Research, organize and articulate a scholarly critical argument in writing

Additional outcomes:
Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities. Students will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources in a critically informed manner.

Outline content:
The module examines some of the emergent figures in the literature of the Fin de Siecle: the vampire, the New Woman, the homosexual, and the criminal. Against the backdrop of the Oscar Wilde trial and the Jack the Ripper murders, contemporary anxieties about criminality, sexuality, the empire, and eugenics will be explored through study of a representative selection of fiction, drama and poetry, drawn from the work of some lesser-known authors (such as Ernest Dowson and Michael Field) as well as a range of landmark texts: R.L Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Three seminar hours weekly, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative written work. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 30 1
Tutorials 0.5
Guided independent study 129.5 39
Total hours by term 160.00 40.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 50

Other information on summative assessment:
Summative Assessment Methods (%) - work which always contributes towards the overall module mark:

Formative assessment methods:
Formative Assessment Methods - work which provides opportunities to improve performance (e.g. through feedback provided) but which does not necessarily always contribute towards the overall module mark:

Students write one formative essay, of between 1500 and 2000 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 2250-2500 words, or the equivalent placement report.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 22 August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 December 2016

    Things to do now