EN3HJV-City of Death and Desire: Henry James and Venice

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1 or A-Level (A*, A or B)
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Matthew Scott

Email: t.m.l.scott@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
This module will investigate the extraordinary allure of Venice to writers and artists during the century and a half from 1780 to 1930. During this period, the city had an immense aesthetic appeal, as it appeared to provide a connection to a lost past that was still available within the experience of the city while also offering the kind of sensuous and indeed sexual freedom that was apparently constrained in northern Europe. Foremost among writers about Venice is Henry James but he is surrounded by some of the very greatest figures in the Western literary tradition.

The module will give students a clear sense of how writers reacted to Venice and used it as a setting for key works from the Romantic period through to early Modernism. We will pay attention to the ways in which Venice is constructed in writers’ imaginations as a means to investigate history, politics and social values. We examine continuities in the representation of the city as well as changes, and attempt to account for both. The module will begin by examining the history of Venice, paying attention both to its politics and art (week one). It will then proceed to look at works by Henry James’s precursors including Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Charles Dickens and John Ruskin (weeks two to five). We will then turn to Henry James, spending four weeks looking closely at some of his most important works. In the final week, we will read some extracts by writers from the generation following James, and consider his legacy and the place of Venice within the twentieth-century imagination.

Assessable learning outcomes:
Students will be expected to have achieved the following outcomes: an understanding of how Venice functioned within the literary imaginary of key writers between 1780 and 1930; a sense of how this changed over the course of this period; an understanding of the place of Henry James within the literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; an ability to read novels and other texts with close attention to their literary effects; a basic understanding of the history of Venice and in particular of its art and politics.

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:
Friedrich Schiller, The Ghost-seer; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Italian Journey (selections); Lord Byron, Beppo and letters; Percy Bysshe Shelley, Julian and Maddalo; Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy and Little Dorrit (selections); John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice (selections); Henry James, Italian Hours, The Aspern Papers, The Wings of the Dove and letters; Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time (selections); Paul Morand, Venices.

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:

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 approximately 1500 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 1800-2000 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

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