ENGLISH 540 - Topics in Language and Literature
Section: 003 Fin de siecle? Fin du globe!
Term: WN 2018
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of department.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing and permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

“Fin de siècle? Fin du globe!" says a character in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and in the period from roughly 1870 until 1914, there was indeed a palpable sense that a new era was aborning while an older one was slowly (or quickly) dying off. That this is also the condition of what we have come to call "modernity" is suggestive of just how fecund and significant this period was, at least in the literatures and art of England, the U.S., France and even Imperial Russia. New inscriptions of race, religion, sexuality swirled around in the aftermath of the Oscar Wilde trial (1895) and the Dreyfus affair (1894-1906); the “New Woman” emerged as a cultural type (and was named as such in 1894); Jews surged out of the ghettos and emigrated from the shtetls to swell the cities and incite imaginations throughout the West; nationalism and imperialism flourished as the energies generating total war gathered force to be unleashed in 1914. New imaginative forms, too, arose, whether they were called "naturalism," "aestheticisim, "decadence"; and the boundaries between various media—art, music, literature—were breached, producing such new syntheses as Wagnerian opera as well new experimental forms like post-Impressionist art. Meanwhile, wholly new media also emerged, like film, to bring together all of these in what would ultimately prove to be a new Gesamtkunstwerk, the mass-cultural fulfillment of Richard Wagner's high-cultural dreams.

We will sample broadly from works in all these modes and media, with prime focus on literary forms as they buckled and morphed under the buffeting of new imaginative energies brought in women, Jews, gay men, artists, bohemians, and social rebels (sometimes of course all in one). Works will include many of Wide's plays and essays as well as Dorian; some Pater and Ruskin; Proust (selections from Swann's Way and Sodom and Gomorrah); Henry James (The Sacred Fount, The Ambassadors); An-sky, The Dybbuk; Stoker's Dracula; Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, Dreiser, Sister Carrie. We'll also listen to (some of) Wagner's Tristan and Isolde and Puccini’s La Bohème; and watch films by Meliès, the Lumière brothers G.H, Smith, Fritz Lang, I hope we will be challenged and entertained by the plethora of materials in a variety of media that this rich and complex period has to offer.

Class Format:


ENGLISH 540 - Topics in Language and Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
003 (SEM)
M 5:00PM - 8:00PM
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