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2009/10 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3996 Aesthetic Movements of the Nineteenth Century

20 creditsClass Size: 20

Module manager: Dr Richard Salmon

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2009/10

This module is not approved as an Elective


On completion of this module, students should have acquired a knowledge of the various literary and artistic movements devoted to the exploration of 'aesthetic' experience, which emerged during the second half of the nineteenth century. By examining writing from a variety of literary genres - poetry, prose fiction, critisism, and drama - the aim of the module is to arrive at an understanding of the philosophical basis of Victorian aestheticism, and of the cultural and historical concerns to which it forms a response.

The module aims also to trace the development of aesthetic movements (in their various manifestations) through the nineteenth century.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
- the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
- the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
- the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
- the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
- critical reasoning;
- research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
- IT skills;
- efficient time management and organisation skills;
- the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
- Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
- Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
- Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
- Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
- Critical reasoning.
- Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
- IT skills.
- Time management and organisational skills.
- Independent learning.


The category of the 'aesthetic' has become fundamental to modern understanding of the value, pleasure, and beauty of works of art (and other forms of cultural production), but the term itself was not in common usages prior to the mid-nineteenth century.

This module will explore the ways in which the idea of the aesthetic was first popularized by writers and artists of the Victorian period, tracing the development of its most influential 'aesthetic movements'. Starting with some Pre-Raphaelite painters and poets of mid-century, we will examine the increasingly reciprocal relationship between the different artistic media of aesthetic experience, and students will be given the opportunity to study literary texts alongside selected works of visual art.

In the influential aesthetic criticism of Walter Pater, and in some of the novels produced by his successors, we will explore the philosophy of 'aestheticism' and 'art for art's sake', focusing especially upon their representations of the 'aesthete' - the figure who epitomizes the pleasures and dangers of the aesthetic way of life.

The relationship between aesthetics and politics represent a divorce of beauty from morality, writers of the period often surprisingly combined their interest in the aesthetic with an allegiance to radical politics (including the politics of gender and sexuality).

In keeping with recent studies of the field, this module examines the aesthetic movements of the nineteenth-century as a trans-Atlantic phenomenon, encompassing British, Irish, and American writers.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour) plus up to 5 additional hours (content to be determined by the module tutor). The 5 additional hours may include lectures, plenary sessions, film showings, or the return of unassessed/assessed essays.

Private Study: Reading, seminar preparation and essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Contribution to seminars
- 1st assessed essay (submitted in Week 7 of the semester) or 1,700 word unassessed essay.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Written WorkEITHER two essays (one of 1,700 words (1/3) and one of 2,750 words (2/3)) OR one essay of 4,000 words and one unassessed essay of 1,700 words (the former will be assessed only if the latter is completed).100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Students can choose to be assessed EITHER by two essays (one of 1700 words (1/3) and one of 2750 words (2/3) (including quotations and footnotes)) OR by one essay of 4000 words (including quotations and footnotes), plus one unassessed essay of 1700 words. The 4000 word essay will be assessed only if the unassessed essay requirement has been met.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 22/02/2018


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