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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL32158 Aesthetic Movements of the Nineteenth Century

20 creditsClass Size: 30


Module manager: Dr Richard Salmon

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Module replaces


This module is not approved as a discovery module


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 idea of the ‘aesthetic’ has become fundamental to modern understanding of the value, pleasure, and beauty of literature (and other forms of cultural production), but the term itself was not in common usage prior to the mid-nineteenth century. This module will explore the ways in which the idea of the aesthetic was popularized by writers and artists of the Victorian period, tracing the development of its most influential ‘aesthetic movements’. Starting with the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the mid-nineteenth century, we will examine the relationship between poetry and painting, studying literary texts alongside selected works of visual art. Working with the celebrated ‘aesthetic criticism’ of Walter Pater, and with a selection of novels and shorter fiction written under his influence, we will explore the philosophy of aestheticism or ‘art for art’s sake’, focusing especially upon representations of the ‘aesthete’ – the figure who epitomizes the pleasures and dangers of an aesthetic ( and increasingly decadent) lifestyle. The relationship between aesthetics and politics will also be a concern of the module: while Victorian aestheticism is commonly thought to promote the separation of beauty from morality, writers of the period often surprisingly combined their interest in aesthetics with an allegiance to radical politics – encompassing politics of class, gender, and sexuality.

Teaching methods

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 10 x 1 hour weekly seminars plus 4x1 hour lectures and 1x1 hour workshop.

Private Study: Reading, seminar preparation and essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Contribution to seminars
- Participation in workshop
- Feedback from 1700 word essay

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4000 words including quotations and footnotes100.00
EssayOne unassessed essay of 1000 words (which may include an extended plan for the assessed essay) is required. This does not form part of the assessment for this module, but is a requirement and MUST be submitted. Students who fail to submit the unassessed essay will be awarded a maximum mark of 40 for the module (a bare Pass).0.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2018


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