HUMS 635
Art for Art's Sake in Victorian Britain

Stephanie Weiner

Course Description

This course asks one central question:  why did nineteenth-century British artists and intellectuals champion the ideal of “art for art’s sake”?  In other words, for what “sake” did art need to be considered an autonomous realm?  Formulating the question in this way suggests the underlying premise of the course: that claims for aesthetic autonomy always implied ideas about the value of art for something or someone.  Our central texts will be drawn from the arts—poems, novels, plays, paintings—and intellectual history—the aesthetic philosophy, art history, and political thought of the age.  Some of the themes that run through the semester include:  the relation between theories of art for art’s sake and politics; experimental and avant garde ideas and practices of art; the social and cultural space occupied by well-educated and often well-off artists—an “elite margin”; the interaction among various modes of artistic expression, most especially painting and poetry; the relation between “high” art and the aesthetic way of life, which by turns embraced artisanal crafts, popular culture, industrial production, and the decorative arts; and the sexual, gender, class, and (inter-)national dynamics of artistic production and consumption during these years.

Course Requirements
Ten short, focused essays (2 p. each) and class participation (10%)
Course Outline
January 31


Pre-Raphaelite Poetry and Painting
Rose, introduction to The Pre-Raphaelites (Rose)
Lang, p. xi-xv from his introduction to The Pre-Raphaelies and Their Circle (Lang)
Morris, “The Haystack in the Floods” (1858) and “Apology” from The Earthly Paradise (Lang)
Meredith, Modern Love (1862) (Lang)
Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market (1862) (Lang)

Paintings in The Pre-Raphaelites (Rose): Dante Rossetti, “The Girlhood of Mary Virgin” (1849) and “Ecce Ancilla Domini” (1849-50) (pl. 1, 5); Brown, “Work” (1852-65), “An English Autumn Afternoon” (1852-54), “The Last of England” (1852-55), “Pretty Baa-Lambs” (1851-59), “Walton-on-the-Naze” (1859-60) (pl. 41, 16, 19, 27, 32); Inchbold, “In Early Spring” (1855) (pl. 20); Millais, “Christ in the House of his Parents” (1848-50) (pl. 6, 17); Dyce, “Pegwell Bay, a Recollection of October 5th, 1858” (1858) (pl. 25); Hughes, “The Long Engagement” (1859) (pl. 29); Scott, detail from “Iron and Coal” (1855-60) (pl. 31); Brett, “February in the Isle of Wight” (1866) (pl. 42); Hunt, “Our English Coasts” (1852) (pl. 13)

February 7

Aesthetic autonomy and aestheticism
Schiller, from The Aesthetic Education of Man (1795) (reader)
Wordsworth, from The Prelude (1798-1839/1850), from Lyrical Ballads “Preface” (1800) (reader)
Keats, letter to Benjamin Bailey (Nov. 22, 1817), “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819) (reader)
Shelley, from “A Defence of Poetry” (1821/1849) (reader)
Tennyson, “The Lotos-Eaters” (1832), “Mariana” (1830) (reader)
Arnold, “Sweetness and Light” from Culture and Anarchy (1869) (reader)   

Ruskin, fidelity to nature, and politics
Ruskin, Preface to the Second Edition of Modern Painters (1844) (reader)
Ruskin, from “The Nature of Gothic” (The Stones of Venice, 1851-53) (reader)
Hunt, “The Impact of Ruskin” (1905) (reader)
Millais, “John Ruskin at Glenfinlas” (1853-54) (Rose)
William Michael Rossetti, “The Brotherhood in a Nutshell” (The Germ, 1850) (reader)
Dante Rossetti, “The Blessed Damozel” (1847/1850) (Lang)
Dante Rossetti, “The Blessed Damozel” (1871-77) (Rose, pl. 44)
Millais, “Lorenzo and Isabella” (1849), “Mariana” (1851), “The Eve of St. Agnes” (1854), “Mariana” (1857), (Rose, plate 3, 8, fig. 16, fig. 17)
Swinburne, from “Charles Baudelaire” (1861), from William Blake (1866) (reader)
Swinburne, “The Garden of Proserpine” (1866), Songs before Sunrise “Prelude” (1871) (Lang)
Scott, “Algernon Charles Swinburne” (1860) (Rose, pl. 33)
Morley, from “Young England and the Political Future,” Fortnightly (April 1867) (reader)

February 14

Pater, the ideal of aesthetic poetry, and the aesthetic way of life
Pater, “Aesthetic Poetry” (1868) (reader)
Pater, “Conclusion” to The Renaissance (1873) (Beckson)
Morris, “The Defense of Guenevere,” “King Arthur’s Tomb,” “The Blue Closet,” “Spell-Bound” (1858) (Lang)
Swinburne, “The Triumph of Time” (1866), “Anactoria” (1866), “Hertha” (1871), “Sonnet:  With a copy of ‘Mademoiselle de Maupin’” (1873) (Lang)
Christina Rossetti, Monna Innominata (1881) (Lang)
Dante Rossetti, “Beata Beatrix” (1863) (Rose, pl. 39)
William Morris, “Queen Guenevere” (1858) (Rose, pl. 26)
Strudwick, “The Gentle Music of a Byegone Day” (1890) (Rose, pl. 47)
Collins, “Convent Thoughts” (1850-51) (Rose, pl. 7)

The individual and the egoist
The Egoist (1879), Prelude-ch. 12
Mill, from On Liberty (1859) (reader)

February 21 Meredith’s style
The Egoist, ch 13-40
Pater, “Style” (1888) (reader)
February 28

Meredith and comedy
The Egoist, ch. 41-end
Meredith, “An Essay on Comedy” (1877)

Color and symbol
Morris, “Golden Wings,” “Two Red Roses Across the Moon” (1858) (Lang)
Meredith, “Love in the Valley” (1851) (Lang)
Whistler, plates 2-6, 7-23 (Spalding)
Spalding, “Introduction” to Whistler (Spalding)
Blanc, from The Grammar of Painting and Engraving (1869) (reader)
Millais, “The Blind Girl” (1856), “Autumn Leaves” (1856), “The Return of the Dove to the Ark” (1866-75) (Rose, pl. 21, 22, 10)
Brett, “The Stonebreaker” (1857-58) (Rose, pl. 24)
Burne-Jones, “The Arming of Perseus” (1877) (Rose, pl. 45)

March 6

Arts and crafts, decorative arts, illuminated printing
Morris, from “Some hints on Pattern-Designing” (1881) and “A Note by William Morris on His Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press” (1896) (reader)

Possible visit to special collections

March 27

Portrait of a Lady (1881), first half

April 3

James II
Portrait, second half

April 10

The Critic as Artist
Blake, “Proverbs of Hell” (1793) (reader)
Pater, “Preface” to The Renaissance (1873), from “La Giocanda” (1869) (Beckson)
Pater, “Sandro Botticelli’ (1870) (reader)
Wilde, “The Decay of Lying” (1889) (Beckson)
Beerbohm, “Diminuendo” (1896) (Beckson)
Clifford, from “On the Aims and Instruments of Scientific Thought” (1872) (reader)
Pearson, from A Grammar of Science (1892) (reader)

Impressionism, decadent realism, and symbolism
Symons, “By the Pool at the Third Rosses” (1896), “Violet” (1895), “Emmy” (1892), “Morbidezza” (1892), “To a Dancer” (1895), “La Mélinite:  Moulin-Rouge” (1895), “Javanese Dancers” (1894), “Hallucination: I” (1895)  (reader)
Symons, “Preface to the Second Edition of ‘Silhouettes’” (1896) and “Preface to the Second Edition of ‘London Nights’” (1897) (reader)
Wilde, “Symphony in Yellow,” “Impression du Matin,” “The Harlot’s House” (reader)
Michael Field, poems in reader
Whistler, plates 24-48 (Spalding)
Dowson, poems in reader
Yeats, poems and prose in reader

April 17

Aesthetic Tragedy
Salomé (1891) (read in Wilde collection, but look at drawings in Beckson)
Symons, The Decadent Movement in Literature (1893) (Beckson)

The Turn to Comedy
Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892)

April 24

Hardy, Jude the Obscure (1895), Parts First and Second

Female aesthete
Jude the Obscure, Parts Third and Fourth

May 1

Hardy and the novel
Jude the Obscure: Part Fifth, “Preface to the First Edition” (1895), “Postscript” (1912)
from Walter Besant, Eliza Lynn Lynton, and Thomas Hardy, “Candour in English Fiction” (1890) (reade

Tragedy, knowledge, and modernity
Jude the Obscure, Part Sixth
Pater, from “Winkelmann” (1867) (reader)
Neitszche, from The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (1872) (reader)
Symons, from “Henrik Ibsen” (1889) (reader)
Frye, from Anatomy of Criticism (1957) (reader)

May 8

Language, knowledge, and modernity
The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
Wilde, from “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (1891) (reader)