Spring 2008

HUMS 635
Art for Art's Sake in Victorian Britain

Weiner,Stephanie Kuduk

01/28/2008 - 05/10/2008
Thursday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Downey 100

This course focuses on two groups of artists and intellectuals whose ideas about art and society were deliberately and self-consciously dissident and experimental: the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, formed at Oxford in 1848 and active in London until the early 1870s; and the "decadent" circle centered around Oscar Wilde in the 1890s. We will examine a variety of literary and non-literary texts, from poetry to novels to aesthetic theory and paintings. Issues to be addressed include: theories of art for art's sake and their political valences; 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.

Sources to be studied include George Meredith, The Egoist; Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure; Henry James, Portrait of a Lady; Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest; poems by Alfred Tennyson, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Algernon Swinburne, Oscar Wilde, Lionel Johnson, W.B. Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Arthur Symons, Katherine Bradley, Edith Cooper; and prose works by William Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde.

Course requirements include ten short essays (2 pages) and class participation.

This course may, by petition, count toward the Arts concentration.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Stephanie Weiner (B.A., University of Minnesota; Ph.D., Stanford University) is associate professor of English. In 2010 she was awarded the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in teaching. She teaches courses in nineteenth-century British literature and culture, romantic and Victorian poetry, aesthetics and art history, and poetry and poetics. She is the author of Republican Politics and English Poetry, 1789-1874 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), and Clare's Lyric: John Clare and Three Modern Poets (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). Click here for more information about Stephanie Weiner.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Thomas Hardy, JUDE THE OBSCURE (Oxford University Press), Paperback

Henry James, THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (Oxford University Press), Paperback

Cecil Lang, PRE-RAPHAELITES & THEIR CIRCLE (University of Chicago Press), Paperback

George Meredith, THE EGOIST (Norton), Paperback

Andrea Rose, THE PRE-RAPHAELITES (Phaidon Press), Paperback

Frances Spaulding, WHISTLER (Phaidon Books), Paperback

Oscar Wilde, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST & OTHER PLAYS (Oxford University Press), Paperback


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